I’ve always gone over to the Andaman Sea side of Thailand because that is where the best Diving is ( Phi Phi, Similan Islands etc ). It’s rainy season in July, to avoid that you need to head East. I met a lot of people on the West side who had done their PADI in Koh Tao so knew it would be cheap. It was slightly more expensive than Malaysia but still less than £40 a dive. There are a lot of dive shops, I went with a larger one – Kho Tao Scuba – and negotiated a trial dive for Thomas as part of the package.
Weather and visibility were poor for the first few days but once Thomas arrived from Kho Phagan the sun came out and the sea got a bit calmer. Thomas had a dutch instructor named Bart who taught him the basics of Scuba Diving. At 11 he can get his PADI and they structure their try scuba package to match day one of a PADI. He received a lot more training than i did when i started and Bart even got me doing some practice with him for an out of air emergency.
The first dive was about 5 metres and the second dive was 10m because Thomas did so well. Bart swam alongside whilst I held back, occasionally grabbing him as he started floating to the surface. We saw some nice coral formations, blue trevalles, bat fish, parrot fish and plenty of shoals of smaller fish. We avoided the trigger fish and the highlight of the dives were a couple of blue spotted sting rays.
The best dive site from Koh Tao is Sail Rock but its a 2 hour boat ride and so it doest happen every day. However it’s only an hour from North Koh Phangan and they do go there every day. Of the dive sites I visited Chumphon Pinnacle was the best, loads going on, lots of batfish and an eel swimming around for good measure. The wreck of the HTMS Sattakut is also great when the visibility is good. Its a former WW2 vessel that was sunk on purpose. Apparently they sunk it in the wrong place, hence the visibility isnt great. Highlight of that dive was a huge shoal of juvenile barracuda as well as swimming through the wreck.
Koh Tao means turtle island but turtles and reef sharks don’t visit much any more. There is a lot of reef conservation projects going on and one turtle was spotted whilst we were there.