Koh Tao Diving
The Diving Scene on Koh Tao
There are as many as 50 dive shops and schools based on Koh Tao and all compete for business. If you travel on one of the dive boats from either Chumpon or Koh Phangnan you will likely be approached by a tout employed by one of the Big 4 dive schools. As soon as you step off the ferry dozens of touts working for the 'Big 4' dive schools will hassle you to stay at their resort and dive. While this is fine if you are out for diving, if you are just out to go out riding this can be a pain in the ass.
Be aware that diving equipment is mega-expensive in Thailand (due to import taxes) and on Koh Tao it is as expensive as Phuket. It is wiser to purchase equipment and bring it with you if you intend on doing a lot of diving. For the occasional fun diver or student an advantage is that you don't have to pay for any equipment rental (as its included in the price). If you intend on sticking around to do several courses or your Divemaster course then having your own equipment is best.
You may hear the term IDC 5* Resort mentioned too. That means is that they can qualify Divemasters / Assistant Instructors to become Instructors. Its not really relevant if you're just after some entry level courses and fun diving, but the schools will make a big deal out of it.
There are advantages and disadvantages to almost every dive school on Koh Tao these can be major or slight depending on your preference.
The Main Diving Schools on Koh Tao
Asia Divers / Buddha View
A diving conglomerate that controls part of Mae Haad and nearly all of Chalok Baan Kao. While not usually a small group-based dive school they operate 3 dive boats and are quite easy going and quirky with a laid-back attitude to diving.
Bans Diving Resort
Arguably the oldest, largest and most powerful diving school on the island. A huge chunk of Sairee is controlled by them. Operates multiple vessels, has a very opulent resort with pool that stretches from the beach to the main island road. They operate huge groups of divers on courses/fun dives at a time. Do not expect to be in a small group going diving with this school. Their dive boats are large but are often filled to capacity and are often remarked as being 'cattle boats' by rival schools.
Big Blue Divers
They are considered the fun-loving pissheads of the diving world on Koh Tao. They operate from two dive boats. They tend to be all about diving by day and partying hard on the beachfront bar they run at night.
Considered as one of the more serious minded diving schools but they are no less important. They operate 2 dive boats. Based in Mae Haad Town. Communal Pier. IDC 5* Resort
The Other Main Dive Schools
Big Bubble Diving
Small to Medium sized groups.
Black Tip Diving
Small groups, one of the only dive schools to use steel dive tanks as opposed to aluminium ones.
Coral Grand Divers
Almost one of the Big 4 dive schools, but not quite. Spacious and opulent resort with 2 Dive boats.
Medium sized groups.
Above average resort with 1 dive boat. Based in Sairee. Communal Pier.
One of the few dive schools to teach technical diving.
New Way Divers
Ordinary resort with a single dive boat. Small to medium sized groups.
Above average resort with 2 dive boats. Based in Sairee. Communal Pier.
In the old days they used to pressure guests staying at their resorts to sign up for dive courses and get angry if they didn't eat at their restaurant. These days these incidents are rare, however non-divers tend to be charged a higher accommodation rate than divers paying for fun dives who in turn will be paying a higher rate than dive students.
Click on an area to explore the map!