Koh Tao & Koh Pha Ngan
"Learn to dive at Koh Tao and immediately visit the world-class sail rock!"
Diving around Koh Tao
The Gulf of Thailand is obviously a massive area. Diving is mostly done though around Koh Tao. You will find some places operating from Ko Chang to the east, but you can find more information about them ((here)).
Koh Tao has access to all major dive sites like Sail Rock, Chumphon, and southwest pinnacle. The other islands have little to no interesting dive sites, so focus your attention on Koh Tao.
The island is dedicated to learning the amazing sport/ hobby of scuba diving, with many dive centers offering open water courses, for competitive prices. Don't be upset though, if you're joined by 10 others since some boats offer 35+ spots for divers which makes it sometimes feels like mass tourism.
You will, however, find the instructors to be of the highest quality, teaching Padi, Raid, and SSI courses for example. So pick your favorite.
Koh Tao is a lovely island on which many people spend weeks or months even relaxing, learning diving, or working remotely or as an instructor.
Therefore you will find loads of foreigners attending yoga, muy-thai, or scuba diving. And of course, there will be parties scattered around the island in the evening.
If you want a more quiet stay, you should try to book a hotel a little more inland from the beach area.
Koh Pha Ngan
Where to stay?
The place to stay is Chaloklum on Koh Pha Ngan. The small town is located on the north side of the island, with many types of accommodation being offered, you're sure to find your perfect place. The transfer from the main pier will cost you around 500 baht (15$) per car.
Diving in Koh Pha Ngan:
Most of the diving is done from the lovely town of Chaloklum, on the north side of the island. There are currently 7 dive centers operating here, who share the few boats they have among each other.
There is 1 dive center operating from the main town next to the ferry.
Diving around Koh Pha Ngan is pretty straight forward. Sail Rock is sole reason people come to visit.
How to get there?
Depending from where you come from, you can either get to Koh Tao from Chumphon or Surathani.
From Bangkok, you can take a bus, train, or car to Chumphon and arrange a package deal with the boatride included to Koh Tao or Koh Pha Ngan.
Departures are daily and costs vary by transportation method.
(Boat transfer from Chumphon to Koh Tao is 700 Baht)
Flying: Koh Samui is the nearest Airport. You can fly directly from Bangkok or Phuket, depending where you come from. From Koh Samui I would make my way as soon as possible to either Koh Tao or Pha Ngan, since Koh Samui has no dive sites.
Koh Pha Ngan:
To get to Koh Pha Ngan, you can grab a ferry from Koh Tao or Koh Samui. Ferries leave from Chumphon and Surathani in the south ans usually tend to all or most islands before heading to their final destination.
Flying: Koh Samui is your port of entry by airplane from Bangkok or Phuket. From there, take a ferry to Koh Pha Ngan and a taxi from the pier for 400-500 Baht to Chaloklum town.
Koh Tao is a diving paradise for those who want to learn this amazing hobby/ sport. All sorts of diving are offered, from easy to tech diving the Unicorn wreck at 50 meters deep. I have made a map with the most important dive sites you can visit. There are more, but they are just not worth it because others are way better!
Diving sites, more in depth:
Below I will go more in-depth (pun intended) into these dive sites. I will not note currents here, since there are almost none in the area.
A beginner dive, and a beautiful coral garden in a very sheltered location close to Koh Tao (west). You will find many smaller fish and huge boomy corals in a stunning landscape.
Maximum depth: 16 meters.
A beginner dive usually done in the afternoon. With a max depth of 18 meters suited for all level of divers. Twins gets his name from the 2 outcrops of corals and rocks with a sandy bottom between them.
Maximum depth: 18 meters.
One of the best dive sites in Thailand, and Asia. This rock in the middle of the ocean between Koh Tao & Koh Pha Ngan is a pinnacle you can easily swim around in 1 dive. With many schooling fish and barracudas, queenfish, and clownfish everywhere! Beautiful scenery and rock formations make this a must-do dive site.
Maximum depth: 36 meters.
"Wreck dive Sattakut"
A shipwreck sunk right next to Koh Tao, this was a gift from Japan to the Thai King, who gifted it to Koh Tao many years ago. Still, very much intact, this is a beautiful dive site with a max depth of 32 meters, while the top is only 16 meters deep.
Maximum depth: 32 meters.