Koh Tao is the smallest of the three islands which make up the Koh Samui family. Located 50 kms off the mainland in the Gulf of Thailand Koh Tao is only 7km’s long and 2 kms wide and is most famous for travelers looking to dive as it offers the cheapest diving certification in South East Asia.
The Majority of the island is covered in tropical rain forests and coconut plantations which make it an ideal looking tropical island. There are three main villages on the Island where people choose to stay:
Sairee- The most popular beach runs 2kms along the western coast of Koh Tao. It is where most backpackers and tourists stay with an abundance of bungalows scattered along the sea shore, countless restaurants as well as numerous bars where you can celebrate till the early hours of the morning. It has to be said that if you are after a relaxed holiday away from a full-moon crowd, then Sairee is not the place for you.
Chalok Baan Kao- located on the southern part of Koh Tao, is a cresent shaped bay the second largest on the island with beautiful views of Buhdda Rock and luscious rain forests which creep down to the waters edge. Chalok Baan Kao is more of a relaxed location compared to Sairee, with an older more bohemian feel to this southern part of the Island. Near to Chalok Baan Kao are many smaller deserted beaches which are off the beaten track and great beaches if you want to be left on your own in a secluded location.
Mae Had- Once the only settlement on Koh Tao it is where the main ferry drop off and pick up piers are located. With many restaurants and dive shops located it has to be said that this is more a business center of the island but as far as beaches are concerned it does not offer you anything spectacular.
Other Beaches of Koh Tao:
Freedom beach- A beautiful small beach popular with sunbathers and snorkelers. With only limited space you need to get there early to find a good position.
Aow Leuk- Probably one of the best beaches in Koh Tao where you can relax your days away on a white sandy beach or snorkel around the beautiful coral gardens rich in marine life in the tropical waters of Aow leuk.
Koh Nang Yuan- is a tiny island resort which has a beautiful sand bar beach and the best snorkeling on Koh Tao. Famous for the Japanese garden named because of its Coral gardens looking like Japanese gardens it really is a must for any lover of tropical beaches.
THINGS TO DO.
DIVING & SNORKELING -The reason most people flock to Koh Tao is due mainly to the cheapest diving in South East Asia. Only second to Cairns, Australia for certifying open water divers, Koh Tao is a great spot to learn how to dive. Once rich in marine life and coral gardens which surrounded the island, unfortunately due to the increasing water temperatures of El Nino and questionable environmental practices of the resort owners, this once great diving destination is full of bleached dead corals and in terms of diving, average.
Kayaking- Koh Tao is an ideal island to hire a kayak and stroke your way around to some of the small secluded beaches that are in abundance on this island especially in the southern part of the island. You can hire kayaks for half day or full day rates.
Fishing- There are few different companies you can use to take you fishing, whether you are a serious angler or just an enthusiast. If you get to know the locals you may be able to organise a trip with one of the local Thai fisherman costing you the price of the gas.
The best way to get around Koh Tao is hiring a Motorcycle or scooter. Most scooter or motorbike hire will require you to leave your passport as a deposit so make sure that you check the bikes thoroughly before leaving as you may be surprised when you get back to be charged exorbitant prices to get your passport back. Be careful on the roads as most travelers who end up with bandages is a result of falling off their bikes and the roads are treacherous especially the gravel roads.
Another way to see the island is hiring a longtail for the day and take a round trip of the Koh Tao, stopping at different beaches for a snorkel and a swim.
TO GET THERE
Air- The closest airport to Koh Tao is Koh Samui which has frequent daily flights from Bangkok and Phuket. From Koh Samui you can take a ferry to Koh Tao which takes around 3 hrs. The ferry departs twice a day.
Train & Bus- An overnight train and bus services can be caught to get yourself to Chumpon or Surat Thani from Bangkok, Malaysia or Phuket, where a connecting ferry can be taken to get to Koh Tao. The Ferry journey takes around 2 hours from Chumpon or 6 hrs from Sura Thani. Ferries run twice daily, departing at 7:30 am and 13:30.
Ferries- can be caught from port towns Chumpon and Surat Thani. These ferry services depart twice daily from 7:30 & 13:30. Ferries from Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan depart for Koh Tao twice daily. Over night ferries can also be caught to Koh Tao.