Koh Tao or Ko Tao?
Actually, both names are accepted: Koh Tao and Ko Tao as well. It is a small island in the golf of Thailand located north from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. It used to be a prison, but once abandoned some families from mainland Chumpon moved there and started to exploit its rich waters and developed a coconut business. From the 90’s on, they started welcoming tourists and this business gradually reshaped the local economy. Today there is an unspoken fight between those families and the government over the actual ownership of the land.
Koh Tao has long been on our itinerary as many recommendations led us to choose that island as the ideal place to learn scuba diving, one of our bucket list item for this trip! Indeed, Koh Tao offers many great scuba diving spots for all levels making it the ideal playground to learn and progress. It is also a great destination for snorkeling.
How to get there
To get to Koh Tao you need to get a ferry from Koh Panghan (300 THB/~10 USD), Koh Samui (600 THB/~20 USD) or from the mainland (600 THB/~20 USD). Arriving from the mainland the easiest is to come from Chumpon, which you can reach by train or by plane. From there you will need to be transferred by bus to the pier. If you arrive in Surat Thani you will have to get the ferry passing by Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The system is pretty well organized and you easily buy tickets that include the transfers. It was fun to find our way and jump from a bus to another and finally onto the ferry.
Of course we arrived on the island during a storm, the rain also caught up on our first exploration and we have a powerful memory of an intense storm while we were on the boat out for diving. But generally we got some relatively nice weather during our stay!
What to do in Koh Tao?
Because we spent the week diving we didn’t really have time to explore the rest of the island.
However we would have been willing to hike up the hills through the jungle and enjoy the beautiful views. If you get the chance to do it we got recommended to get to Freedom Point.
As for the beaches, Koh Tao has some nice but relatively small sandy beaches. Sairee beach is the main one; the pier is located in the South of the beach and the main attractions are to be found all along it. The sand beach doesn’t get really deep so the water is incredibly warm during the afternoon, especially at high tide. If you swim a bit, you will get to the coral reefs, where you can do some quality snorkeling.
I must say, all in all, we really enjoyed our week in beautiful Koh Tao, not only for the diving but for the island vibe itself! There are many restaurants and bars to enjoy. It is not necessarily a party island but you always have something going on if you feel like going out. Prices are slightly higher, which does make sense given that the island is relatively remote. We felt the touristic crowd to be more diversified that in the other islands, which is something we appreciated.
Finally, the sunsets were amazing from Sairee Beach!