Beginner Diving Sites
Learn to Dive in Koh Tao
For those looking to learn to dive on Koh Tao or take a try diving experience for a day, there are several shallow and sandy bays that provide safe and fun environments to explore. These are also great dive sites for children’s dive courses as the reefs start from just a couple of metres depth, meaning there is lots to see! The depth of all of the following Koh Tao dive sites is around 10-12 metres.
Japanese is located in one of the tranquil coves of Koh NangYuan Island, which sits to the north-west of Koh Tao. It is perfect for both scuba diving and snorkeling, and a regular fixture on round island snorkel tours. The stunning sand bars of the island give way to a wide bay full of underwater treasures. Beneath the surface you’ll find all manner of corals including huge boulder corals, sizeable table corals, and branching staghorn corals, all of which are home to tropical fish of all shapes and sizes such as butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish, rabbitfish, soldierfish, fusiliers, and even the odd visiting turtle. There is a small swim-through on the southern side of the bay that is shallow and great fun for buoyancy practice.
Located at the northern tip of Koh Tao, Mango Bay is one of the island’s smallest beaches, but that doesn’t stop it from being home to a wide array of marine life. The rocky coastlines on either side of the beach make for great wall dives while the vast sandy bay in between is a perfect training ground for all manner of skills training and scenario practice for those on dive courses. Nestled among all the corals you’ll spot reef dwellers like pufferfish, harlequin sweetlips, butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish, and smaller critters like nudibranchs and shrimp. If you are lucky, you may even see some stingrays or a turtle.
Aow Leuk Bay is one of the most popular beaches, and also one of the most popular dive sites on Koh Tao for scuba diving and snorkeling. The beach is sandy and slopes gently into a wide bay, making it perfect for entry-level water skills training and shallow scuba dives alike. With coral reefs on both sides of the bay starting almost as soon as you leave the beach, there is an abundance of marine life to see. Keep your eye out for yellow boxfish, harlequin sweetlips, and schools of yellowtail barracuda in addition to the regular colourful reef fishes. If you are crossing the middle of the bay, you can sometimes get lucky and spot some stingrays swimming across the sand.
Technically these are two different dive sites but both are quite small, so on many occasions your dive leader will be able to show you both during the same dive – especially if you are fun diving and don’t need to stay on the sand to practice skills for long. Both 3 Rocks and Pottery are located just out of Jansom Bay and are rocky boulder sites that are home to several varieties of pufferfish, stingrays, and moray eels, as well as lots of smaller marine life like nudibranchs, shrimps and crabs hiding in the cracks and crevices. At 3 Rocks, there is a large underwater archway that acts as a fun swim-through.
The corals at Tanote Bay start as soon as you step off the shore, meaning it’s not as ideal a choice for shallow water skills training as some of the other bays and beaches on Koh Tao. However, it is still a fantastic, easy and interesting site to dive. In the bay, you’ll find a variety of coral formations, and around the coastline there are huge rocky boulders to explore. There’s even an abandoned honda motorbike underwater, and just outside of the bay there is a small catamaran wreck. Around the dive site you’ll see an array of the usual tropical fish and critters, plus some rarer spots like unicornfish, scribbled filefish, and boxfish.
Located on the eastern side of the island, Hin Wong Bay is sheltered for most of the year and provides a great training ground for newer divers, and is also great for night dives. Its mix of sandy bottom, coral reef formations, and rocky boulders mean there is lots to explore and see, and on the southern side of the bay there are some swim-throughs to explore. You can expect to see lots of brightly coloured tropical fish and reef critters, stingrays, and if you are lucky even an octopus or two. Out in the bay there is a huge school of fusiliers a few thousand strong, which makes for an impressive sight regardless of your experience level.
As the name would suggest, Sairee Reef is the coral structure that flanks Koh Tao’s longest beach. Stretching for over a kilometre down the western side of the island, the beach becomes deeper very gradually, and the main reef begins just a few metres under the surface. So it is the perfect choice for dive centres located on Sairee Beach to conduct shallow training for Try Diving and Open Water Diver skills sessions, and is also a go-to site for night dives in low season. Sairee Reef is colourful and packed full of coral structures of all different sizes and composition. Barrel corals, boulder corals, brain corals, table corals, and an array of soft corals play home to butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish, rabbitfish, soldierfish, fusiliers, and more.
Aow Mao when translated from Thai means ‘drunken bay’. Legend has it that it is haunted by a fisherman who took an intoxicated tumble from a fishing boat many years ago, and because of this, many Thai captains don’t like to moor up there. So it is one of Koh Tao’s least visited dive sites, and the coral reef is incredibly healthy as a result due to seeing very little traffic. With a sandy bottom and rocky coastlines and coral walls either side of the small beach, it’s a perfect training ground for learning new dive skills, and there is plenty of marine life to see for those who are fun diving.