The 40 kilometres northwest from Koh Phangan located „Turtle Island” is the smallest island of the Samui archipelago but at the same time the most beautiful one. On the west side are two long sandy beaches. The south and the southwest are home to two little bays. The east and the northeast are craggy and stony with nearly no sandy section. As a special attraction count the diving grounds from Koh Tao. Thanks to its clear water, diversified diving spots, the exotic coral constructions and the varied marine fauna belongs Koh Tao to one of the best diving regions not only in the country itself.
The island lies about 70 kilometres east of the mainland along the western Gulf of Thailand, with Koh Phangan and Koh Samui not far away. Koh Tao itself is about 21 square kilometres big and has 1,400 inhabitants living on it. The biggest settlement is the little village called Ban Mae Hat in the south-western part of the island. Once many water turtles were seeking this island to lay their eggs along the beaches, what gave the island later its name. The tourism, especially the diving schools and shops are due to the colourful and diversified underwater world the main source of income.
The east coast of the island has many little bays with picturesque settings, whereat the west coast has long nice sandy beaches.
The island has its world famous diving sides and welcomes diver from all parts of the world. Other leisure time activities on Koh Tao include sailing tours, rock and cliff climbing, wake boarding and paintball.
The absolute fastest way to get onto the island is via a flight to Koh Samui. However with just two airlines having the right to land on this airport, the prices for a flight are quite expensive compared to other destinations. Another airport near Koh Tao is the one in the province Surat Thani. The prices for a flight are much cheaper with an open competition.
Train and bus journeys from Bangkok are possible, though the journey will take much longer. From the bus station and from the train station passengers have to change over to another bus or van for another one hour ride to the pier.
Koh Tao lies north of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Ferries are leaving from both islands and take about 1:30 hour from Koh Samui, 1 hour from Koh Phangan and from the mainland pier by Chumphon between 1:30 and 5 hours, depending on transport boat and from the pier in Surat Thani about 3 hours. It is possible to buy a joint ticket in Bangkok with the prices and services for the ride and the ferry.
On the island travellers can choose between taxis and motorbikes. The main street that goes from north to south is in a moderate condition whereas the smaller streets that emerge from the main street are in a very bad status. Motorbikes can be lent for about 300 Baht per day. The mountain bike is another alternative way to travel on the island.
The Island is particular due to the underwater world very popular. At the beginning visitors came to the island just for diving. Only after a long time the beaches were discovered. The many diving schools of the island offer many different courses, among them are beginner friendly courses. The nearly not existing underwater current is ideal to learn diving. The beginner lessons with introduction in a swimming pool till the descent into the sea starts by about 10.000 Baht. A PADI diving license will be handed over when completing the course. The visibility can exceed 30 meters whereas the average visibility range is by about 15 meters. Divers can discover barracudas, reef sharks, water turtles and of course many different hard and soft corals. The waters are nearly all year around excellent for diving with the exception during the months of October and November where the water is churn up and the visibility drops.
A very good place to do snorkelling is directly in front of the Shark Bay. The visibility is great and there is a lot waiting to be discovered. Besides the Shark Bay are other good locations as Koh Nang Yuan, Freedom Beach, Laem Thian, Mango Bay, Hin Wong Bay and Tanote Bay. The coast sections can be reached in nearly all cases with a motorbike or a boat. Coasts like the Mango Bay have a very bad road connection and therefore we recommend using a boat or walking instead.
The little island can easily be discovered during a half day trekking tour. The John Suwan mountain viewpoint lies in the southern part of the island and two other good viewpoints are more central. The Fraggle Rock lies further north of the island.
For those who need an alternative can choose among sailing tours, rock or cliff climbing, wake- boarding and paintball.
Haad Ban Mae
The picturesque bay of Ban Mae Haad is defined by fascinating granitic cliffs. Here lies the main settlement of the island as well as the ferry pier to Koh Samui, Surat Thani and Chumphon. The location itself has many restaurants, super markets, diving schools, travel agencies and a post office.
Further north of the Mae Haad beach lays the Sairee Beach, the longest and most beautiful beach of the island. Here are besides the Coral Grand Resort many smaller complexes serving mostly budget tourists or backpackers. Some of those smaller resorts improved the service in the meantime and are providing now good equipped bungalows for reasonable prices. Along the strand are some smaller restaurants which serve every evening traditional Thai dishes and delicacy and also fresh seafood BBQ is available.
South of the Baan Mae Haad is the Jansom bay within walking distance. In this most beautiful bay of the island is home to the hidden Charm Churee Villa. For about 100 Baht entry fee everyone can enter the resort owned bay and swim and snorkel the complete day and use all the other facilities, beach bar and deck chairs of the resort.
The Chalok Beach lies in the southern area of the island. The deep bay is defined by cliffs and is especially during high tide a very nice place. By low tide the corals rise up from the water and swimming is only limited possible.
The months from October until December are mainly rainy and windy. It is possible that at this time the ferry service will be closed. As in the complete Gulf region are the hottest days during the dry season from March till May the best time for diving, snorkelling and swimming.
However has the island as well as many others in this archipelago a second high season which starts at the beginning of July and goes till August besides the general high season from December to March. The high seasons have the best weather, diving and swimming conditions.
From the mid of August to the end of October the weather is mostly rainy and it can rain for many days in a row with only a few short breaks. Due to the strong monsoon with its winds a lot of junk can be washed onto the beaches and bays.