Our own 1000: Koh Tao, Thailand

Posted by on March 30, 2012
palm tree sairee beach koh tao

Famous palm tree at sairee beach

After we spent more than 3 months here on Koh Tao, I think it is time that I finally introduce you to the island that made us change our travelling plans. We already planned to stay here 8 weeks so I could become a DiveMaster. This island, however, has the strange effect on people that once they come here, they stay much longer, don’t want to leave and at some point, they will come back.

We spent 14 weeks on the beautiful island that is Koh Tao instead of just the previously planned 8 and there is a reason for it. If you want to know those reasons, you should continue reading.

Where on Earth is Koh Tao?

viewpoint koh tao

Wonderfull viewpoint

Koh Tao lies in the Gulf of Thailand, which is on the east coast of – surprise – Thailand. You probably have heard of Koh Samui before or maybe even of Koh Phangan. Well, Koh Tao is just a 2-hour ferry ride north of Koh Samui, but it is considerably smaller. Compared to Samui with its 233 km², Koh Tao seems like a little spot on most maps since it is only 10% of the size of Koh Samui.

The island is basically made up of mountains up to 400m and lots of jungle and coconut palms. Except for Mae Haad, Sairee Beach and Chalook Beach, the island is very hard to explore without being a very good biker or an experienced hiker.

turtle at mae haad, koh tao

The famous turtle at mae haad

I guess the missing streets and other infrastructure are one of the reasons why Koh Tao is still considered to be a backpacker paradise.

The name Koh Tao means “Turtle Island”. Some people claim the name comes from the shape of the island, some claim it is because of the huge number of turtles that used to live in the reefs of Koh Tao. There are still some turtles left, but like with many other places nature and mankind doesn’t go to well together and something had to give. In this case, it was the turtles.

Diving in Koh Tao

aow leuk koh tao

Divers at Aow leuk bay

Although the beaches and bays in Koh Tao are breathtaking, the one thing that the island stands for is diving. And lots of it. There are more than 20 dive sites within less than 30 minutes from any beach on the island and there are more than 40 dive centers that fight for customers. Even the biggest dive school in the world (Bans Diving) is located in Koh Tao.

The reefs around Turtle Island are home to many, many different species. There are turtles, barracudas, butterfly fish, angel fish, crabs, shrimp and if you are really lucky, you might even see the biggest fish in the world – the famous whale shark.

gas station thailand

A really great gas station ; --)

I have been diving in places with better visibility and more marine life. So what makes the diving in Koh Tao so special is not especially that is the best place in the world to dive, but it is an amazing spot for beginners for two reasons:

The first one is the price, there is no place to get a cheaper dive certification and the second one are the dives themselves. Most dive sites are really easy to dive. Almost no current, mostly no waves and the visibility in most cases is quite alright.

If you want to see some pictures, you can check out my other post about diving in Koh Tao.

Living the Koh Tao Beach and Party Life

beachparty at fishbowl, koh tao

Beachparty at fishbowl

Some people ask me what Soni is doing all day since she doesn’t dive. Well although she is working most of the time, she still enjoys Koh Tao because there are other things than diving that make this island worth a visit. Although I do recommend going diving there.

We are staying at Sairee Beach, which is the biggest beach on the island. And of course, when we go out, we hang out at fishbowl, which is the bar at Ban’s. But even if we didn’t have our favorite bar, there are many different options to chose from. From the bars with relaxing life music and fascinating fire shows to fine restaurants at the beach with choices of thai food and delicious barbecues.

fishbowl fire show, koh tao

Fascinating fire show

After 11pm most bars turn to party locations, which might not be for everyone, but they are a lot of fun. How often do you get the chance to dance on the beach? My guess: not that often. I am not the partying type at all, but a party on the beach is really something else.

During the day you can hang out at the beach and either get you tan on or drink a fresh coconut in the shade. Whatever you prefer. I prefer diving.

Being Visited by Good Friends

visit from best brother

My brother had just arrived. We were so happy!

What is all the fun and joy in the world if you can’t share it with people you love? So we are er blessed that we have been visited not only by friends of ours (Pat and Sari) as part of their honeymoon in the end of January, but also my brother came to Thailand to visit us for 10 days at the beginning of January. I can’t even begin to tell you what it meant to me that my brother took the time and money it took to get here to spend some time with us.

And of course we shared the happy Koh Tao life with him and also with Pat and Sari. Pat and my brother both did their Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications and I got to assist on all 4 courses. So we shared the diving. We showed them the great places to eat. So we shared the food.

Sari Soni

Sari and Soni at the beach

And we went out partying at Fishbowl until late at night. So we shared the partying.

I think our friends and my brother got a very good taste of what the life on Koh Tao can be like.

One of the 1000 Places to See Before You die

Maybe Koh Tao is the new Koh Samui. Or maybe it is already past that as more and more travellers come to the island. So hurry up and come to Koh Tao, so you can still enjoy it as long as it lasts. Sairee Beach has already started to turn and it is a shame. Like with many other places in the world, it is more likely that the place will die before us, so it should be one of the 1000 Places to See before they die.

Pat during pool session

Pat during pool session

So when you decide to come to Turtle Island, please be respectful of the environment. Find a resort or hotel that is environmentally friendly. Don’t throw you empty bottles in the water, but rather put them in the recycling bin. When you go diving, chose a dive center that does something to protect marine life (like the coral nursery we built with Ban’s).

You can help preserve paradise. If everything does a little good, it might add up to be enough to keep this place one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Some more Photos and Videos!

For those of you who don’t like to read too much, enjoy our pictures and videos from Koh Tao, like the crazy frogs that sound like cows.

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