On our journey in Thailand, we were debating between going to the Phi Phi Islands or Koh Tao, because with the limited time we had, we really had to decide between the two. If you have more time to explore, I’d obviously recommended checking them both out. So we decided to head to Koh Tao, a diver’s paradise island. And, thank god we made this decision!

Thailand Trip Map

We didn’t have too much information to make the decision to travel to Koh Tao, but from the advice I had received from friends and colleagues, Koh Phi Phi was extremely touristy. We weren’t really interested in crowded beaches and biting monkeys (a friend was bitten by a monkey on her trip there!).

So… we headed to Koh Tao.

Where to Stay:

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Charm Churee Village

*** 3 Star

Price Range: ‎$46 – $146 for an average room per night

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Benefits

  • This hotel had its own beach with amazing snorkeling! The dive schools even came to this spot to learn to dive, and the fish were abundant.
  • You get your own mini cottage to leave in, and we only saw one bug in our room while we were there.
  • There is A/C in the room, and the room has its own washroom.
  • The hotel restaurant is absolutely beautiful and sits over the water on a balcony.
  • The hotel is very accommodating, filling you in on the best activities in the area (aka: diving!).

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Drawbacks

  • The Wi-Fi here sucks, don’t even bother using it unless you plan on getting extremely frustrated (first-world problems I know).
  • The hotel is located far away from the main beach, where all of the nightlife and activities are held, so it was a pain to get around and you feel out of the loop.
  • This hotel is family-based and there are a lot of older people, so don’t plan on partying here.
  • The room was hot, even with the A/C, and we did spot a large cockroach in our room near the end of our stay.
  • The lobby has rats and ants, but it didn’t bother us (might bother squeamish guests).

This hotel was great for family life or a couple, but if you want a party/nightlife experience, I would suggest staying in Sairee Beach or at a hotel that offers a diving package.

What to Eat:

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Da’s Sandwiches

Price: $

This sandwich shop is small and is very unassuming, sitting on a corner in Koh Tao, but the sandwiches are to die for! We tried the spicy chicken sandwich and the bacon/egg sandwich, which were both unbelievable. I was skeptical at first, but once we caught onto this place—we kept going back, as most people do.

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Photo cred: Montreal Six

La Carotte Qui Rit

Price: $$

Our diving instructor Cyril recommended that we try this place, and the vegetarian options were abundant. The food was extremely good and the service was also phenomenal. You can take in the atmosphere around you sitting on the balcony, and enjoy the vegetarian Pad Thai to keep that healthy kick going while traveling. This food was perfect for diving, because we were able to fill up on healthy, delicious dishes.

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What to Do:

Panther Divers

Price: $$$

We were debating even trying scuba diving when heading to Koh Tao, but everyone suggested that we simple had to do it. So, we signed up for our PADI Open Water Diver course at Panther Divers and began the 3-day course. Panther Divers was an amazing place to learn to dive! The diving school is very new, but the owner Quando was so accommodating, understanding, and patient with us. The school is small, so you are not trucked out on a boat with 10 other divers in your lesson. We were paired with a private instructor and there were only three people (including us) in the group. My friend ended up not liking diving in general, so I was paired with one other guy, Espen and the instructor to continue the course.

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PADI Open Water Diver Course

Price: $11, 000 Bht

Price: $403.14 CAD or $308.22 US

Be prepared to study again! Yes—you are on vacation, but you will be back in the classroom for a few sessions to learn how to dive properly. The information was interesting and relevant to everything you were learning in the water, so the studying part was not bad at all. The test is easy, and once you receive your Open Water license—you have it for life!

When you are first learning to dive, we went straight to the ocean and skipped the pool! Of course we were close to the surface, so if anything went wrong we would be able to catch our breath in a second. The safety training was fairly easy, but it was definitely good exercise and an adrenaline rush!

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Photo Cred: Barracuda – Espen Larsen

We did 5 dives throughout the course, visiting various dive sites around Koh Tao including: Japanese Garden, Ship Wreck, Twin Rocks, Chumporn Pinnacle, etc. Our instructor Cyril was hilarious and made us feel completely comfortable under the water. Seeing the coral communities down under was absolutely amazing, and we were even able to explore the shipwreck—swimming through the windows along with the groupers and other fish surrounding the site.

Night Dive

I became so obsessed with diving that I ended up doing a few extra dives, including the night dive. The night dive obviously took place at night (duh), and we went to Twin Rocks with our little flashlights to explore.

Highlights of the Dive:

  • We saw two giant manta rays (so terrifying)!
  • We saw Nemo!
  • You turn off your flashlights and watch the plankton glow around you like fireflies
  • Espen got stung by an anemone (lol)
  • We saw trigger fish (dangerous buggers)
  • We got to see the sunset on the boat before the darkness arrived
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Photo Cred: Espen Larsen

Deep Dive (30 metres)

The second extra dive I did was the deep dive, and this dive was certainly exhilarating. Diving deeper comes with more risks, including gas narcosis. Gas narcosis, or nitrogen narcosis is when the pressure of the nitrogen as you go deeper, affects your mental state (similar to being drunk). So basically, you can get drunk diving—who knew?! We had to do several math tests, that I didn’t pass above water, to see if we were A-okay underwater. Overall, it was an amazing diving experience.

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Photo cred: Espen Larsen

Highlights of the Dive

  • Seeing a chip bag shrink as a result of the pressure, and being tricked into thinking a banana shrunk (thanks for that one Cyril)!
  • Exploring the shipwreck
  • Feeling a little loopy at 30 metres

Overall Experience

I spent most of my days diving on Koh Tao, and I found that I truly found another passion of mine after the course was over. You create amazing friendships with the people you’re diving with and feel a part of something in a completely different country. This was the most memorable part of my trip to Thailand, and I would recommend Panther Divers to anyone planning to dive in Koh Tao.

Enjoy your journey to Koh Tao, and get ready to experience the most beautiful place to dive on the planet! Safe travels ❤