Diving & Snorkeling
In the last few years, as Samui has grown in popularity, so has the linked diving industry that originally centred around the island. Although the immediate vicinity of Koh Samui has little to offer, 80 minutes to the north past the neighbouring island of Koh Phangan finds the island hub of Koh Tao. This has now become the focus of scuba activities in the region and one of the best dive bases in South East Asia.
One of the reasons why this has happened is that The Gulf of Thailand is notably more sheltered than other oceans in this part of the world, leading to quality dive sites which are all year round destinations. This is particularly true in the summer season of July, August and September when the alternative sites in Phuket and the Andaman Sea are experiencing their rainy, low season.
However the rainy season for Samui and its neighbours runs from the end of September through to the middle of December, bringing wind and rain, increased swells and reduced visibility. This is rarely severe enough for outings to be cancelled although boat rides can become a little bouncy!
There are many more lesser sites in this area, but the most spectacular are featured here.
Situated mid-way between Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan, Sail Rock is generally considered to be the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand. A giant underwater rock, rooted some 30m below sea level, it rises to stand 15 metres above the surface. The sheer walls are alive with glowing coral gardens that host white-eyed morays, blue-ringed angel fish and bannerfish. There's an enticing vertical swim-through and the region is teeming with every variety of marine life.
The area attracts larger species, and it is common to see chevron barracuda, big-eyed trevally, jacks and schools of batfish. And the seasonal visits from schools of whale sharks is particularly anticipated.
These marine species are common to all sites in the area.
This is another granite rock pinnacle, 14 metres underwater, but this time accompanied by several smaller cousins. Along with Sail Rock, this is the second major site served by dive schools on Koh Tao and Samui.
Angthong National Marine Park
This entire area, a collection of 42 islands, is designated an area of conserved natural beauty and there are strict controls on visitors. There are several islands, however, that offer a dramatic outing and are well-worth visiting.
This small and uninhabited island on the fringe of The Marine Park features a sheltered dive site on its western side, is perfect for all levels of scuba diving and offers spectacular snorkelling. A variety of coral formations abound, including wonderful table coral formations. This site is teeming with schools of fish, and turtles are regularly sighted as are spotted rays and banded sea snakes.
Dive Schools and Accommodation
All but the most fanatical of divers choose to base themselves on the island of Samui, where the choices of accommodation are much more wider and the nightlife is more varied and diverse.
The trip out to Koh Tao and its surrounding sites typically takes between 60 and 90 minutes in one of the many speedboats that run to and fro each day.
Koh Samui has many dive shops and schools and the only problem you'll face is deciding which of them you think is best for you. But of particular note here is Koh Samui Dive Team - 100 Degrees East. They are noted for providing dedicated customer service and are an award winning 5 Star PADI Dive Centre / BSAC Resort Centre.
Although Koh Tao once had a reputation of offering basic accommodation, suitable for only the most hardy of adventurers, today its rapid development has led to a wide choice of places to stay, ranging from budget level to the moderately luxurious. And, needless to say that once there, you'll find no shortage of experienced dive operators willing to help you with your island experience!
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