Scuba diving is still the biggest attraction on Ko Tao. Diving in Ko Tao is easy, fun, and you can see turtles, stingrays, barracudas, lots of small fish, reef sharks, and there is a very small chance of seeing a whale shark.
At Chumphon Pinnacle you are likely to see juvenile bull sharks which have, until recently, been misidentified as grey reef sharks. Pay caution, the bulls are curious and very aggressive though for many years literally thousands of people have dived this site without a single shark related incident.
Nearly any time of the year except November is good diving weather in Ko Tao and visibility can exceed 40 meters. Average visibility is around 15-20 meters. In November visibility is reduced and the seas are choppy, but diving is good by the standards of many other destinations.
It is possible and perfectly comfortable to swim and dive without a wetsuit year round. However, as with most diving, a wetsuit is recommended to help reduce risk of cuts or injury. Avoid contact with coral reefs!
There are a huge number of dive operators on the island, many offering budget accommodation (sometimes described as free accommodation, but this is not really true as you will usually get a discount if you stay elsewhere). Currently (2009) the price for PADI open water certification including the new PADI training manual, professional instruction, rental equipment, boat dives, and certification is around 9,800 baht; insurance and basic accommodation may also be included. Shop around as not all shops teach the course in the same way. Look for experienced dive instructors instead of a low price.
A common method for teaching new divers is to train in a pool first by being taught about 20 basic skills before being taken out into the open water. Others will instead take you to a secluded beach so you will see fish and coral from the start and you might be able to squeeze in a short extra dive in this way, depending on your group and instructor. Some shops have a private pier, some shops depart with a longtail from the beach, and some use the public pier, where you will have to climb some other boats. Ask if this matters to you.
Most important: find out maximum number of dive students in a group, and make sure you get an instructor who speaks your language if you are not absolutely sure about your English. These are the little things that will make the difference between an ok course and a great one.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.Based on a work at Wikitravel.org & Traveldudes.org.