Koh Tao (ca. 1,400 citizens) is an island in the Gulf of Thailand about 370mi south of Bangkok and about 30mi north of Koh Phangan. The total area of the island is only 5100 acres. The name Tao literally means turtle. Koh Tao has this name due to the shape of the island. This island is also a breeding area for the hawksbill turtle and the green sea turtle. Because of the many diving spots and weak currents this is an ideal location for the less experienced diver. Visibility here is all year on average 50 to 65ft with outliers of 130ft. This epxplains the high number of diving schools and diveshops on this small island. There are many international diving instructors working on Koh Tao. English or even Dutch-speaking diving lessons are no problem. It's not surprising that almost all the local economy is based on tourism (diving). On the island itself there is not much else to do. The nightlife is quieter than on the neighbouring islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Sights and Tourist Attractions
Category: Nature and Sea | Depth: 40 to 100 feet
Samran Pinnacles is intended for the more experienced diver. The currents here can be pretty strong. Due to the conditions you will mainly find pelagic fishes. In addition to the fish you will also see a lot of beautiful corals.
Category: Nature and Sea | Depth: 50 to 115 feet
Chumpon Pinnacle is one of the better divesites around Koh Tao. There are large underwater plateaus with different types of coral and pelagic fish. At this location you will also have the best change to see a whale shark. The currents here can be pretty strong.
Category: Nature and Sea | Depth: 6 to 16 feet
Japanese Gardens has its name from the beautiful corals. This location is ideal for the novice diver and snorkeler. There is almost no current. Marine life here consists of eel, bluepoint stingrays and sea snakes.
Category: Nature and Sea | Depth: max. 80 feet
In terms of diversity in marine life Shark Island is a good location. This uninhabited island is approximately 330yd from Koh Tao. Around the island are different types of colourful coral. The fish you can encounter here include blue point rays and Harlequin fish. The north side of the island is most suitable for photography. Although Shark Island is suitable for all experience levels, the currents can be quite strong here.
Category: Nature and Sea | Depth: max. 50 feet
Nang Yuan are actually three islands connected by a white sand beach. It's a wonderful divesite. The waters around the island are very clear and ideal for diving and snorkeling. The deepest point in these three bays is approximately 50ft. Here are several type of corals. Between these corals you can find different types of fish including parrotfish and the small yellowtail barracuda. The current can be quite strong here.
Category: Nature and Sea | Depth: max 100 feet
Green Rock is a divesite just north of Nang Yuan. Here are a lot of caves and rocks where different kinds of fish live. One of the fish you can encounter here is the so called triggerfish. This fish is very territorial so beware with aproaching these fishes. It's also possible they attack from below. Their territory runs into a V-shape with the tip on the bottom which becomes wider towards the surface. The currents can be quite strong here too.
Price: approx. 9,800 THB
Dive schools are scattered everywhere over the island. At all dive schools it's possible to get lessons in English. There are several courses offered by various organizations such as PADI, BSAC, DSAT and SSI. Of the world's largest dive organization (PADI) all recreational and professional courses are offered. It's also possible to become a technical diver.
As read in the introduction Koh Tao has a lot of divesites. It's obvious that the main activity here is diving. On the island it's possible to book a fundive to different locations at many organisations. Prices start at approx. 1.000 THB for a fundive. If you book more dives at once prices will drop.
If you don't want or can’t dive, snorkelling is a good alternative to enjoy the marine life in the region. There are several bays f.e. Shark Bay and Mango Bay which are perfect for snorkelin. It is also possible to book snorkelexcursions to locations in the region.
If you don't feel like diving you can explore the island. A good way to this, is on a bicycle. We advise you to rent a mountainbike, because the roads on this island are not as comfortable as we are used to. This way you can see some nice views on the island for example Two view, John Suwan View point and Fraggle Rock.
Exploring this island on foot is fun and active as well. The area of this island is so small that in approximately one day you can see the whole island on foot. Also when hiking, it is advisable to visit the listed points mentioned at Biking.
Entertainment and Nightlife
On this island are more than adequate restaurants. From pizzas to traditional Thai dishes can be ordered. On some beaches you can enjoy fresh fish barbecues. The prices of the restaurants range from 60THB to 250THB per maincourse. The dining accommodations are mainly found in the tourist areas Sairee Beach and Chalok Bay.
Nightlife on Koh Tao can not be compared to, for example, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Phuket. But in the evenings Koh Tao has a vibrant nightlife. Especially in the northern part of Sairee Beach. There are bars open to about 01:00. After closure of the bars, the guests (who still want to party) leave to South of Sairee Beach. The clubs there stay open till late at night.
How to get there
Koh Tao is only accessible by boat from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Surat Thani. A boat trip from Koh Samui takes about 1.5 hours and the trip takes about 1 hour from Koh Phangan.
If you take the boat from Surat Thani the crossing takes about 3 hours.It is also possible to take a nightboat and then the crossing takes approx. 7 hours. Do not expect any luxury on the boat, because often these boats are old cargo ships. It's therefore wise to take a mattress or airbed with you.
Twice per day a combined boat-bus service from Bangkok by real VIP bus (no Khao Sarn VIP!) departs to Hua Hin and Chumpon. After it you board a catamaran which will go to Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and then further to Koh Samui. The trip itself takes approx. 9 hours, however the "night" service lasts 3 hours longer because you arrive hours before the departure from Chumpon.
Departure from Bangkok is at 6.00am and 9.00pm, arrival on Koh Tao is at 2.45am and 8.45am. The whole trip fromt Bangkok to Koh Tao (Suratthani) costs approx. 1,000 THB.
You can also travel on your own, the crossing by catamaran Chumpon is completed within 105 minutes and costs approx. 600THB.
There is also the possibility by plane to fly to Chumpon from the second airport in Bangkok (Don Muang)and then go to Koh Tao. The journey takes nearly 5 hours and costs ca. 3,500 THB.
On Koh Tao different classes of stay are possible. If you book an organized dive excursion to Koh Tao, in many cases the dive school will arrange free accommodation during the course. If this is not the case or you want to take care of it yourself this is possible as well. The cheaper stays start at aprox. 500 THB and depending on how much luxury you want it can cost you up to 11,000 THB per night.