Koh Tao is a small island in the gulf of Thailand, just beyond Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Nang on the western shores of the gulf. Also known as “turtle island”, Koh Tao is a tourist hot spot known for its amazing snorkeling and diving in the crystal clear blue waters surrounding the island. The marine life and coral reefs are still surprisingly healthy despite the steady stream of people, and dive sites range from lush coral to looming rock formations and even a ship wreck. Whale sharks have even been known to make appearance around Sail Rock, a world class site for advanced divers. Although Koh Tao is close to the full moon parties on nearby Koh Samui, this island has a more relaxed vibe with people focused on outdoor sports like diving, hiking, rock climbing and biking. There are of course bars and good night life around Sairee beach, the largest stretch of beach and main hangout on the island, but the best parts of this island off of its shores.
Getting to Koh Tao is pretty easy but can be a lengthy trip depending on your budget. If you are short on time, there are flights into Ko Samui and Chumpon from Bangkok, which take only an hour but can cost considerably more. From there ferry services run to Koh Tao daily. If your traveling on a budget like I was, I would recommend taking the bus from Bangkok down to Chumpon and then the ferry to the islands. I booked both my bus and ferry tickets in one package with Lomprayah, and the cost about evened out if I booked each separately. I would highly recommend them if you are looking for an easy reliable service! (http://www.lomprayah.com/E/index.htm)
Once on the island there are dozens (if not hundreds!) of places to stay ranging from small hostels, to beach bungalows to 5-star resorts. I went to the island with no reservations and found a cheap little bungalows on the southern tip of the island for only 300 baht/ night. However if you are looking to travel during the high seasons I would definitely recommend booking ahead as little island paradise fills up fast. If you are looking to scuba dive, and you absolutely should be, there are dive shops all around the island where you can sign up for course for open water certification, advance your existing certification or just dive for fun in shallower waters with a guide. You can also just rent a snorkel and go out and explore for yourself!
Below are photos I took from my trip to Koh Tao in August. Unfortunately even with an underwater camera I wasn’t allowed to take the camera diving but I hope you can still get a sense of the beauty of the island. If you have any questions about traveling to Koh Tao please leave a comment below!