Koh Tao or Tao Island (Tao means turtle in Thai) situates in Pa Ngan district, Surat Thani with only 480 meters from Nang Yuan Island. The name of the island resulted in the past the beach here used to be the location for lots of sea turtle to lay their eggs.
Background of Koh Tao
Koh Tao locates in Pa Ngan district, Surat Thani. The bean-shaped island is approximately 12,936 Rai in its capacity which consists of 2 main parts are Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yaun. The island is 45 km from Pa Ngan island to the north, and it is the furthest island with 85 km distance from Chumphon estuary and 120 km from Ban Don Bay, Surat Thani.
And the island used to be the favorite location for the sea turtles to lay the eggs with the proper environment both quiet and inhabited. However, once the people accessed to the island to earn a living and discovered the beautiful coral reef surround the area, thence they had developed the island to become one of the most famous diving destinations for both local and abroad. And it is considered as the 2# largest diving spot in the world after Australia.
The Island of Prison in the Old Days
Since the location of Koh Tao is such a long way to go and was inconvenient for the journey resulted in the island used to be the prison for the political prisoner as same as Tarutao islands. Most of them are from the Boworadet rebellion in 1933 and the trial to the uprising in 1938.
The prisoners imprisoned here mostly lived difficulty since the limitation of fresh water. And when there was a new government, the political prisoners were released in 1944.
Paradise of the Diving
Diving is the highlight of this attraction since the underwater world at Koh Tao, and Koh Nang Yuan is 1 of 10 the most beautiful diving venues in Thailand. With its abundance in the coral resource, unsurprisingly the driving tour is the top activity for the tourist to visit this island. And do not worry about anyone who can’t dive, there are a lot of scuba and snorkeling diving courses providing both one day trip or stay over the night on the ship.
In case you want to indulge with the natural atmosphere around the island and enjoy the water playing and diving to watch the corals, so a one-day trip tour is okay for you. You can get the charter or boat taxi facilities locate at Mae Had Pier. On the other hand, for one who loves the scuba, so one day is not enough for you to explore the gems of under the sea world at Koh Tao.
The scuba venues surrounding the island is plentiful and varied. So, the 3-4 days of the trip would be a better idea for the scuba lover. And the diving facilities including to diving equipment and courses of scuba training. And the class provides from the beginning to the advance that you will get the accredited certification that you can present to any diving venues in the world.
The Snorkelling Spots
- Ao Muang: The famous spot for the tourists to take the diving course. The water here is very still and lots of sea fish and corals.
- Ao Hin Wong: It is quite shallow with only 3-12 meters of its depth. The location features many colourful corals such as giant black coral whip.
- Ao Tanote: The location is good for both scuba and snorkelling. The coral here is quite abundant and lots of the shoal of small fish such as sea pike.
- Ao Luek: There are various species of the sea fish here. The coral to be found in general are long groove brain coral, Lettuce coral, and staghorn coral.
The Scuba Diving Spots
1. Tung Ku or Southwest Pinnacle
One of the best diving spots with 25 meters of the most in-depth place. The venue situates in the southwest of Koh Tao with an hour for the trip duration from the island. It is a piling of large stones with various species of sea animals – sea pike, giant moray eels, the whale shark (seasonal), giant grouper, and sometimes the visitor also can see tiger shark and Bluespotted stingray hide under the sand to find their food. This piled stone causes to the specific geographic, massive coralline algae, and sea turtle. Also, this the right place for the diving student who wants to take the advance and open water course.
2. Japanese Garden
Another venue for the scuba diving situates at the head of Koh Lek which is one of the diving locations at Koh Nang Yuan. The beauty of the place lures to numerous of tourists to explore the fantastic under the sea world with plenty of the corals, and sea fish looks like a Japanese Garden.
3. Chumpon Pinnacle
The best diving spot of Koh Tao with its 40 meters deep of water. The location is 4 piles of rock covered with the Sea anemone. Thousands of the Yellow-stripe scads proudly show off for the tourist, including, the whale shark (seasonal), giant grouper, large sea pike, bull shark, spadefish, grey reef shark, tuna, and anemonefish that resides with the sea anemone.
4. Hin Bai (the Leaf Pinnacle)
A stone emerges from the water which is 24 m deep situates between Koh Tao and Koh Pa Ngan. The venue offers lots of sea fish species – giant grouper, spade fish, shark, sea pike, and whale shark.
5. Ko Chalarm (the Shark Island) or Gong Sai Daeng
Locating to the southwest from Ao Luek. The island is a top of granite emerged from the sea. The location features various of colourful corals, blue-spotted stingray, and tiger fish.
6. Laem Thien
Another recommended spot for diving since there are lots of sea fish and if the tourist goes for diving there in the morning it is possible to see the Blacktip reef shark, as well.
Tourist Attractions at Koh Tao
1. Ao Mae Had
The centre of Koh Tao because it is a central pier and a location of shops and government offices. There is a Turtle statue the famous hallmark of the place here as well.
2. Chalok Ban Kao Beach
It locates in the south of the island with a 500-meter long white sand beach surrounded by beautiful rocks. The Koh Tao with tourist facilities – diving shops, accommodations, restaurants, tour agents, bars, and lovely beach. And the place is ok for sunbath when the tide is low. Due to it is the most significant diving center on Koh Tao, so the location has never slept from the boats that travel both arrival and departure trip. And that causes the water is not transparent specifically in the west of the beach.
3. Ao Hin Wong
The 2 pointed-tails of the beach bend to each other. The beach has no any sand; instead, the big rocks pile up leading to its name. The bay situates in the east so that it is the best spot to watch the sunrise on Koh Tao. And the location is entirely peaceful since there is not too much crowded of the accommodation here, hence it is ok for you to cradle yourself nearby the shore and indulge the moment of relaxing.
4. Laem Thien
A beautiful white sand beach with the lines of the ‘Balsam Plant’ along the coast. The 350-meter long of the beach has rocks, and sandy beach with the waves caused by the east wind and the south of the island is sunny throughout the day. Laem Thien is a location for both snorkelling and scuba with full diving facilities and kayak. So-called a memorial venue of Koh Tao since the first bungalow of the island built here.
5. Ao Luek
It nestles in the southeast of the island environed by the cliffs and stones. This is another tranquil and relaxing location at Koh Tao with the curviest beach which is the background of its name Ao Luek means deep bay. Anyhow, the journey to go there is terrible from the laterite and sliding road. So, the tourist needs to travel by 4-wheel drive car only to reach the destination.
6. Ao Mamuang
Ao Mamuang or Mango Bay is not connectable with others and locates in the north of Koh Tao. The bay is 10 meters deep with the high cliff and verdant rainforest as a scene. The venue features a stunning view of the bay with turquoise sea water which is perfect for water activities. Ao Ma Muang is one of the most beautiful diving locations at Koh Tao. It is a location of luxury resorts that more expensive than other spots and lots of water activities to enjoy – snorkelling, scuba diving, and kayaking. However, the road to go to Ao Mamuang is lack of maintenance, so the tourist would instead go there by the long-tail boat service.
7. Had Sairee
The beach situates in the west of Koh Tao. As the longest beach of the island with about 2 km in its length and continuing hillsides coast about 1 km more that almost reach to Ko Nang Yaun. The centre of the beach is in the south where is vibrant of the nightlife, so anyone who needs some peaceful at night should avoid this area. It is quieter at the beach in the north and the water there is not too deep. Then, we can walk into the sea. So, it is an excellent place to chillax, swim, and watch the sunset.
8. Jor Por Ror Bay
The place is in the west of the island where King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) visited and left as evidence his monogram on a large boulder dated June 18, 1899. The place is still worshipped now and then.
9. John-Suwan Viewpoint
Situating at Chalok Ban Gao Bay in the south of Koh Tao with just 20 minutes by foot. The walkway to the viewpoint is overgrown and steep. The position features the visitors with the panoramic scene of Ao Thien bends nearly Ao Chalok Ban Gao resulted it is most beautiful like the Phi Phi Don.
10. Freedom Beach
The beach sites near the Ao Chalok Ban Gao. The tranquil and peaceful beach with powdery sandy beach and transparent water is the right place to chillax and play the sea.
11. June Juea Bay
A quiet beach that perfect for anyone who seeks for the peaceful destination to relax and enjoy the nature.
12. Sai Daeng Beach (Red Sand)
The beach named after the sand here that tends to be red and beautiful. It is so-called the most beautiful and popular sunrise viewpoint of Koh Tao. And also, it is an insignificant diving location of the island that is possible to spot the shoal of shark.
13. Ao Chan Som
So-called a private beach with proper size to relax. This is the site of a famous resort ‘Chamchuree Resort’. The beach here is a mixture of sand and ridge with the clear emerald water.
14. Ao Tanote
The beach is second to none with its viewpoint that features the curve of the bay. Moreover, it is like a centre of the water activities – diving school, jet ski, kayak, and more.
15. Ao Hin Wong
The bay is in the west of the island. The beach is compact with the very clear of the water. Anyone who looks for the place to relax, Ao Hin Wong is the right choice for you.
16. Ao Luek
A small bay cuddled by the cliffs and rocks. The beach here is both ridge and white sand. The place is beautiful to swim, feed the fish, or diving practice for the beginner.
17. Ao Muang
Another best scenic area of Koh Tao that anyone who visits here would fall in love with its beautiful sandy beach and shallow crystal-clear water like a natural pool. And also, the place is another are for diving instruction.
18. Ao Kluay Teuan (Banana Bay)
The favourite spot for snorkelling with the transparent water and various of coral including sea fish.
Nang Yaun Island, neighboring famous tourist attraction that you must not miss in Koh Tao
A small island in Surat Thani ‘Nang Yuan Island” that neighbored to the renowned Tao Island. So-called one of the world dream destinations, the highlight of the location is the 3 insignificant islands which are connected by the same white sand beach providing the stunning beautiful scene. The beach is a perfect location to watch both sunrise and sundown at the same place!
Besides the beach that is second to none in its charm, the island also features the nice spots for diving all rounding the area. But the real highlight of the place is the viewpoint that offers the heart taking 360 degrees of the sea view. The tourist who plans to take a trip to the island should make the reservation for the accommodation in prior since there is only one resort on the island. Otherwise, the one-day-trip that included to the diving package tour of Tao Island.
Koh Tao is welcome to the tourists all year round; however, the so-called peak season is between February-April. During that time the island is filled with the travellers especially foreigners. Between November -January is the monsoon period; anyhow it is quite ok to travel to Koh Tao because there are some small isles for the boat to hide on the way. Notwithstanding, the tourist should check the weather to plan the trip appropriately.
Tips to Travel at Koh Tao
- Cruising the island by motorbike, the rider must be skilful and drive very carefully since the condition of the road is steep and dangerous in some parts such as the route to go to Ao Luek and some directions are non-asphalt roads. The tourist should hire the bike from credited shops that you can ask for advice from your accommodation. This is very important to concern since some shops provide poor condition of vehicles that endanger to client or some request too over budget of the maintenance.
- To travel to the John-Suwan Viewpoint needs to walk through the overgrown forest and some steep. Thence, the visitors should wear the proper dress for the trail like sneakers and should travel with the experienced navigator.
How to Go to Koh Tao
There are two options to board to Koh Tao are from Chumphon and Surat Thani.
By Car :
Either the personal car or rental car drive from Bangkok on the Rama 2 Road or Thonburi-Pak Tho road to Samut Sakorn, Samut Songkram until reaches Chumpon. Otherwise, you plan to board at Surat Thani then drives further along the road number 41 to Chaiya and enters to Surat Thani. The distance is 685 km and takes 7 hours.
By Bus :
The tourist can get the bus at Southern Bus Terminal route Bangkok-Chumpon or Bangkok-Surat Thani that depart from the terminal daily. For more information, please contact Transport Company Limited at 1490.
By Train :
The train service is available daily – regular, fast train, and express train for Hua Lamphong Station and get off at Chumpon and Surat Thani. For more information, please contact State Railway of Thailand call 1690.
By Plane :
There are many flight operators to Chumpon and Surat Thani.
Boat trip from Chumpon to Koh Tao
Mostly the boat operators provide the pick-up service from the train station to the pier. And there is a valet service at the dock, as well.
- Tha Yang Pier: The pier is 8 km from Chumphon town provides options for the ferry service operated by private companies. The facilities are sleeping boat (takes 6 hours with THB200 per person of fee) and express boat (takes 2 hours with THB400 per person of charge)
- Lom Phraya High-Speed Ferry: The pier is around the area of Had Thung Makham Noi that is about 28 km from Chumphon town. The ferry to go to Koh Tao takes 1.45 hours with THB600 per person of the fee.
Boat trip from Surat Thani to Koh Tao
- The sleeping boat pier is near the city municipality of Surat Thani. The trip takes about 8-9 hours with THB250 per person for the fee.
- Seatran Ferry is at Donsak which 80 km is away from Surat Thani city. The operator provides the pick-up service from Surat Thani Airport to the pier that included the ferry fee to Koh Tao in total is THB950 per person/trip. Please check the schedule with the operator before the trip.
Travelling within the Island
- There are pick-up truck services go from Ban Mae Had pier to the resorts and famous tourist attractions. The price depends on the distance and negotiable.
- The rental services are including to motorcycle, big bike, and ATV. The rental shops scattered around the island with the price between 100-300 per day. However, please drive carefully.
- The long-tail boat facility to take the tourist to travel and dive around the island with the negotiating price. Besides, there is a long-tail boat service between Mae Had Beach – Ko Nang Yuan daily. The boat departs from Mae Had Beach at 10.30am and departs Ko Nang Yuan at 4.30pm with the price is THB20 / person/trip. It takes around 20 minutes for the journey.
The Accommodations on Koh Tao
There are the variety of the accommodations on Koh Tao from budget guesthouses to the 5-star luxury resorts.
1. If you want the convenient location with full facilities, restaurants, and nightlife. Mae Had Beach and Sairee Beach are the right destinations for you.
2. If you seek for peace and privacy, Chalok Ban Gao Beach is perfect for you with the long white sand beach, beautiful sea view, and reasonable price of the accommodations.
3. If you seek a hideaway destination and you also can enjoy the snorkelling activities. There are lots of choice for you – Ao Tanote, Ao Hin Wong, Ao Mamuang, Ao Luek, and Ao Thien.