Snorkeling and Diving With Kids at Koh Tao

Koh Tao, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, is a diving and snorkeling mecca for all ages.

View of Ko Tao

Family Diving Trip to Koh Tao

We decided to go to Koh Tao almost solely because of the diving and snorkeling opportunities there. The island is known more a less as a dive certificate “factory”, and you’ll sometimes see many boats on the same spots, but this is also a factor if you dive at Koh Lanta and Ao Nang.

Before going to Koh Tao I did some research on the dive schools and on which part of the island to stay at. We wanted to stay in a quiet part of the island and opted for Chalok baan kao bay and New Heaven Dive School.

New Heaven focuses on upholding responsible eco-tourism and besides the diving school, they run a reef and marine conservation program. They also have great accommodation at a discounted price when you dive with them. We paid 600 baht for a hillside room with fan and later transferred to a sea view room with a/c for 1.200 baht.

New Heaven Dive Resort Ko Tao
Sunset view from our room at New Heaven.

Diving Days with New Heaven Dive School

The Koh Tao dive sites are mostly located just a short boat ride away.  This made our dive trips easy and relaxed, especially as New Heaven leave for the dives a little later than most other schools, which means fewer boats on the dive sites.  You’ll go out on a big boat (however not big when compared to some of the other dive schools on the island) but groups are kept to a maximum of 4 people.

Going out on a bigger boat around 10- 11 am and returning in the afternoon around 3 pm. meant it was possible for Matias and me to divide the dive trip which consists of two dives between us and to also bring Sixten on the boat.

Diving Ko Tao

It was just a perfect set-up for us. The first day we went out, Matias did the first dive while I went snorkeling with Sixten. Well, I snorkeled. Sixten can’t swim without armbands and he is afraid of getting his head wet, so he was mostly playing around. It was at the dive site called Japanese Garden, located just east of the island Koh Nang Yuan. It is a site that many boats also bring snorkelers too, so it’s busy, but also stunningly beautiful and with great visibility. Sixten could even see the fish without putting his head into the water.

Diving Japanese Garden Ko Tao
At Japanese Garden, ready to go swimming and snorkeling

Dad and son on the boat, longtail boat and Koh Tao in the background

Great Diving Team and Good Prices

Both diving instructors (Matias did a refresher) and dive masters were super cool and friendly. Dive site briefings were thorough and relaxed, and the dives were at a chilled pace with plenty of time to hang around and observe whatever you found interesting.

Some of the days we dived we met other families with bigger kids that were doing their first dive. Kids can start scuba diving when there are 7- 8 years old, by doing the SSI Scuba Rangers program or Padi’s Bubblemaker program. For diving interested parents, this is the perfect introduction to the beautiful world beneath the surface of the ocean.

We hope that our fascination for the sea is going to affect Sixten and will get him hooked on the water life eventually. We could see that his fright of water slowly decreased just by coming along on these dive trips.

Bringing your Kid on a Diving Trip

The three of us had the best days on the diving boat and for Sixten the day was full of new and big experiences.

To begin with, it was fun for Sixten just to observe and watch all that is going on on a big dive boat. He had heard us talk a lot about our diving and seen pictures from it. So he was excited to go with us and to see for himself how it works.  He thought it was a lot of fun to see us put on the equipment and jump into the water, as well as to welcome us and the other divers back on the boat.

Diver on Koh Tao

Kid trying diving regulator at Koh Tao
Sixten trying my regulator
Diving at Koh Tao
Sixten excited to say hello to Matias after he has been diving, asking what he saw under the water?

A small boat took us from the dive shop to the dive boat itself. The cool young captain who took us out and back, noticed how Sixten took interest in his steering and it then became a little ritual that he would have Sixten sitting next to him, so Sixten could help him steer the boast. This was super cool for Sixten and another reason for why he wanted to go with us diving again the next day.

Kid and mum on a motorboat at Koh Tao
So proud to get to help steer the little motorboat taking us to the dive boat.

For Matias and I, it was great to be out on the ocean together and share the experiences as much as possible without diving together.

The Dive sites on Koh Tao

We shared dive trips on three days and Matias also had a day on his own, so we got to go to many of the same dive sites. We both dived at White Rock, Japanese Garden and Aow Leuk. I also dived at Shark Island and Matias at Tanote Bay. All great and pretty easy dives, with lots of life although the corals had a bit of a hard time after a big storm had just hit the island at the end of January. Some of the sites also had quite a bit of rubbish, so there was a bit of extra challenge to the dives, picking up rubbish along the way.

Kid holding the steering wheel on diving ship at Koh Tao
The biggest thing for Sixten was when Captain Sai, let Sixten into his captain room and to hold the steering wheel of the big diving boat
Looking at Chalok Baan Kao Bay, Koh Tao, from the diving boat
Sailing into Chalok Baan Kao Bay and scouting after fish

Snorkeling Around Koh Tao

We planned to stay on Koh Tao for a week but ended up staying for two. We stayed Chalok Baan Kao Bay for all of the two weeks.

Snorkeling around here is best at June Juea Beach and Shark Bay, where you can snorkel from the shore. You can reach Shark bay, by walking south from Chalok and after 5-10 minutes there’s a gate to a small trail on your left side that takes you to a tiny beach, from where you can easily swim to the reef. Tons of fish and a good chance of spotting Black Tip Reef Sharks.

We also rented a Kayak from Carabao Dive Resort (100 baht 2 hours) and went to the western tip of Chalok Baan Kao Bay, where the snorkeling next to big rock formations was great.

Shark Bay beach Ko Tao
Shark bay on the southeast coast of Koh Tao
Snorkeling and swimming at June Juea beach Koh Tao
Snorkeling and swimming at June Juea Beach
Temple on beach Ko Tao
A small temple next to June Juea Beach
Kid Playing on the beach at Shark Bay on Koh Tao
Sixten playing on the small rock beach at Shark Bay on Koh Tao

Koh Tao Boat Snorkel Tour

There are plenty of other snorkeling spots around the island. There’s an official Koh Tao tourist guide, which has a map of them. Most hotels etc. have the guide which is free. Many places also arrange snorkel tours. We personally didn’t go on a tour as we got to go snorkeling when we went with the diving boat. We saw many of the snorkel tour boats at various sites, many of them are HUUGE. Not something that appealed to us. You’ll probably be better of renting a private longtail for a day. Just go to the beach in the morning and find a captain you like. It seemed like the price for a private tour is more or less settled on 2.500 baht for a day trip.

Marine Conservation at Koh Tao

A cool activity is to go visit New Heaven Dive school in the morning (around 10:00) where they feed the baby sea turtles at the nursery. As we stayed there, it became a daily ritual for us, and something Sixten loved. Especially helping to fill the tanks for the turtles with a water hose. Good fun for him, and a bit less manual labor for the marine conservation people. Read more about the sea turtles nursery and the marine and reef conservation projects here.

Sea turtles at Koh Tao
It became a ritual to visit the Sea baby turtle nursery at New Heaven dive school every morning when they are fed around 10 am.
Feeding sea turtles Ko Tao
Sixten was excited to help many of our mornings, filling the bathes for turtles.

Local Food on Koh Tao

Even though Koh Tao is small there are plenty of good options of both Thai, Western and other food like Japanese and Korean. We had all our meals in the Baan Chalok area and had some great food.

Curry lunch Ko Tao
Lunch at local curry lady’s place. It’s located about here.  She offers 4 different super good and spicy curries, with rice noodles and all the fresh veggies you want, for 60 Baht.
Outside restaurant Tukta Ko Tao
My handsome man in a relaxed holiday mood, after lunch at Thai restaurant Tukta. One of our local favorite places. Fried fish in chili sauce and Vegetable in Thai curry and sweet potato were our favorites here.

If you feel like western food a good option is KoPPee, which is owned by the same family that owns New heaven dive school and is located right next to it, They make good espresso, cakes, healthy salads, and have a nice selection of green and fresh juices. You can relax in the bean bags and use the pool while taking in the sunset.

Sunset from KoPPee restaurant Ko Tao
Sunset from KoPPee restaurant
Smoothie drinking on beach Ko Tao
Fresh juice – without any plastic straw!
View of pool at KoPPee resturant Ko Tao
Hanging out in the pool at KoPPee

Other good places were Your Place and a local (and very inexpensive) Thai sharu BBQ buffet Restaurant.

Getting to Koh Tao

There are plenty of ferry routes to Koh Tao. Slow overnight options or high-speed catamarans. The high-speed options are operated by Lomprayah, Seatran, and Songserm and take from around 3 to 5 hours depending on your departure location. Boats leave from Donsak, Tapee Pier (Surat Thani) and Chumpon meaning you’ll have many options of getting to the island.

We took the trip from Hat Yai, with a minivan to Donsak and then Seatran ferry. On the way back we took Lomprayah (via Koh Samui) to Tapee Pier with a transfer to Surat Thani train station, as we needed to catch the overnight train to Bangkok.

Check with travel agencies at your location or book tickets yourself, it’s all fairly easy although the trip is quite long.

Koh Tao with kids

We had a great time on Koh Tao. The beaches are super child-friendly, and you will find a swimming pool in many places. Good snorkeling, very nice diving and fairly quiet in the south means this is a place we see ourselves going back to.