Koh Tao

Before I delve into what I got upto in Koh Tao, here are a few facts about Koh Tao to give you an idea of what the island is all about…

It’s on the east side of the Surat Thani coastline, neighbouring Koh Phangan (famous for its Full Moon parties), and Koh Samui (the largest of the three islands and most touristy). In English, Koh Tao means “Turtle Island” as it was inhabited by turtles. My guide book from Koh Tao says “the island is thought to resemble a turtle when viewed from Koh Phangan”, but I’m not sure how this is possible, I imagine this claim is made by Phangan’s typically intoxicated tourist, but comment below if you believe I am wrong.


Tao’s main tourism pull factor is the diving, which is known to be the most value for money in Southeast Asia. Most packages include accommodation, and you can get your scuba licence by the end. It’s also possible to do a “fun dive” which is a less intense day trip and a chance to go scuba diving without rigorous training for the license. It’s not all about the diving though, I didn’t do it and had a great time…

The Journey here was LONG. We traveled by coach from Siem Reap across the border to Bangkok, which was extremely unorganised and frustrating. Eventually we arrived in Bangkok (I think we left SR around 6AM and arrived in BK at 5PM approx). We were supposed to arrive much earlier, and planned to go to the Grand Temple – which we didn’t visit last time – and also go back to BKK mall – which has the best food court and electronics department in the world – but there wasn’t time. We went straight to a travel agent and booked onto a bus which would take us south to Koh Tao that night, with just enough time to grab some dinner. A bus and a ferry later we arrived in Koh Tao, absolutely knackered.

I had a camera with me, which I stopped using and kept in my suitcase. I am convinced it was stolen from my suitcase when it was stored during this journey. You can never be too careful with your valuables, always keep them in your hand luggage…

Almost at the photos now… Koh Tao is a small-ish island and if you’re a backpacker you’ll want to stay around Sairee beach. Unlike most other destinations, I definitely recommend booking somewhere in advance, there’s nothing worse than arriving on an island after having travelled for 24 hours, to spend a further 4 hours looking for somewhere to dump your bags and get a wash.

Also, to get up the coast from the port to Sairee beach you HAVE to get a taxi and they all charge a fixed rate, we tried bartering to no avail. It was an extortionate 400 baht which is £8 and it took about 5 minutes, I’m pretty sure that’s more than London cab prices.

Dump your bags. Get a wash. Grab some lunch. Hire a scooter (wear a helmet). Get to the beach.

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Set up camp here and relax… we actually ended up here by mistake, we were looking for Shark Bay to go snorkeling and see some sharks, but got lost. I wasn’t complaining.

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The good news it, we made it to Shark Bay. The even better news is that we saw a baby shark! Some people saw turtles there too but it’s very rare and they’re very shy. The coral and other sea life around here is awesome, I’m not sure how long we spent in the water but it’s very easy to lose track of time underwater.

The “road”, more like dirt track down here from the main road is an assault course of dusty boulders, bumps and pot holes. It is hard to rent a bike on some islands where insurance is included (or even an added extra) so I would leave your bike at the main road and walk down. Not only can you injure yourself but to rub salt in the wound, these rental companies have no mercy and will charge extortionate prices for the smallest scratch.

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From Sairee it takes about 15 minutes on a moped to get here, we paid a few pounds to rent the snorkel, goggles, and flippers and put a deposit down too.

Back to Sairee for a bite at Fizz Beach Lounge which serves good quality thai food with a cool atmosphere, you can sit on bean bags at the front and watch the ocean come in…

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The best meal we had on the island was at an Italian/French style place in the main area at Sairee beach, I can’t remember the name of it and have searched high and low online, but it’s there, and it’s good!

At night the beach comes alive once again with beach bars and buckets of your favourite cocktails. To keep you entertained there are fire shows to watch, and even get stuck in with…

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I wasn’t convinced alcohol and a skipping rope on fire was the best idea…

Last on the list of things we got up to, was a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan. It’s a collection of 3 small islands that are only connected by sand.

It’s a cheap 10 minute boat ride from Sairee beach. It will cost you £2 to get on the island and you’re not allowed to take any plastic bottles or cans onto the islands. The islands close at 5PM so aim to set off in good time…

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The steep climb to this viewpoint was probably one of the most strenuous things I have done on the trip. The baking heat forced me to pour out sweat from every part of my body, but it was worth it…

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Once down, the only place to sunbathe on deck chairs is on the strip of sand you can see behind me to the right… despite the island entry fee, they cost and don’t recline, but you do get a much needed umbrella. It’s possible to snorkel and scuba dive on the islands too. Especially at the Japanese Gardens, which is the second bay on the right… There are some bungalows located on the largest of the 3 islands though most visit just for the day. The food on the island is basic and naturally prices are higher. Unfortunately there wasn’t any fresh running water in the toilets but I guess that’s island life!

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I took a quick snap of how clear the water is here, just before I got into the boat back to Sairee beach!

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Next stop, Phuket…





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