A pinnacle that juts from 40 meters to the surface, is approximately halfway between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Begin your dive above the thermocline and watch closely for White-eyed and Yellow-edged Morays that lurk in cracks in the jagged rock. Tuna Fishes, King Mackerels and Jack Fishes circle just off the pinnacle, while Octopus and Scorpionfish magically blend in with the colorful Soft Corals and Hard Corals. Then visit the “Chimney”, a dazzling vertical swim-through that ascends from 18 meters to 8 meters. Rise up slowly enough to enjoy the patterns of light and shadow and frequent windows into the blue that stud the walls of this natural rock tunnel, and finish with a bright garden of anemones and coral that rings the top of the site.
Where visibility is often the island’s best, ranges from 30 meters to 8 meters of depth. Around the outside of the site Leopard Sharks sleep on the sand, and Blue-Spotted Fantail Rays hide in crevices while massive Grouper patiently endure the attentions of Cleaner Wrasse. As you slowly ascend along the many small pinnacles, be certain to look closely for Scorpionfishes and Tiger Shells hidden in and amongst never-ending carpet of Pink Anemone Fishes. Schools of small Yellow-Tail Barracuda and Snappers shelter from the current behind the larger rocks while the occasional visiting Whale Shark looks on from the blue.
The most challenging dive site on Koh Tao, reaches the bottom at 34 meters and soars up to within 16 meters of the surface. Chumporn Pinnacle is not only the best site around Koh Tao to have a close encounter with the big gentle “Whale Shark”, it’s a great place to spot all kinds of pelagic fish. As you descend over the grey stone monolith, schools of friendly Batfishes will rise up to greet you. At the Barracuda Rock swims with schools of Chevron Barracuda in the blue water. As you make the tour of the pinnacle look also for Jenkins Rays, Giant Groupers, King Mackerel and Tuna fishes – and then spend your last twenty minutes over the top of the pinnacle watching the tropical reef fishes that swarm through Sea Anemone garden.
With depends between 28 meters and 10 meters, is a maze of swim-through, canyons and caves. At the deeper end of the site, watch for White-tip Reef Sharks, Cobia Fishes and Jenkins Whiptail Rays. Swim over the Minefield where Yellow Margin and Titan Triggerfish nest in hollows in the sand – but keep a weather eye out for protective parents. At the main body of the site, enjoy the challenges to your buoyancy skills provided by the many swim-through, and as you wend your way through the twists and turns be sure to look for Black-banded Sea Snakes, White-eye Moray Eels and Green Turtles, Hawksbill turtles. Some of the islands most spectacular sea slugs are also found here, along with Flatworms and reef Squids.
An elliptical island just off the south east of Koh Tao, is one of the most varied dive sites in the area, ranging from 24 meters to the surface. Venture into the blue to look for the Whale Sharks, Leopard Sharks and Reef Sharks that give the site its name – and even if you have no luck there, you can be assured of a beautiful aquatic wander through the most stunning of Koh Tao’s soft corals in hues of purple, crimson and gold. Throngs of bright coral fish will accompany you, and you may sight solitary Giant Barracuda, pairs of Six-banded Angelfish, Orange-spine Unicorn and the Turtles. Huge boulders and rock formations lend this site a unique topography that is accessible to divers of all levels.
A large site on the east side of Koh Tao, bottoms out at 40 meters and reaches within 10 meters of the surface. Black Coral, Soft Coral and colorful Sea Fans fringe the tabletop rock formation. Look here for Jenkins whiptail Rays and Hawksbill Turtles. Porcupine and Pufferfish defy the laws of physics and streamlining as they flee from noisy divers, but if you can keep quiet you may watch them at your leisure. That yellow sunburst beneath that rock may have been a juvenile cube Boxfish, Snapper and Sweetlips abound. As you begin your relaxed ascent, spend some time watching the Moon Wrasses and Bannerfishes in and around the hard coral that covers the top of the site.
With depths from 20 meters to 8 meters, is one of the most popular sites around Koh Tao due both to accessibility and the consistently high quality of the dives. Parrotfishes, Butterflyfishes and Angelfishes bring the reef to vivid life – as do Travalley and Tina Fishes, two of Koh Tao’s notorious inhabitants. This pair of Titan Triggerfish is known for tenaciously defending their nest from all who pass too close, so be sure to watch them from a safe distance. If you’re night diving notice the three or four big Barracuda shadowing you just outside your field of vision, peer into Table Corals for a glimpse of scarlet Coral Crabs and juvenile Moray Eels, or just muffle your torch and enjoy the fireworks of the “Bioluminescent Plankton”.
Nangyuan Bay III, just off the west side of Koh Nangyuan, is made up of two groups of rocks with depths ranging from 18 meters to 8 meters. At the deeper end of the site, watch for Big Grouper, While-eyed Moray Eels and Blue Spotted Fantail Rays among the Hard Corals, Cushion Seastars and Top Shells. Be sure to look in the many small caves for a flash of incandescent blue – juvenile Blue-ringed and Six-barred Angelfishes shelter in the cool shade of the rocks. As you progress to the shallower side of the site, visit panda Scorpionfish, or Peacock Colored Flatworms. Blacktip Reef Sharks are occasional seen close to the shoreline over Staghorn Coral beds.
A sandy bay on the south side of Koh Tao, offers depths of 16 meters to 6 meters. Fanciful rock formations, Boulder Corals and other coral forms give this site an eerie feeling of a surrealist painting. As you swim along the coastline, pause and give the Cleaner Wrasse a chance to give you a thorough once-over, and then be sure to look under the rocks for Masked Porcupine Fish and Back-spotted Puffers. Notice also the many Cushion Seastars and Nudibranchs along your course. In the sand, hungry Longtoms Fishes go about the business of hunting for dinner. Watch and see how a Titan Triggerfish handles the dilemma – a well aimed jet of water will knock over even the best protected Long-spined Sea Urchins. Finish your dive by paying a visit to the Green Turtle and Hawksbill Turtles that are sometimes sighted here.
Red Rock/Nangyuan Cave
A large solitary pinnacle that juts from 19 meters all the way up to just 3 meters from the surface. Swim around the pinnacle following the widening crack in the rock that hides Sting Rays, Moray Eels and Large Groupers. Then it’s a short swim west to the shoreline where Nangyuan cave awaits. Two huge rocks guide you to the entrance where a corner hides the full size of the cave. As you swim through look for Blue-ring Angelfishes and Groupers silhouetted against a light blue background. Amazing hard coral and rock formations await outside as well as the resident Triggerfish, before making your safety stop back on the pinnacle.
A relatively shallow dive site, ranging from 14 meters to 3 meters and sheltered on the east side of Nangyuan Island. The dive site is crowed with Staghorn Corals, Table Corals, Massive Brain Corals, and Mushroom Corals make the vast amounts of coral on this visually stunning dive. As you fin kick lazily over the garden, watch out for Blue-spotted Stingrays and Porcupine Fishes, hiding under rocks, if you gaze up towards the surface observe the impressive size of the Crocodile Needle Fishes as they hunt for their prey.