Dive Schools in Koh Tao
Koh Tao is second only to the Great Barrier Reef as a favorite spot to learn how to scuba dive. The reasons for this are the low prices and the great dive sites. Around Koh Tao there are plenty of good places to learn diving and see marine life such as Mango Bay, Sai Daeng, Jansom Bay and Tanote Bay. Farther off shore there are the famous dive spots of Chumphon Pinnacles, Ang Thong National Park and the Gulf's only 5 star PADI rated site, Sail Rock. Other popular dive spots include green rock, twins, white rock and Japanese gardens. Visibility is up to 40 meters at some sites.
There are a number of large scuba operations on Koh Tao as well as smaller schools. Generally the best prices are to be found at the big schools - they have large class sizes. Some scuba outfits offer free accommodation if you sign up to do an Open Water Course.
Diving Agencies and Safety
Most of the international diving agencies are represented on Koh Tao including PADI, SSI, IANTD, BSAC and NAUI. PADI and SSI consider Koh Tao so important that they now send out reps to monitor quality and inform members of changes in the industry.
Not only is it possible to do all the standard courses leading up to dive master on Koh Tao but also it is possible to do speciality courses such as underwater diving and nitrox diving.
Many of the diveshops on Koh Tao now use the the latest models of the top brands such as Suunto, USDivers, Scubapro and Technisub. Moreover, safety procedures have greatly improved: now most dive boats carry oxxygen and there is also a small decompression chamber on the island. For added peace of mind some dive operators also offer full diving insurance.
Some dive schools have multiple price systems going on, especially in their branches in Bangkok. They will offer immediate discounts to Israelis but will insist on charging Japanese people more. You should insist on the best price to stop this unpleasant and unfair practice.
Another annoyance is the locals trying to herd you to the dive schools that give the biggest commissions. Chances are you will be approached on the boat to Koh Tao about diving and then again when you arrive at Mae Haad.
Dive Schools on Koh Tao
Below is a list of dive schools with links to websites. Please feel free to send your comments to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to help readers find the best scuba schools.
This is not a complete list of dive shops on Koh Tao, just some of the bigger and more reputable establishments (although standards are high across the board).
Bans Diving Resort - Sairee Beach - One of the biggest dive schools in Koh Tao. Ban's Diving started in 1993. In 2009 PADI awarded Ban's Diving Resort with the Prestigious Best Dive Center in Thailand award. Ban's has an unfair pricing policy and gives free accommodation with its courses (not air-con, naturally). Click here for Ban's Diving website.
Buddha View Diving - Chalok Baan Kao - Large school offering all PADI courses. Gives basic accommodation free with course or discount off better accommodation. See Buddha View Diving website.
Sunshine Divers - Chalok Baan Kao - 5 Star Gold Palm IDC centre affiliated to Ban's Diving School. Maximum group size is 4 people.
See Sunshine Divers website.
Davy Jones' Locker - Sairee Village -
5 Star Gold Palm IDC centre and BSAC Centre of Excellence. Course fee includes free accommodation at Koh Tao Backpackers Hostel and meal vouchers. See website.
Koh Tao Cottage international - Chalok Baan Kao - Small school that offer all PADI courses. If you have your own equipment they offer a small discount on dives. See Koh Tao Cottage International website.
Scuba Junction - Sairee Beach - Maximum group size is 4. Scuba Junction also offer free accommodation at Sabai Sabai (not beachfront). They lend students dive computers and have a strict environmentally friendly policy. See Scuba Junction website.
New Wave Diving - Sairee Beach - Small group sizes and basic accommodation free with course. New Wave Diving gets you up at 6.45am to make sure you are the first group to the dive sites. See New Wave Diving website.
Nang Yuan Dive Resort - Nang Yuan - The most spectacular beaches in Koh Tao. Nang Yuan Resort offer free fan bungalows for those signing up to do dive courses. See Nang Yuan Dive Resort website.
Big Blue Diving - Sairee Beach - At the northern end of Sairee beach with resort and restaurant. Has a new fleet of boats. This is one of the biggest schools on Koh Tao. See the Big Blue Diving website.