From Sairee Beach, this is just a 5 or 10 minutes boat trip. It is a small island (or better 3 small islands but only 1 beach) with excellent snorkelling facilities. You have to pay BHT 100 when entering the island, but it's worth it. The island offers stunning views, a good restaurant and also a resort. We went there in the afternoon and it wasn't crowded at all (2 years ago it was very crowded, but that was maybe because we went there in the morning). The trip with the longtail boat costs BHT 100. Don't forget your camera!
Nang Yuan is actually an ensemble of 3 islands connected by sandbanks to the Northwest of Koh Tao. There is ok offshore snorkelling from there: some nice corals, but only a few fish when I was there.
To get to the island take a boat taxi, it's about 300 THB from Sairee. There's also a resort with different kinds of accommodation on Nang Yuan.
Mae Haad is the main settlement on Koh Tao.This is the place where all boats arrive. Most diving schools and a lot of travel agencies have their offices here. You also find some nice restaurants and bars in the village.
The beach is not really great though.
We were going to take this boat trip around Koh Tao and Nang Yuan Island on our last day in Koh Tao the first time round, but when we woke in the morning and saw how much it was raining we realised that our trip would be cancelled. I have included a photo of the sign so you can see how much it is and where they take you to but in case you don't want to enlarge it, I will list the details here!
0830 - Taxi will pick up up from your bungalow
0900 - Depart from Mae Haad Pier
0930 - Shark Bay. Snorkelling with black tip reef sharks
1030 - Snorkelling at Shark Island to see the marine life which is generally larger
1130 - Snorkelling at Aow Leuk, which features many species of hard and soft coral
1230 - Enjoy your lunch and more snorkelling at Hin Wong Bay
1330 - The landscape and the reef is as breathtaking at Mango Bay
1400 - Option A - Nang Yuan Island one of the most beautiful islands in the world. (100B extra)
- Option B - See the beautiful Coral Garden at the Japanese Garden
1600 - Return to Mae Haad Pier
Trip includes: Two way transfer , all equipment for snorkelling, lunch,water, coffee, tea + fresh fruit. 600 Baht
You can also take a fishing trip!Again, I have put up a photo to show you but have listed the tour below:
Daily fishing tour - Charter boat, Group tour, Package tour. Water, lunch and fishing equipment all provided. Guaranteed Catch!! 0930-1630 day trip 1730-0000 night trip.
From the Coral Grand Resort, it's a short (about 15 minutes) but exhausting walk to the Nanyuan Terrace in the northwestern part of Koh Tao. There is a very sweet restaurant serving cheap food and drinks. This is really the laid back atmosphere one searches for in vain on Sairee Beach. If there weren't the countless mosquitoes in the evening, we could have sat there for hours, relaxing and enjoying the view over Koh Nang Yuan.
Ko Tao is small enough for a day trip round the island.
Most tours will include visiting the small island of Ko Nanyuan. This is an amazing small island that has 3 rock outcrops connected by three sand bars. So instead of the usual two bays meeting, you have 3 bays meeting.
So get out into the sea with a round island boat trip, enjoy the waves and sea breeze and viewing the islands from all sides.
Out of the many islands on the east coast of Thailand, Koh Tao is known best for its snorkelling and scuba facilities. As I mentioned in my overview, Koh Tao means Turtle Island, because in the past the waters in the area were rich with sea turtles. However these days very few can be seen. I am a very keen and strong swimmer but have never liked the sea for some reason. I suppose it's to do with the fact that it's deep and dark so i have no idea what's swimming below or around me. But when you come to the waters of Koh Tao you are in a for a pleasant surprise! The water was crystal clear and the visibility was amazing. My other fear or dislike about the idea of diving is the fact that you are reliant on an oxygen tank! What if something goes wrong? What if I come up to quickly and get the bends? Lots of questions racing through my mind. But when we realised that we had four days left on Koh Tao, we decided we would do it. So Charles went round some of the places that offered dive courses to see which was best suited to our time limitation and price. We ended up choosing Big Blue Diving Resort (I will talk about this place and some others in the sections to follow) and had our Open Water Diving Certificate by the end of Day 3!!!
You don't need to be a strong swimmer to learn how to dive, you just need to be aware of you surroundings and don't do anything stupid underwater that may harm you or the fish and coral. For anyone having reservations about it or about the safety issues concerning diving, please do look around for a diving place that suits you most and with an instructor you feel comfortable with because once you're under, you will depend on him/her a lot. I am planning to go back to Koh Tao in March to get my Advanced Open Water Certificate as my first experience of diving was too good not to repeat!
I had a friend who was staying here who advised me me that the instructors here were very good. I had also read about places who only let you stay with them if you dived with them too, so I wasnt sure if BIG BLUE was one of these. It turns out it wasn't BUT if you DID dive with them, you got a discount on the accomodation. They didnt seem to have any nice bungalows like the ones we were staying at, so we chose just to dive with them. They have a website you can go to to check out thier prices and an email address you can write to as well. We did the beginners Open Water Course and it was 9,000 Baht. You get a book with all the details about how to dive etc and you watch a four part dvd which has the same information as the book. The books and dvds come in all different languages, so if English is not your first language, I'm sure they will have the one you need. If you wish to keep the book, it costs 900Baht. When you go out on your last dive, their camarawoman goes down with you and makes a little video for you to keep...BUT charges an extortionate price of 2400Baht, so in the end none of us chose to buy it. If you choose to do another course with them afterwards, you get a 10% discount. I loved the course with BIG BLUE and will definitely be going back to them for my Advanced Open Water certificate.
Just checked the website and it is very comprehensive. You will read how there are two different schools that you can dive with, SSI (SCUBA SCHOOLS INTERNATIONAL) or PADI (the PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DIVING INSTRUCTORS). I did it with SSI as it has more time in the water and is less theory based. There are more steps to take to become PADI qualified but in the long run it all means the same. You can dive anywhere in the WORLD!
As it only takes 20mins to walk from one end of the beach to the other it is the perfect exercise and fun thing to do. Play with the beach dogs along the way, go for a dip at different stages of your walk to see how the water and visibility differs, see how the other half lives at the northern end of the beach where there are nice resorts and stop along the way for a refreshing mojito or mango shake!! It also helps you to get your bearings and see things that you can't usually from the main pathway!
Ko Tao used to be a pristine destination due to its isolation for scuba diving and snorkelling.
We just walked to some rocks on the beach head and sat there. There were schools of large fish swimming and colorful "christmas tree" sponges every where.
So joined a scuba tour and enjoyed an underwater adventure. If you do not know how to swim, better make arrangement with personal float and you can still enjoy yourself.
It is definitively the activity people specifically goes for here. If you are lazy, or just newbie, like me, snorkling it is just as incredible. All around is coral reef and you don't even have to get wet to see those fishes, just offer a little (soft) piece of bread.
If you enlarge the map, where Koh Nang Yuan are the little two islands at NW, those red spots are special Diving Spots, including two around Shark Island (guess why is called like that). People take a two hours bumping boat ride from Koh Samui just to see Koh Nang Yuan, how bad can be to wake up right there?
'The waters around Koh Tao are considered to be the best diving sites in the Gulf of Thailand due to a wide variety of aquatic life, underwater rock formations and pinnacles, and exceptional visibility most of the year.' says the advertisement, but it is also true.
Just by snorkling near, we saw big colourful fishes, like the incredible 'parrot', or the big black and the big yellow, and waves of black and whites striped ones... ok, sounds like I need some more study about that.
Anyhow, for the good of you and going a little further, you can reach also the National Marine Park just west of Koh Samui, that promises to be as great as the rest.
Koh Tao has a reputation for good diving. The reality is that it is cheap but not that good. If you want to learn it is possible to get a course for 6000 baht and free accommodation at the right time of year when things are quiet. Day diving is about the same price around the island and gets cheaper the more dives you do starting at about 700 baht a dive and going down to 540 for 10 dives or more.
There are lots (too many) dive operators on the island. Even in the low season there will be several dive boats at each dive site and loads of divers to scare away the marine life.
My perception of the dive staff is that they stick to their own little groups and are fairly arrogant about what good divers they are. I heard several conversations on the dive boat about how few weights and how little air they use. Yaaawwwnnnnn .....
One of the first things we did upon arrival was buy a snorkelling set each and discover what was beneath us in this crystal clear water. The snorkelling equipment cost 300Baht each (a little pricey for not the greatest of quality) and could probably be bought on the mainland for cheaper, but then you have to carry it around with you everywhere. I've always been a little scared of what lurks beneath the water and wasn't sure if I wanted to actually know, but the moment I donned my mask and snorkel I was in a different world! You need to go out a fair bit from the shore but it's still shallow so be careful you don't bump into or rub up against any coral! And most importantly HAVE FUN!!!
I didn't actually dive at either of these places, but i did find out about their prices and what kind of courses they offer and it seemed really good. You an also check out their websites www.kohtaoseashell.com and www.saireehut.com to see if they have any up to date deals for accomodation if you dive with them.
For more info on diving, check out www.travelfish.org as well as accomodation, food, eating..it's a great website and helped me a lot when planning my Thailand trip. Some of it is outdated but it does give you an idea of what is available at least and addresses etc. And finally, if you just google Koh Tao, you will get a plethora of websites to help you out!!!
A wonderful place to go climbing and Bouldering - So many choices of place to go. I really enjoyed climbing next to the sea, with the waves crashing close by below, watching boats go by. Another fine afternoon was spent in James's 'Front Yard', amongst the coconut trees, sweating my way up deceptively difficult routes on the superb granite rocks.