The Japanese Garden from Koh Tao

I’m sitting with Steve on the boat on our way to Koh Nang Yuan. He asks me if I could tell him a bit about our first dive site Japanese Garden.

Do you remember Steve? The enthusiastic young diver who came to our dive shop? Today is his first dive trip with us. We are going to the beautiful dive site Japanese Garden. It is the whole bay east of Koh Nang Yuan. From the easier dive sites of Koh Tao this is one of my favorites. Although it’s underestimated by many dive professionals you will be amazed what it has to offer. J Just take your time to look around explore.

Japanese Garden is a dive site equally beautiful for first timers, courses, experienced divers, for snorkelers and even freedivers.

Why is it called Japanese Garden?

Steve asked me, why is the dive area called Japanese Garden? I told Steve, that some instructors like to joke: It’s called Japanese Garden, because there are so many Japanese divers. But as far as I know this name was given because the way they coral boulders are placed, reminded the name giver to a carefully organized Japanese Garden.

Whats in it for everyone?

Steve was wondering how a dive site could be simultaneously suited for beginners and experienced divers alike.

I started to point out, if you are a first timer and doing the Padi Discover Scuba Diving you will find shallow places. It will help you to take your first breaths in a confined and safe area. Although you would obliviously be very shallow, you will get to see so much underwater world already. You can watch schools of rabbit fishes, sergeant major fishes as well as the odd, curious red breasted wrasse. For your first dive, you have sandy areas between a beautiful collection of coral boulders. This is important to ensure you won’t hurt yourself or damage any marine life.

In the same way if your are an Open Water Diver student, you can easily find sandy places to do your skills, learn and improve your buoyancy skills.

Even though Japanese Garden doesn’t offer deep areas as experienced divers you will love this dive site for its beautiful underwater landscape. With average depths of 12-15 m you have enough air to do long dives of an hour or more. I guided quite many very experienced divers. Although they were very spoiled divers, many of them said this dive here was one of their best. Not because it is the most amazing dive site but because diving is so relaxing like a Sunday walk through a forest.

What about the Snorkelers?

Snorkelers have so much to explore in Japanese Garden. I love snorkeling here. You will find some of the best coral gardens around. You can swim between huge boulders of granite rock. I recommend to go with an experienced guide that knows his way around.  He even can bring you to caves. And a cave has the potential to make snorkeling undeniably very exciting. There is one cave, if you are there at the right time of the day, you can experience a spectacular laser light show of sun light rays.

You mentioned freedivers earlier, said Steven.

I went on that I am a passionate freediver myself. In Japanese Gardens I can fly along beautiful reefs, explore countless cracks and enjoy the occasional chat with a turtle. Yes, this site is not offering great depths to test my personal best depth. I love this site as I can do unforgettable recreational dives here.

Snorkeler in Japanese Garden
Turtle Japanese Garden by Koh Nang Yuan

Japanese Garden, not one but three dive sites.

By the time we arrived at Koh Nang Yuan, Steve realized how big the area is. He was wondering if it would look the same all around.

I told Steven, that indeed the whole bay is called Japanese Garden. But in reality he can divert the bay into three dive sites.

The North

To the north, you have a reef at a sloping wall. If you go outside the bay you can reach up to 16-17m. At one place there is a very old tube anemone, a very alien looking creature. I like to dive around 14-15m out of the bay. Right at the corner of the bay at 15m there is this alien looking tube anemone. It’s there for many years. I wonder how old those creatures can get.

You should look under the big coral boulders and look for stingrays and turtles. Be careful not to damage the many cable and spiral black corals. If you are very lucky you can find one of the very rare spider crabs at one of those corals. I usually turn around when the first diver reaches 120 bar and go a bit shallower. At around 8-12 m the reef is different than in the deeper area and has a more diverse coral life. Look out for porcupine and puffer fishes and banded sea snake.

Outside the bay you can find a beautiful cave at around 13m depth. It’s an about 12m long swim through with a few exit points. Flooded with light rays this is something hard to forget. To go there you have to be an experienced diver who can swim fast. You also need to have a good air consumption, as it’s quite far away.

The Middle

In the middle of the bay you find lots of sandy areas with an average depth of 8m. This is by no means a boring area. If you take your time and explore the ocean floor with patience you can find the strangest things, like snails, small stone fishes or the indian walkman. Furthermore there are a few coral gardens, some being mostly of mushroom corals, other of daisy corals.

The South

To the south, again, there is a reef at a sloping wall with a huge coral landscape around. Average depth 10-14m. The landscape is very different compared to the north. When I dive there I feel like flying through a landscape of mountains. If you go slow and check all the cracks and holes you can find moray eels, crabs, flat worms and groupers. Go outside the bay and you find a lot of fishes around the secret pinnacles. On the way back in about 5-8 m there is a small cave. Diving through there makes the end of the dive to something special.