Hi all. I'm new to this forum and amazed by the resourcefulness of this website. Sort of stumped in my planning now.
Part of my trip (first time to SE Asia) is a weekend in late July to Ko Tao where I plan to take beginner dive classes. I found the extensive list of dive schools on the different beaches listed here http://www.travelfish.org/sights/thailand/southern_thailand/surat_thani/ko_tao but was wondering if anyone here has any personal recommendations on which diving school has the best amenities and friendliest staff. I'd like to avoid schools with groups over 15 people and would really like to see barracudas and/or whale sharks.
Also, do any of the resorts/dive schools offer transportation from Bangkok, or is it easier to take the overnight train to Chumphon and ferry in the morning on your own?
Afterwards I have 5 days before I have to be in Phnom Penh. I'd like to explore Chang Mai and/or Siem Reap. Is it smarter to spend more time in one or try to do both? What's the quickest/easiest transportation you recommend?
Thanks so much!
#1 turismo949 has been a member since 26/6/2007. Posts: 4
Koh Tao is a good choice!
I can recommend CrystalDive (http://crystaldive.com/) and StringrayDivers (http://stingray-divers.com/) dive centers. 2 years ago (May, 2005) I was take AOWD/DeepDive courses at these centers. Small groups, friendly staff, reasonable prices. While AOWD in our group was only 2 students and while DeepDIve I was only one :)
Friend of mine taken OWD (beginner) course. Small group (2 or 3 students) too.
Barracudas and While sharks are not guaranteed, but can be met. Personally me dived 3 times at Chumphon Pinnacle (primary destination near Koh Tao to see sharks) but meet no sharks :)
Additional info about Koh Tao:
and, of course:
If you plan to visit Pnom Penh then Sien Reap is more suitable for you. You can reach Siem Reap from Pnom Penh by bus or by boat. But better ask about Cambodia in appropriate forum (http://www.travelfish.org/board/topic/cambodia).
I've actually corresponded with the crystal dive guys and they've been pretty helpful. Would you recommend staying in their facility as well? or do you know of any boutique style hotels, within proximity, on Tao?
Anyone else have any recommendations? Transport suggestions (overnight train to chumphon)? Best reef to explore this time of year for a beginner?
Thanks again! Very excited!
#3 turismo949 has been a member since 26/6/2007. Posts: 4
turismo949, you are welcome :)
I used facility of near StingrayDirvers. Very basic, but Ok for me. J.P.Resort: bed, fan, water (hot water heated by sun), balcony.
There is no so much luxury hotels on Koh Tao. Electricity often available only in the night.
Within walking distance from CrystalDive you can find Jamakhiri Spa & Resort (http://www.jamahkiri.com/).
See other options at:
Koh Tao is a relatively small island. For example. I reached Choppers bar from Chalok in 20 minutes (max) on rented motorbike.
About transportation. I recommend to use overnight train. You can buy "complete" ticket at Hualampong train station (Bangkok), inclusive train to Chumphon, bus to pier and boat transfer to Koh Tao. So, if you start at 19:00 from Bangkok, you will be at island till midday.
Best reef for beginners, of course - "Japaneese Garden".
p.s. Some photos from Koh Tao (and Bangkok, and Ayuthaya...): http://cybervlad.net/MyAlbum/page11.html