Koh Tao Roctopus: Honest Review (2024)

Koh Tao is known to have some of the best diving spots in Thailand, and it’s where many travellers will aim to get their scuba diving qualifications, myself included.

When I was in Koh Tao, I decided to do my Open Water 20 Course with Roctopus Dive, and I’m so glad I did.

After reading hundreds of positive reviews online, I decided they were right for me, and I’m so glad I did.

The 4 days I spent with Roctopus were some of my favourite days from my 2-month backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, and I’ll tell you why in more detail with an in-depth review.

Koh Tao Roctopus Review

To sum up Koh Tao Roctopus in one sentence: They are the best scuba diving company on the island and if you’re interested in getting your qualifications or going for any fun dives, they’re the guys you’re looking for.

I was recommended to check out Roctopus by my hostel on Koh Tao, Summer Hostel (I was travelling in Thailand on a budget, so hostels were my preferred accommodation choice).

My first interaction with Roctopus actually had nothing to do with diving – it was a beach cleanup, which they do every Friday evening at 5.45 pm.

The exterior of the Roctopus Dive office in Koh Tao, featuring large windows with diving posters, surrounded by lush greenery.

I’d really recommend going if you’re in Koh Tao over a Friday as it feels good to help the planet and protect Koh Tao’s natural beauty. And if you need an extra incentive, the first ten people to sign up get a free beer.

When I was going to the beach cleanup, which was the day before I was due to start my Open Water Course, I popped into the Roctopus shop to see what it was like. I was immediately greeted by Jay, who was filled to the brim with enthusiasm.

He’s one of the most passionate and enthusiastic people I have ever met, and those qualities were portrayed onto me, making me even more excited for my diving than I already was. He was so helpful and allowed me to get some of the admin for my course done the day before I was due to start, as I had a bit of spare time before the cleanup.

The clean-up itself was really rewarding, and all of the other Roctopus staff which I met were all similar to Jay – the staff are all full of energy and I loved it. During the cleanup, I started speaking to a guy a similar age to me and he was saying that he was staying with Roctopus.

Volunteers gather under a banner for a beach clean-up event hosted by Roctopus Dive, scheduled every Friday at 5:45 PM in Koh Tao, with contact details and hashtags displayed.

I wish I had researched diving in Koh Tao before I arrived as I think I would have loved that option. So if you are reading this before booking your trip, definitely consider Roctopus as your accommodation option, as well as your diving centre.

The next day, it was time for my first day of four for my Open Water 20 Course, which would allow me to dive to depths of 20 metres, hence the name.

Day 1 begins at 4 pm in the classroom of the Roctopus Office. It’s a familiarisation and introduction day, and consists of mainly admin work such as signing up to the RAID database (the diving qualification company) and of course, paying for your course.

A diving classroom with posters on the wall about marine life and diving safety, alongside a whiteboard filled with handwritten notes from a Roctopus Dive course.

It cost me 9,900 Thai baht for my open water qualification, which I was really happy with, as most companies charge 12,000 or more. For reference, 9,900 THB is around $278, which is a very good price. In the UK, when I have researched, it would cost 3 times that.

When I arrived at the classroom for day 1, I was met by Nicola, who would be my dive instructor for the next 4 days. Like Jay and the rest of the staff at Roctopus, she was very energetic and passionate.

She managed to make all of the theory interesting and even though it was a classroom and at times we were learning physics, it didn’t feel like being back at school. The only thing that did remind me of school, was that we had homework.

For the first two days of the course, you have to learn a lot of theory about diving and pass an exam on the morning of the third day. Don’t worry – it’s nothing too strenuous and everyone in my group managed to pass first time.

The second day we met at 7.30 am to complete two fitness tests in the water. You need to be able to swim 200m without stopping and float on the water for 10 minutes. Both aren’t too difficult.

Afterwards, we headed to the pool to learn all of the basic skills required for diving. This included blowing our first bubbles too, which as Nicola says, you will remember forever.

Scuba diving students in full gear practice in a tiled training pool with underwater murals, under the supervision of a Roctopus Dive instructor.

With Roctopus and Nicola, I always felt really safe. Right from my first time underwater to my fourth ocean dive, I never felt uncomfortable. And in that first pool session, we had to do skills like removing and replacing our respirator underwater, and filling our masks up and clearing them underwater – which I never even knew you could do!

As part of the course, you also have to learn a ton of safety skills, such as a controlled emergency ascent, what to do if your regulator freeflows, and sharing oxygen with your dive buddy. These skills help to reassure you that you will always be okay.

Then it was time for another classroom session, but as I said, it was never anything boring and it was actually things quite fun to learn about. As someone who likes Maths, I really liked the calculations which you learn how to do, such as learning to calculate your SAC rate.

Day 3 began with a 9 am start, which was nicer than the 7.30 am start from the day before, and a lot nicer than the 6 am start for the day after. In the morning, you have a quick theory recap and sit your exam, which is done online, as is all of the theory. As I said, no one in my group had any problems and we all passed the first time.

A screenshot of a RAID diving course exam result page showing a pass status with a score of 84%, indicating a successful completion.
Exam passed 😎

After a quick break, it was time to head out to the ocean for the first time, which is where the real action began. It was one thing knowing how to dive in a pool and learning the theory, but it was another thing putting it to practice 12 m underwater.

The Roctopus boat is pretty hectic, to be honest. There are people going in every direction and all of the staff are rushing to do things here and there. It feels real.

But I have to say, I loved the jump, and also my literal first jump/step into the ocean to begin my first dive.

A diver in Roctopus Dive gear takes a giant stride entry off the side of a boat into the calm blue waters of Koh Tao, with other dive boats visible in the distance

The first dive mainly consists of doing the same skills you complete in the pool but this time, in the deep blue water. And also learning how to establish neutral buoyancy. Which I struggled with at the start, but once Nicola signalled to me it was because I was breathing too much, I managed to figure it out better.

Our second dive was a lot more of a “fun dive” and it felt like actual diving rather than just doing skills underwater. The good thing about RAID courses is that you are always in the horizontal position, so it’s really easy to take in your surroundings. Seeing coral in front of me and all of the colourful fish for the first time was amazing.

A diver gives a double "awesome" signal while exploring the serene underwater world, with other divers in the background

On our fourth and final day, as I quickly mentioned earlier, we had a very early morning start to complete our last 2 dives and finish the morning as qualified divers, and that we did.

The two dives were both really fun and we got to see a load of coral and colourful fish again. I also chose to get the photo package (1500 baht for photos and videos or 1000 baht for just one of the two) and I’m so glad I did because they turned out amazing, as you can see with all of the photos used throughout this article.

All in all, I can’t recommend Roctopus in Koh Tao enough. I had the time of my life and I can’t wait to get back into the water and go scuba diving again – but this time, as a qualified diver 😎.

Oh and one more thing, if it’s good enough for all of these celebrities, it’s probably more than good enough for the likes of me and you.

A wall adorned with framed photos of celebrities wearing Roctopus Dive merchandise, promoting the dive center's brand in Koh Tao

Roctopus Pros

Now that I’ve given you my personal account and story of my time with Koh Tao Roctopus, I thought I would give you some of the pros and cons so you can make the decision for yourself objectively. Here are all of the things I consider good about Roctopus:

Price

One of the biggest pros of Roctopus is the price. My 4-day open water course cost 9,900 baht. As I said earlier, most other dive centres in Koh Tao charge in the region of 12,000 baht.

But the price does not reflect the quality. It’s the best diving centre on Koh Tao, and one of the cheapest prices. It’s a win-win.

Also, as I said earlier, to do an open water course in the UK is easily 3x the price it is in Thailand, so it’s a no-brainer. I’d much rather dive in coral reefs rather than grey water with nothing to see while saving a ton of money.

Underwater scene featuring vibrant orange coral with a myriad of small fish swimming around it in the clear blue waters of Koh Tao

Staff

Every single member of staff at Roctopus is incredible. I genuinely loved my time completing my course and a large part of that was down to the people running it.

There’s a breath of life within Roctopus (pun 100% intended) and all of their staff are full of life. They’re all such friendly people and as you could guess, all absolutely love diving.

Everyone is so helpful and willing to go the extra mile. Even when I wanted to buy a T-shirt after completing my course, the reception staff were really friendly in helping me find the right size and helped me in choosing the design which I wanted.

Interior of the Roctopus Dive shop with branded merchandise, colorful dive bags lined up, and a welcoming reception desk

Group Size

While I was in Koh Tao, I saw a lot of diving courses take place. As you walk around the town, there are diving schools everywhere and a load of training pools too.

Most group sizes are pretty big, but at Roctopus, it’s usually 4 people to 1 instructor. So it’s a really good split.

They also work out timings so it’s never too crowded around the office. For example, throughout my course, there were 8 people. So my instructor, Nicola, and another instructor, Freya, had 4 people each.

But I very rarely saw the other group – it was only really during transit and on the boat. On the second day for example, we were in the pool while they did their theory and vice versa. Everything runs smoothly.

A cheerful group of divers aboard a Roctopus Dive boat, posing with scuba gear and signaling 'awesome' with their hands
My dive group with Roctopus.

Course Options

Roctopus offers a wide range of courses from RAID. The most popular one is the Open Water 20 course which allows you to dive to 20 metres once you are qualified. This is the course I completed.

It’s also popular to complete the advanced course which allows you to dive deeper, but unfortunately, I was leaving Koh Tao a day after I finished diving, so I wasn’t able to carry on. One day though!

RAID also have rescue courses, cave courses, wreck courses, photography courses, and so many more options.

You can also do fun dives with Roctopus, which are also reasonably priced at 1800 for two dives. I’ve seen other centres charge as much as 3500 – the prices here are such good value.

A diver underwater near Koh Tao signals 'OK' with a clear view of the ocean above and the sandy sea floor below.

Eco-friendly

What I really like about Roctopus is that they’re very eco-friendly. As I said earlier, they do weekly clean-ups along the beach.

They also do clean-up dives a few times a week which you can join (you need to be advanced qualified).

And there’s a big focus throughout the dives on marine life and seeing as much of the underwater world as you can, while not touching anything, of course.

They also give you a free tote bag to help you cut down on using single-use plastic bags, because pollution in the Gulf of Thailand is a huge issue.

Safety

As I said in my longer review, I always felt completely safe during my 4 dives and pool sessions. There wasn’t a second where I felt unsafe.

Part of that was down to Nicola, who as I have said was incredibly helpful and reassured us underwater anytime she could see we needed it, and part of that was down to the equipment Roctopus have.

All of the tanks are routinely checked and have the required stickers on them, and they are always filled to 190 bar (air pressure) at least, but it’s usually 200 or 210. All of the equipment is in top condition.

Scuba tanks and diving gear neatly arranged on a Roctopus Dive boat, ready for divers, with the open sea and other dive boats in the background.

Facilities

Continuing on from equipment, all of the facilities Roctopus have are also top quality. The main facility they have is their office, which has two classrooms as well as a dive shop where you can buy Roctopus merchandise, and also diving equipment such as masks, watches, etc.

They also have a deep water pool in which you do your pool session. It’s a couple of metres deep so it gives you a feel of what it’s like to scuba dive.

Down by the beach, they have a bar which they have a partnership with. It’s where you meet for the beach clean-up, and where you go to watch the video of your dive if you choose to buy the add-on.

And in terms of their boat, it’s a good-sized boat fitted with everything you need for a positive diving experience. And if nothing else, it has a massive tin of sesame cookies which lasts a week, and they serve pineapple between dives which is nice too.

A silhouette of a diving instructor gesturing to a student on a dive boat at sunrise, with tanks lined up and the Koh Tao landscape in the background

Dive Sites

While this isn’t a positive about Roctopus specifically and is more about Koh Tao in general, the dive sites around the island are unbelievable.

I had dived once before in Side, in Turkey as a kid, but the dive spots in Koh Tao were a million times better. It has the scenic coral reefs you picture when you imagine scuba diving and lots of colourful fish too.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to see either, but there are whale sharks in the area, and lots of turtles too. Note that Thailand does have sharks in the waters.

If you do your advanced, there are also shipwrecks and stuff which you can explore too. Koh Tao one of the most popular diving places in the world for a reason.

A bright sea anemone among a coral reef, with schools of tropical fish in the crystal clear waters near Koh Tao

Fun Theory

Honestly, the whole experience with Roctopus on Koh Tao was incredible, but if you want specific reasons, the final pro I can think of is the theory.

When you hear “theory”, you probably assume it’s boring and if you’re from the UK, it might give you flashbacks to learning your driving theory. But I promise you it’s nothing like that.

They manage to make learning fun, and all of the classroom lessons go quickly and they only tell you what you need to know, rather than giving you information overload.

I passed all of the quizzes (although a few I had to do twice) and I had no problem with my theory exam- Nicola made it all so clear and easy to understand.

Educational materials and notes on diving physics and buoyancy principles on display in a Roctopus Dive classroom, emphasizing the importance of understanding diving theory.

Roctopus Cons

While I strongly believe Roctopus are the best option for diving on Koh Tao, I want to give a balanced and fair opinion. So here are some things I consider cons about Roctopus.

RAID vs PADI

Before I arrived in Koh Tao, I had only ever heard of PADI as a diving qualification.

Roctopus do not give PADI qualifications and instead, you become certified with RAID.

But after doing some research, I found out that PADI, RAID and SSI are the main 3, and they are all recognised equally. If you are qualified with any of them, you are a qualified diver.

Personally, I wasn’t too fussed with it not being PADI, but I can appreciate some people might be hesitant. The good news is that you can switch between them throughout your diving career. For example, you can do your Open Water 20 with RAID and your advanced course with PADI.

A Roctopus Koh Tao RAID Open Water Diver certification card with the diver's name, photo, and certification details, a symbol of diving accomplishment

Boat Size

There are usually around 6 dive masters or instructors on the boat each with 4 divers each, so there are quite a lot of people on the boat at once. It gets pretty busy and cramped on the boat.

It also means that the dive sites are always busy – although they are busy anyway as all of the dive centres in Koh Tao go to the same places.

I wouldn’t let the busyness of the boat put you off, but I think it would be a nicer experience if it was a smaller boat with a more personal experience.

The Roctopus Dive boat moored in the tranquil sea around Koh Tao at dawn, with its vibrant blue and orange colors standing out against the serene water.

Repetition

On my last dive, we went back to a dive site we had already been to: Twins, Koh Tao. It wasn’t a big deal as the first time we were just doing skills and the second time, it was a fun dive.

It would’ve been nice to go to four different dive sites, but as I said, I’m being very picky to find flaws in what Roctopus have to offer.

In reality, no two dives are the same, even at the same sites. You never know what you might see!

A tranquil view of the Twin dive sites off Koh Tao with two blue dive boats floating on calm waters, surrounded by the island's hilly landscape
Twins Dive Site

Homework

Okay, this one isn’t on Roctopus personally, but it had been a few years since I had left school and to be told I had homework to do was an odd flashback!

But no matter who you dive with, it’s on you to learn most of the theory in your own time. And as I said earlier, it’s all interesting and fun stuff – it’s not boring like school homework.

FAQs

Below are some commonly asked questions related to Roctopus Koh Tao along with my answers to each question.

How much is the open water diving course in Koh Tao?

The average price for an open water diving course in Koh Tao is around 12,000 Thai baht. This is the rough equivalent of $336. Roctopus Dive have one of the cheaper options at 9,900 baht and the quality is amazing. It’s the best value for money.

Are there manta rays in Koh Tao?

There have been sightings of manta rays in Koh Tao but they are not very frequent at all. There was only one sighting between 2003 and 2018, for example. You are much more likely to see whale sharks and sea turtles.

How much is free diving in Koh Tao?

A PADI free diving course in Koh Tao costs around 7,000 baht on average. This is the equivalent of $196, making it much more affordable than doing the course in the Western world.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, a complete in-depth and honest review of Roctopus on Koh Tao.

If you ask me, they are the best people to do your diving qualifications with on the island.

I wish I was able to stay on Koh Tao longer so I could do more fun dives- but I know I’ll be back one day.

If you aren’t set on doing your diving on Koh Tao, you can also do it while backpacking Krabi. There are lots of PADI centres in Ao Nang.

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