Freedive training and education worldwide is generally done through AIDA, SSI, and Apnea Academy, though PADI offers freediving courses.
- 1 Alvaro Diving Koh Tao (Alvaro Diving Courses Koh Tao) (At a small quiet outer beach of Chalok Ban Kao south of Ko Tao), ☏ +66 77 456457, ✉ email@example.com. Daily, 09:00-18:00. Small family-run dive and freedive shop with new equipment, flexible boat schedules and friendly multilingual staff. Teach PADI & SSI diving and SSI freediving courses in small groups in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
- Apnea Total (Sairee Beach). Ko Tao's first and longest established freediving school. Apnea Total profits from experienced teachers and a private boat for a safe and successful learning experience.
- Blue Immersion Freediving (close to Good Time Adventures). Freedive off Sairee Beach by longtail boat with accomplished instructor Akim. AIDA and SSI courses available.
- Coral Grand Divers. Now offers the PADI Freediver course.
Scuba diving is the biggest attraction on Ko Tao. Diving in Ko Tao is easy, fun, and you can see turtles, stingrays, barracudas, lots of small fish, and reef sharks. There is a small chance you'll see a whale shark.
At Chumphon Pinnacle you are likely to see juvenile bull sharks which used to be misidentified as grey reef sharks. Be careful as the bulls are curious and very aggressive, though for many years thousands of people have dived this site without a single shark-related incident.
Nearly any time of the year except November is good diving weather in Ko Tao and visibility can exceed 40 m. Average visibility is around 15-20 m. In November, visibility is reduced to 5 m and the seas are choppy.
It is possible and perfectly comfortable to swim and dive without a wetsuit year-round. However, as with most diving, a wetsuit is recommended to help reduce the risk of cuts or injury. Avoid contact with coral reefs.
Various dive locations around Ko Tao are:
- Chumphon Pinnacles
- Southwest Pinnacles
- Green Rock
- White Rock
- Red Rock
- Japanese Gardens
- Twin Pinnacles
- HTMS Sattakut (wreck)
- Hin Pee Wee
- Mango Bay
- Ao Leuk
- Shark Island
- Hin Wong
- Lighthouse Bay
- Laem Thien
There are a huge number of dive operators on the island, many offering budget accommodation (sometimes described as "free accommodation", but this is not really true as you will usually get a discount if you stay elsewhere). The price for PADI open water certification including the new PADI training manual, professional instruction, rental equipment, boat dives, and certification is around 9,800 baht. For SSI open water certification including professional instruction, rental equipment, boat dives, and certification is around 9,000 baht. Insurance and basic accommodation may also be included. Shop around as not all shops teach the course in the same way. Look for experienced dive instructors rather than a low price.
A common method for teaching new divers is to train in a pool first to be taught about 20 basic skills before being taken out into the open water. Others will instead take you to a secluded beach so you will see fish and coral from the start and you might be able to squeeze in a short extra dive in this way, depending on your group and instructor. Some shops have a private pier, some shops depart with a longtail from the beach, and some use the public pier, where you will have to climb across some other boats. Ask, if this matters to you. Most important: find out the maximum number of dive students in a group. Make sure you get an instructor who speaks your language if you are not absolutely sure about your English. These are the little things that will make the difference between an OK course and a great one.
For those interested in becoming divemasters or instructors, here is a link to a video guide about the island life Koh Tao: Thailand's Divestyle Island.
PADI dive centres and resorts
- 2 Alvaro Diving Koh Tao (Alvaro Diving Courses Koh Tao) (At a small quiet outer beach of Chalok Ban Kao south of Ko Tao), ☏ +66 77 456457, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily, 09:00-18:00. Small family-run dive and freedive shop with flexible boat schedules and friendly multilingual staff. Teach PADI & SSI diving and SSI freediving courses in small groups in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
- Asia Divers Resort (In Sairee 5 min walk from the beach). 5-star Gold PADI Instructor Development Centre offers a full range of diving courses, including divemaster internships. Multiple languages. The resort's bar is always a nice place to chill out after diving.
- Big Blue Diving Resort (On Sairee Beach). PADI dive resort with beach side bar and restaurant, lodging with more than 50 rooms. Offers all courses from beginner to instructor, all technical diving. Also offers eco-internships. Winner of PADI's Project Aware Environmental Achievement Award. One of the longest established dive centres on Ko Tao.
- Big Bubble Dive Resort (Main street). One of the long-established dive centres on Ko Tao. Relaxed, fun diving. Scuba diving lessons from beginner to PADI divemaster training with a well trained, professional staff. Also in Chalok Baan Kao.
- Buddha View IDC Dive Resort (Chalok Ban Kao Beach, south Ko Tao). PADI 5-star IDC gold palm resort with friendly staff, good facilities and a BBQ and beach bar to relax in the evenings. Dive instructor courses and professional training programmes with a divemaster.
- Calypso Diving Koh Tao (Next to Family Resort in Tanote Bay), ☏ +66 77 456745, ✉ email@example.com. Dive training (hands on, no video teaching) from beginner to pro following CMAS and PADI standards in small groups. Located in quiet and party-free bay with a house reef in front of the premises.
- Coral Grand Divers Resort (In a much quieter area than the other dive shops, at the far end of the beach). Hotel is more up-market and better suited for families. Operates 2 dive boats plus a speed boat.
- 3 Davy Jones Locker, 14/102 Moo 1, Sairee (Sairee Beach), ☏ +66 77456604, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily, 08:30-20:00. PADI open water courses, divemaster internships and PADI instructor training, and MCA boat handling courses in their RIB. Accommodation and gear packages are available for all courses.
- Dive Point. PADI 5-star dive shop run by an Austrian. Offering diving classes in German, French, Italian, and English. Small groups and individual care for students special needs.
- Go Pro Diving, Sairee Beach, ☏ +66 87 2650859, ✉ email@example.com. Concentrates on PADI Go Pro courses on Ko Tao. PADI divemaster course, IDC course, IDC staff instructor course and master instructor training with full dive internship programs are available.
- Impian Divers 5 Star Dive Center (Mae Haad Beach). Groups limited to 4 divers per pro dive leader. Courses in 5 languages. European-owned/managed with strong safety record/procedures, but still easy going. Differ from most dive centres because of the daily different locations for the dive trips, long dive times. and non-early morning departures. 12 years of experience diving around Ko Tao.
- Island Dive Club (Centre of Sairee Beach). Does good deals on course and accommodation packages. The Thai staff can be annoying, so deal with the foreigners, they really make the effort. The dive shop is not that busy, meaning you might get an instructor for yourself or be taught in a small group.
- 4 Koh Tao Easy Divers. PADI 5-star dive shop with friendly experienced instructors. Professional and fun with great accommodation, and the only dive centre on Ko Tao with all inclusive packages. With a private pier and a maximum class size of 6 students to 1 instructor.
- Master Divers (Mae Haad). A small professional dive PADI 5 Star IDC. They guarantee small groups and offer private tuition and private guiding too. They have an experienced team and time their boat trips to go to dive sites when they are quietest too. They take their diving and environment seriously. They provide free water refills to minimise plastic bottle waste. They re-cycle and provide re-usable containers for take-away food to minimize polystyrene waste.
- New Way Diving, 24/2 Moo 1 (60 meters inland from the 7-Eleven crossroads in Sairee), ☏ +66 77456527, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily, 09:00-19:00. One of the oldest and most reputable dive shops. This small school has the first dive boat out in the morning. The truck leaves for the harbour at 06:00 to avoid crowds. Small groups, friendly and professional instructors. Basic accommodation is available.
- Sairee Cottage Diving, Middle Sairee Beach, ☏ +66 77 456374, ✉ email@example.com. Daily, 06:00-23:00. PADI scuba diving school on Ko Tao. Very friendly and beautiful diving resort right in the middle of Sairee Beach. Sairee Cottage Diving offers PADI courses from beginner to Scuba Dive IDC Instructor courses including free accommodation.
- Samui Diving Service (On the beach at Ko Tao Resort, Chalok Baan Kao), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. PADI 5-star diving and education in small groups of 4 students per instructor. All PADI courses and daily fun dives.
- Seashell Dive Centre. Small locally-run shop with helpful multilingual staff, an OK boat and gear, but no free accommodation.
- Simple Life Divers. Popular medium sized Western-owned and managed PADI 5 star dive centre on Ko Tao's Sairee Beach.
- Sunshine Divers Resort (Chalok Baan Kao). PADI 5-star Gold Palm Resort. DMT's, staff, instructors, students, resident dogs, and fun divers all contribute to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
SSI dive centres
- ACE Marine Expeditions, 17/16 Moo 1 (Sairee Beach), ✉ email@example.com. All dives and training are offered in small groups with a maximum of 2 divers per 1 staff or private tuition. Specializing in diving for photographers and film makers or those wishing to have a private diving experience. Expeditions are offered on private luxury speedboat or custom-built dive boat and dive schedules change daily to avoid the crowds. Day trips to Ang Thong Marine Park are also available. HQ in Sairee Beach. Dive courses are offered from beginner to professional.
- 6 Alvaro Diving Koh Tao (Alvaro Diving Courses Koh Tao) (At a small quiet outer beach of Chalok Ban Kao south of Ko Tao), ☏ +66 77 456457, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily, 09:00-18:00. Small family-run dive and freedive shop with flexible boat schedules and friendly multilingual staff. Teach PADI & SSI diving and SSI freediving courses in small groups in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
- Carabao Diving Center & Resort (Chalok Baan Kao Bay, south Ko Tao). A good diving centre on a quiet beach with some nice places to eat and drink. The staff is gracious and helpful. Good accommodation available.
- Mojo Divers Koh Tao, 14/20 Moo 1 (Sairee Beach), ☏ +66 77 456 710, ✉ email@example.com. Daily, 09:00-19:00. Friendly dive shop in the heart of Sairee Beach in small groups, fun and friendly atmosphere, from beginners to professional level. Bi-weekly trips to Sail Rock.
- New Heaven Dive School. Over ten years of experience on Ko Tao. Has been involved with turtle conservation, reef restoration, the We love Ko Tao Festival, the Ko Tao Underwater Festival and other activities which help to create the eco-friendly environment crucial to Ko Tao's future.
- Roctopus Dive (Short walk from Sairee Beach, next to the big yellow hotel). SSI, PADI, BSAC and reef conservation courses.
- Scuba Junction. Run by Natalie, who runs a very tight ship. The equipment is beautifully maintained and they dive and teach strictly by the rule book. Good accommodations nearby are available at the Prik Thai Bungalows and SBC Cabana. Scuba Junction is an SSI Diamond Instructor training facility.
Liveaboard sailing and diving
- Scubasail. A 30 m sailing and diving yacht, the Naga. Accommodation, diving courses, visiting dive locations and a beautiful experience on board assisted by a helpful crew.
- Koh Exist (same location as New Way Diving). A marine conservation school providing information on marine ecology, corals, fish and how to rescue corals by attaching them to artificial structures.
Over the last couple of years more and more non-divers have discovered the beauty of this island with its secluded little bays and unspoiled mountain ridges. Due to this, and the increasing number of small upmarket resorts and villas nestled in the hillsides there are now a lot more activities available, including sailing, rock climbing (trad routes, sport routes, top rope routes, and bouldering), abseiling, cliff jumping, wake boarding, mini golf, or bowling in Mae Haad, massage and yoga courses, and cooking courses.
- Bowling and mini golf (On the main road between Mae Haad and Chalok Baan Kao just after the turning for Aow Leuk). The bowling is "manual". There is a guy at the end of the alley that sets up your pins for you after each bowl and returns the ball down to you.
- Dive Career Internships. Divemaster and dive instructor internships, underwater videographer training, and resort management courses with experienced PADI course instructors.
- Good Time Adventures, Diving, Beach Cafe and Bar, ☏ +66 87 2753604. South Sairee Beach. Small group Scuba Diving courses with flexible schedules. The only shop on Ko Tao with a weekly trip to Sail Rock. A wide range of adventure activities including: rock climbing instruction up to lead climbing and a guiding service, abseiling/rappelling, cliff jumping, snorkelling, wake boarding, boat cruises. Beach Cafe and Bar serves a tasty variety of Western, Thai and Burmese dishes on the beach.
Hike to one of the secluded bays on the northern and eastern side of the island. On the 2 hr walk through the jungle to Mango Bay you will hardly meet any people. The snorkelling there is good.
- Island Cruises (Sailing charters). Day and sunset cruises, private charters, Ang Thong National Marine Park safaris and fully customised crewed charters.
- Koh Tao PROvideo. A videography company. Run by experienced underwater videographers and instructors who film and teach every day. Each course is tailor made.
- Monsoon Gym and Muay Thai Camp. For those looking for a serious workout. Muay Thai courses are provided and you can step in the ring for a real bout when you're ready.
Mountain Biking There is a shop renting mountain bikes next to the bowling and mini golf course. Mountain bikes are in reasonable condition. 100 baht/day with a 1,000 baht deposit.
- Oceans Below-underwater Video Training. 3 and 5 day courses in underwater videography and offers professional-level training for those looking to make a career of it. All training done with HD video cameras.
- Ocean Sound Yoga, ☏ +66 82 4126240. Vinyasa, Yin, Meditation, Hatha and Restorative yoga classes offered daily. High quality equipment provided. All levels welcome.
- Thailand Gap Internships. 1-7 month internships in Pro HD video training, muay Thai, free diving, PADI instructor, divemaster and technical dive courses.
- Good Idea Massage, 5/28 M. 2, Mae Haad (~150 meters from the pier on the left towards the top main road on the right side), ☏ +66 84 3840834. Thai massage, oil massage, foot massage, body scrub, reflexology massage. Also waxing hair removal treatments from the face and body – for women and men.
- 7 Parawan's Thai Home Cooking Classes, 13/82 Sairee (From Sairee cross roads where 7-11 and the Brother Bar/Restaurant is head east towards Hin Wong bay up to Asia Resort and turn left there and follow the road around and then turn left again after the Budchui shop and go down past the Jitsin laundry and turn right. Head down towards the end of the street and it's the second to last house on the left), ☏ +66875114654, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 9AM-5PM. Parawan offers Thai cooking classes at her home on Koh Tao and online.1500THB.