SCUBA DIVING IN KOH TAO
Koh Tao, divers paradise! This small island on the West coast of Thailand is famous for its scuba diving and here's a fun fact for ya, Koh Tao actually stands for 'turtle island'. I was lucky enough to spend the day scuba diving in Koh Tao on a discovery dive, sold by one of TruTravels’s good friends Mo, who resides on the island. This discovery dive is perfect for first-timers who don’t necessarily have the money or time to complete their open water dive course OR want to just give it a go before committing to earning their open water dive certificate. The perfect opportunity to see what the fuss of diving in Koh Tao is all about! Gotta see it to believe it, right?
My day started when I arrived at the Mojo Diving Shop where I was greeted by Martin, a Canadian guy who also moved to Koh Tao. He assured me, and the three others joining me on the dive, that he was a professional PADI certified instructor- VERY important stuff!
Before heading into the deep blue, we followed Martin to the well known ‘Choppers’, a bar next door, and we were given a thorough explanation on how to interact responsibly with the aquatic life, to not disturb the beautiful underwater habitat or, worst-case scenario, harm them or yourself. Then came the basics of diving, the do's and dont's whilst underwater and the communication procedures; underwater hands signals and when is appropriate to use them (keep it PG please, kids). Finally, he introduced us to our scuba equipment and although it sounds daunting it was very laid back and as long as you pay attention, you can’t go wrong! It's all the crucial stuff before we go under the sea! *cue all little mermaid references*
We walked down to Sairee Beach where we met another group doing different dive packages, most of whom had either gained their certificates and are having a day of fun diving, or are in the process of obtaining it. I took this opportunity to gain some insight of what to expect from the deep blue as I was pretty apprehensive about diving (mainly because I’ve always had a fear of open water/what lies beneath- great film, 10/10 recommend!) However, everybody I spoke to assured me there was nothing to worry about, and that as long as I followed my instructor’s directions, it was an amazing (and safe) experience, this also helped to squish my apprehensions cos ain't nobody got time for that!
The boat dropped off some of the more experienced divers at various dive spots and we headed for ‘White Rock’ dive site, located south of Koh Nang Yuan. It consisted of two large rocks and a shallow coral garden, full of reef fish around 10m deep- perfect for beginners. This was great for less experienced divers like me, and so as we waited patiently for Martin to prep our equipment, we listened to another quick safety talk- nearly ready to enter the unknown! Oxygen tanks ON, flippers ON and masks ON (and defogged), we were ready to enter the deep blue!
We started off in very shallow water and practised a few safety skills, ya know safety first & all that - how to use the regulator, how to get water out from your masks (without letting more in!) and most importantly, how to use your instructor’s emergency regulator in case of an oxygen shortage. Don’t panic- we were assured this rarely ever happens! Once we felt comfortable with the various skills, Martin began to show us around this amazing dive site and this INCREDIBLE underwater world.
The range of wildlife at White Rock was huge and there was something for everybody. Turtles munching away on soft corals, casting a lazy and half-interested eye at passing divers,- amazing creatures and the cool dudes of the sea! Koh Tao’s infamous Triggerfish prowl this dive site, and we were pre-warned these buggers like to bite divers and their flippers. Cheeky lil' things. There were so many more hunters there too: the great Barracudas (my personal fav), Trevally fish and Banded Sea Snakes. Blue-ringed and six-banded Angelfish swam around in their shoals passing Beaked Coral Fish, Bannerfish and Pig-faced Butterflyfish. You know what they say, plenty of fish in the sea. ;)
We were also told it was whale shark season! Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea and, fortunately for most sea-dwellers- and us, their favourite meal is plankton. PHEW. Unfortunately, though, we had no success in seeing them (sad reacts only) though a few days later a group came across a school of 5 whale sharks swimming through that exact location. So finger's crossed luck is on your side!
If you loved the first dive, you could opt to do an additional dive before we headed back to Sairee Beach. This second dive was just a fun dive with your instructor; another opportunity to experience the amazing underwater world. So my hand was straight up, and I was ready for round 2. Let's gooooo, beaches!
Our second dive site was at ‘The Twins’, also known as Twin Peaks. It was one of the best Koh Tao dive sites according to some websites I’d looked at prior. It consists of 2 large underwater rocks, starting at 7 metres with a sandy bottom way down at 20 metres- suitable for divers of all levels.
The reef is incredible, with Blue Ringed Angel Fish, Moray Eels, Stingrays, Green sea turtles and Koh Tao’s renowned Clownfish family! See what you can spot!
Heading back to land, we visited the shop and Mo told us about a video of that day’s dive at Choppers, so I went along later to check it out. How he put it together in such a short amount of time I’ll never know. Teach us your ways Mo! It was great to see ourselves scuba diving- ACTUALLY scuba diving, and catching a glimpse of what other fished we missed. A 10/10 experience.
My overview of the discovery dive is simple… DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! The water is warm, the fish are bright and the underwater world is mind-blowing. It’s an experience not to be missed, and I can guarantee you won’t regret it. Mojo provides all the equipment, training materials and instructions; you just need your swimmers, suntan lotion and a big ol' smile. Easy enough right?
Fancy going diving & having a trip of a lifetime too? Join the fam and check out our TruTravels 16 Day Full Moon Island Hopper Tour, you never know, we may very well be seeing you on the beach very soon. In the famous words of Dory, just keep swimming, TruFam!
DON'T QUIT YOUR DAYDREAM.