When it comes to deciding where in the world to scuba dive, Koh Tao has got to be high on your list. Why? Well, the first clue is in the name. Koh Tao, aka Turtle Island, is home to both hawksbill and green turtles along with loads of other marine wildlife. Hawksbills are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list, but are actually the most common turtle to be seen off the coast of Koh Tao. If a GoPro picture of you and a hawksbill isn’t Insta-worthy, then we don’t know what is!
Secondly, the laid-back atmosphere on Koh Tao is enough to make anyone want to stay for weeks on end. This tiny island perfectly combines lazy beach days and chilled cafes with buzzing street food markets, high-energy ladyboy shows and all-night parties with your toes in the sand. It is often the post-Koh-Phangan-Full-Moon-Party-stop so backpackers tend to be a seeking some down-time when they arrive here but if you’re looking for a party, fear not, one will never be too far away!
Thirdly, and this one is always key to travellers on a budget, Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places in the world to gain your PADI qualification. As there are so many dive shops located on the island, competition is fierce which drives down prices. This is exactly what you want to hear as a backpacker! Of course, you’ll still need to choose a reputable company (and we’ll come to that next) as there’s no point in choosing a bargain boat option only to learn that the Divemasters don’t have proper training or the equipment is terrible.
How to Choose Your Dive School?
When faced with almost 50 dive schools in the space of a 13 square mile island it may seem almost impossible to choose between them. But the easiest way to do this is to figure out your priorities. Below we’ve broken it down to help you out a little:
Most of the dive schools pricing is much for muchness as they need to compete with each other to secure their business. The majority of courses are priced between 9,000 to 11,000 Baht (approx. $250 – $315 USD) and the differences between each course are likely to be marginal. The most important thing to check when booking your course if what is included (some include accommodation or more dives in open water).
You might think the size of the school isn’t important as they are all teaching the same thing, but let’s be honest, size matters! If you’re nervous about diving and want a more intimate tuition experience, one of the smaller dive organizations may be best. Smaller groups allow you to ask way more questions and have a bit more hand-holding during the whole experience.
If you’d rather a big-group atmosphere where the party afterward is almost as important as the diving then choosing one of the big-name schools such as Crystal Dive or Big Blue may be best.
Although you have the option of choosing whether or not to use the dive accommodation offered by the dive school, most people will opt in for ease of being in the right place and staying with their fellow divers. But knowing where that accommodation is should be figured out before you sign up!
The majority of dive schools and their respective accommodation is located in Sairee Beach which is where the main island life happens on Koh Tao. If you want to enjoy any sort of nightlife, this is the place to be. Dive shops such as Davy Jones Locker (DJL) have their own accommodation, bar, and even restaurant all located in Sairee Beach so you’ll have everything at your fingertips!
Whichever dive school you choose you’re sure to have an amazing time on Koh Tao. With this incredible underwater world on your doorstep, it’s impossible not to! Just be sure to check for positive reviews and instructor qualifications before booking your certification and you’ll be on to a winner.