Advanced Diving Sites
For those who want to dive deeper, try more demanding dives, see some pelagic fish, or be in with the best chance of spotting a whale shark on their Koh Tao diving trip, then the best option is to head offshore a little further. Some of these dive sites are classified as advanced dives purely due to their depth rating, whereas others require more skills and experience to dive due to the potential for currents, or the fact that there are a lot of swim-throughs that require more buoyancy control to dive safely. All of these dive sites are available to Open Water Divers who are limited to 18 metres, but with maximum depths of around 26-35 metres, most are better suited to certified divers who are already qualified to dive deeper, or those taking Advanced Diver training.
If you ask most regular divers on Koh Tao what their favourite dive site is, chances are a large percentage of them would say Chumphon Pinnacle! Located approximately 12 kilometres offshore, this dive site comprises huge granite pinnacles that rise from the ocean floor at around 30 metres and extend up to about 12 metres. The tops of the pinnacles are covered in a carpet of anemones, and the combination of rocky formations and corals are home to all manner of marine life, including rarer spots like lionfish, scorpionfish, giant groupers, and banded boxer shrimps. There is a resident school of fusiliers a few thousand strong, and out in the blue you’ll see schools of barracuda, batfish, and snapper. Chumphon Pinnacle is also one of the spots where, statistically, you’re in with the best chance of seeing a whale shark.
Another fantastic deep diving site, the granite pinnacles at Southwest are located about 13 kilometres southwest (no surprise there!) of Koh Tao and are also covered in anemones. The maximum depth is about 25 metres and the top of the pinnacle is around 7 metres, which makes it a great site to explore from the bottom upwards, and still have marine life to look at while you complete your safety stop. Stingrays can often be found in the rocky boulder section, while large overhangs provide homes for giant groupers and moray eels. Nudibranchs, Durban dancer shrimp, and banded boxer shrimps can be spotted in cracks and crevices around the pinnacles, and if you are lucky, you may also run into a whale shark here from time to time.
Often referred to as ‘the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand’, Sail Rock dives normally require a full day trip this site sits approximately halfway between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, and so a longer journey time must be factored in. Most dive centres on Koh Tao run a two-dive trip, and the price is often inclusive of breakfast, lunch, and refreshments. Sail Rock breaches the surface and the pinnacles below extend down to around 35 metres. Reef dwellers and pelagic fish of all shapes and sizes can be found here, from macro life like nudibranchs and shrimps all the way through to giant schools of batfish, barracuda, snapper, and queenfish. Whale sharks are regularly seen at Sail Rock too. What makes Sail Rock truly unique is its vertical chimney style swim-through starting at 5 metres underwater, with a small exit point at 10 metres and the main exit at around 18 metres. Lots of fun!
Hin Pee Wee is a rocky pinnacle covered in a combination of hard and soft corals and is located just north of the HTMS Sattakut wreck. It is a popular spot for divers to spend some after visiting the wreck, so they can have a longer dive and make the best use of air and no-decompression limits. Shaped like a pyramid, it is best dived from the bottom upwards. The top of the main pinnacle sits at around 8 metres, meaning you can conduct your safety stop above it and still have marine life to look at. Groupers, triggerfish, scribbled filefish and pufferfish are regular spots here, sometimes a turtle, and if you are very lucky maybe even a whale shark.
Located just east of Twins dive site, No Name comprises large granite pinnacles and is similar in size and structure to Hin Pee Wee, with a maximum depth of around 26 metres and the topmost pinnacle sitting at around 8 metres. There is a channel approximately 2 metres wide that runs across the dive site in between the sets of pinnacles. This provides fun swim-through practice but without the complications of an overhead environment to consider. Sometimes you can spot Jenkins whip rays out in the sand at the deeper end of the site, while the main pinnacles are home to moray eels, scorpionfish, nudibranchs, groupers, and normally a stingray or two.
Green Rock is the mother of all dive sites on Koh Tao if you are looking to wiggle through as many swim-throughs as possible on a single dive! The dive site is essentially made up of a whole series of interlocking pinnacles, with swim-through options ranging from small archways to long channels between rocky walls, and even a spacious cavern. Aside from being a swim-through lover’s paradise, Green Rock is home to an array of tropical marine life and is a particularly famous spot to run into titan triggerfish. There can often be a strong current at Green Rock, so despite not being too deep (around 20 metres max) it is more enjoyable for those who are already a bit more confident underwater.
This dive site is located just out of Hin Wong Bay and is formed by a number of large granite pinnacles submerged below the surface. It is hit and miss with currents, but when you catch Hin Wong Pinnacle on a good day, it is a truly stunning site. As the conditions there are less predictable than at most other Koh Tao dive sites it is visited less frequently, and therefore the corals are in fantastic health. Soft corals of yellows, pinks, and lilacs on the sea bed add contrast to the harder corals on the pinnacles above, and this is a great site to explore if you want the best chances of spotting something totally different on your dive. Some examples of marine life commonly spotted at Hin Wong Pinnacle that is rarely seen elsewhere include razorfish, clown triggerfish and banded sea snakes, as well as the odd passing turtle.
As the name suggests, Laem Thian Caves is a great spot if you like swim-throughs and overhead environments. There are archways and rocky channels to explore all over the site, and if you dive it more than once you’d no doubt find more and more each time! Swim-throughs are located at various depths including a couple at safety stop level. The main attraction, however, is the ‘star wars tunnel’ that cuts through the wall into the interior of the rocks, before bringing you out into a large cavern with a couple of different archways as exit points. Marine life at Laem Thian Caves is varied, and as this site is less visited than many others, some rarer marine life species such as humphead parrotfish and Jenkins whip rays have been known to hang out there from time to time.