we planned for our first dive experience several months back. After spending endless hours browsing, sorting and reading I thought that Thailand will be my choice. I am from India but unfortunately scuba diving is a nearly unknown sports here. There are beautiful divesites in Andaman islands but I think not for suitable for first timers.
In thailand scuba diving is fabulas and within every budget.There one can dive in either Andaman sea or Gulf of thailand. We opt for Gulf of thailand. Koh tao island or turtle island. There are about 50 scuba operators and some marvelous sites for all experience.
There are two or three big operators like Bans diving, Big buddha Diving or Asia divers. But we want personalise service and also reliable one. In lonely planet I found Scuba Junction. They are medium but rated excellent.Offering both SSI and Padi certification. So we booked.
From India to thailand we flew by air india express. a budget airlines. Our return air fare is around Rs 8500 from kolkata to bangkok.We booked at Lamphu House,www.lamphuhouse.com, a budget yet very clean and good hotel in Bangalamphu area which is main back packers area there. Only problem we faced it was quite far away from under ground and sky train. But as it was near to pier we take long tail boat and it connect through sky train and metro. From bangkok to Koh tao one can opt for Bangkok air to koh Samui and from there boat or catamaran to koh tao. We opt for Lompreya which runs bus srevice to Chumphon and ferry from there to koh tao. Daily at 6AM and 9PM from bangkok. it costs Bhat 850 per person. It is a little pricer than other bus + ferry but can save a lot of trouble. we took 9PM one and arrive at Koh tao next day around 9.15 AM. There is also train service from Bangkok to Chumphon.
Koh Tao is a little paradise. There main pier is in Mae head. Its near sairee beach. Sairee beach is longest and finest beach in koh tao. There are many restaurants and staying place of all budgets there. We are picked by scuba junction and we also stayed at their place. Sabai Sabai. It is cheap. It is better to stay the place of the scuba operators because most of the time you will get discounted price. we opted for open water diver certification of SSI which is around B 9000 and opt for basic hut double bedded with attached bath 200/per day for our diving days and 400/per day for general.
Scuba junction I think best one can ever find. www.scuba-junction.com . Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand Tel: +66 77 456164 | Fax: +66 77 456013. Specially our instructer David is awesome. He doesnt need any compass in under water. and also very professional. All the staffs are friendly and make students feel really special. May be I am biased but its their credit. They make our vacation really special.
In Koh tao there are some very good spots around the island. We dived in Japanese Garden, Twins and Mango Bay.
Nang Yuan Bay II Japanese garden(Aow Song) can be enjoyable for both begineer and experienced.Average Depth: 10m (35ft) Maximum Depth: 15m (50ft) A coral head covered bottom with patches of pristine sand, provides a good dive site to go off and see plenty of bivalves and tropical reef fish.
Heading north along the shoreline of Koh Nang Yuan will allow you to see more of the larger fish such as triggers, banner fish, parrotfish maybe some of the smaller pelagics such as fusiliers and trevallies.
If you keep heading round the corner, eventually you`ll end up at Nang Yuan Pinnacle and the famous caves nearby. Heading southeast you will start to head round the bend into Bay I.
A simple and easy dive site, Japanese Gardens still produces some exceptional diving and usually has better visibility than other bays around the island due to it being more sheltered.
Nang Yuan Bay III, Twins (Aow Sam) Average Depth: 12m (40ft) Maximum Depth: 21m (70ft)
Descending down onto the large rocks in a depth of 9m (30ft) you will find the dive site come to life. Alabaster sea cucumbers with their feathery mouthparts occur in large numbers, but are part of a more interesting community scattered around rocks and boulder corals, which are rich with multicoloured Christmas tree worms and bivalve molluscs.
Heading west from the shallower pinnacle, you will pass over a large sand patch with a saddleback anemone fish haven. Be careful that you don`t disturb them with careless finning!
Heading deeper to the west you will come across the second and larger pinnacle that houses big groupers, banner fish, titan triggers and snappers.
Right at the far end of this site, the depth goes down to about 20m (67ft) and there are other smaller pinnacles leading you further off. If you continue further about 100m (330ft) west you will eventually come to the site known as "Noname Pinnacle".
Mango Bay (Aow Muang) Average Depth: 5m (15ft) Maximum Depth: 15m (50ft)
Nobody`s diving or snorkeling experience on Koh Tao is complete without a visit to Mango Bay, located on the north of the island in between two palm fringed and jungle covered slopes.
Used primarily as a training site by most of the dive shops on the island and a snorkeling site for people coming from Koh Samui, Mango Bay still offers some good diving a little deeper, especially along the rocky coastline to the west.
The site provides a good confined water training area with little surge and current and beautiful aquamarine water covering the sand.
The best sites are
Probably Koh Tao`s premier dive site and therefore can get over crowded in the mornings, especially when the big boats from Bans and Buddha View turn up and deposit their divers on the reef.
The site itself consists of four massive rocks going to a depth of 34m and rising to around 16m. There is a swim through at 28m but it`s a bit of a squeeze. It`s not often that the dive will go as deep as the seabed but if it does, keep an eye out for the Jenkins Whiptail Rays. One of the highlights of the dive is the resident and friendly school of Batfish. From the depths, travel across the top of the pinnacles, some are covered in Anemones and their territorial occupants. There are also coral trees, which are home to some large Groupers. On your safety stop drift across the reef to your boat, looking down as the visibility is so good, you can still see all the life on the pinnacles from your 5m vantage point.
A small island, more of a rock, protruding from the sea. Located at the south-east end of Koh Tao, and reaching a depth of 24m. This has some of the best assortment of marine life around Koh Tao. There are purple, crimson and gold soft corals, gardens of anemones with their bright green and purple undersides that sway in the currents. Plus various forms of hard corals and a myriad of marine life in general. There is even a man made shrine with a head stone for a deceased local diver named "Kong" who loved Shark Island so much he wanted it to be his final resting place. So if you do find his memorial, please be respectful to it. Currents can be strong around the island and can also be very changeable, so it is good to keep an eye on your air consumption. Another hazard in these waters are the highly territorial, Titan Trigger Fish, which do attack divers if you get to close to their nest especially in breeding time.
This site ranges from 28 to 10m and is renowned for its maze of swim throughs and Trigger Pits! The Trigger pits are an area of sand where literally hundreds of pairs of Yellow Margin and Titan Trigger Fish have made their breeding ground! So be careful not to get too close otherwise who knows what hell you could unleash on yourself, so observe from a respectful distance. On the main part of the site there is a multitude of swim throughs to wind your way through so be sure to have your buoyancy sorted out properly to get the full enj