Eco Friendly Diving in Koh Tao
After researching where to find the best diving in Thailand, we decided on Koh Tao. This island is known for being dive centric so there are heaps of shops to choose from. Molly did some more research and we settled on Master Divers since they seemed to offer the most eco friendly diving in Koh Tao.
Molly was looking to do her Open Water course and I (Josh) wanted to get my Advanced Open Water cert. Master Divers offers a green eco-diving package where you get to do a conservation dive after finishing one of their courses, so that made it the winner.
Master Divers practices and preaches environmental responsibility, so in our opinion it's the most eco-friendly dive shop on Koh Tao. Their shop is set up with a large recycling bin where you bring your trash to sort and recycle (yes - even compost). Before diving with them you also sign a waiver agreeing to abide by their eco-friendly practices. In addition to waste collection, they also offer free drinking water refills to reduce single use plastic water bottles.
Master Divers Courses
As it turns out, Koh Tao has standardized pricing across the island. One of the dive instructors told me this was to eliminate competitive practices between dive shops and prevent a 'race to the bottom' with pricing. Lower pricers sound great and all, but you don't really want to pay a super low price for a dive certification. Super low prices most likely means the shop is cutting corners on safety, which could be deadly.
In addition to dive courses, Master Divers also offers fun dives. These are for certified divers that go out to select sites and just dive for fun. Each fun dive includes all the necessary equipment like a BCD, air tank, mask, fins, and wetsuit. Master Divers has a boat that goes out twice a day to various dive sites: Morning (6:00AM) and Afternoon (12:00PM).
The boat goes to two different dives sites on each outing and includes water, coffee, tea, fresh fruit, and cookies onboard. Prices for fun dives start at 1000THB (~$30-31 USD), but decrease the more you go on. See the map below of the dive locations offered by Master Divers.
What's Included: 4 Dives, 3 days in Classroom, PADI Dive Log
How Long: 4 Days
Cost: 11,000 THB ($345 USD)
What's Included: Half Day in classroom, 5 Dives
How Long: 2 Days
Cost: 10,000 THB ($314 USD)
What's Included: Conservation dive, Debris bag, Reusable water bottle, Free brunch/dinner
How Long: Half Day
Cost: 1,100 THB ($34.50 USD)
Eco Diving Koh Tao
We participated in an eco-dive with Master Divers. They’ve teamed up with PADI’s project aware to help remove litter, debris and trash that pollutes dive sites. We were each given a debris bag that was buoyant and easy to swim. On our dive we didn't find a whole lot of trash, which is good. However, we were able to recover an egg shell, some wood, fishing line, rope, plastic food wrappers, and some paint chips.
Removing trash from the ocean is great and all, but there is an unfortunate side to it. Nearly everything extracted from the water is unable to be recycled. Why? Since it has been under water for whatever given period of time - it has already started degrading and thus unable to be recycled.
Is this trash ending up in a landfill better or worse for the planet? We’re not sure. However, knowing that marine life will not get tangled in it or attempt to eat it might bring one peace of mind. Which brings us to our next point - how to decide what to take with you.
If you find litter, say a can or a bottle has anything growing ON it or an organism living IN it, you should leave it be. Removing a home to a sea life creature might do more damage than good. Same with removing something that has been integrated into that marine life ecosystem, in which case it has something growing on it. In those cases, it’s best to leave it as is.
Project Aware: Dive Against Debris
Project Aware aims to use the data divers record to find out the types and quantities of materials collected globally. That’s why it’s important to log what you find on your dives on their website or in their app. This helps Project Aware input all this information into their data base. Read more here.
Following our dive, we tested the water quality at our dive site: Mango Bay. We tested the nitrate, phosphate, oxygen, and carbon levels in the water. Fish, and other marine life organisms in the coral ecosystem need healthy levels of these to sustain life. We learned in our presentation given by Master Divers instructor, Hayley Pearce, if you see a thin layer of algae on coral reefs around Koh Tao, or even feel the slimy green layer with your feet at the surrounding beaches it’s because the sewage waste is pumped directly into the ocean from the island.
Studies have been done and humans produce a certain level of nitrogen (nitrate 15). When our feces is introduced into the ocean ecosystem, it’s no wonder that a thin layer of algae forms on the surface of the nearby water. This has caused several species of fish to have to adapt to survive.
For example, bottom feeders have been seen behaving different by hunting closer to the water surface. Interestingly enough, once a coral reef is introduced into this sort of change, it is more likely to survive future changes. Similar to that of our immune system and how we might react to multiple exposures of chicken pox (once you have it - you can not get it again) thus becoming stronger and better able to adapt and withstand future attacks.
Where to stay on Koh Tao
From our experience, we like to use Hostel World to check out potential hostels, then check other booking websites like Booking.com to make our reservations. Sometimes we also message hostels directly to get a better price. We also like to use Airbnb to book accommodations if its a better deal than hostels. Clicking on either of the icons will give you a deal with either of the sites, but are affiliate links so we earn a small commission.
Dorm Bed: $9 USD
Private Rooms: $31+ USD
Amenities: Free Water Refills, Coffee, Thai/English speaking, 5 minute walk to dive shops
We chose Nirvana Guesthouse because it's super close to Mae Haad Pier where most of the dive shops are located. Since our main focus was to do eco diving in Koh Tao, we wanted lodging with a short walk to the dive shops. If you're looking to do some more partying then we recommend you stay closer to Sairee Beach.