14 Dec Koh Tao, the Turtle Island
KOH TAO, THE TURTLE ISLAND
Koh Tao – or Turtle Island – is a favorite with scuba divers and the ideal place to go on any kind of diving course at very reasonable prices.
48 diving schools in 2012 (today probably more), all lined up next to each other, mostly at Mea Haad; insistent taxi-drivers at almost every road intersection and numerous eating places. That’s the first impression you get of Koh Tao, a place like many others in Thailand. But look a bit closer and you’ll find an island that’s truly unique; people who go out of their way to be courteous, unspoiled landscapes and little restaurants on the beach offering live entertainment.
GETTING TO KOH TAO
If you want to browse the neighbouring islands before arriving to Koh Tao, you can fly to Koh Samui (with the right offers, you can spend approximately €200).
The easiest, but not the fastest, way to get to the turtle island is to take a bus or a train to Chumphon (from 6 to 9 hours of travel, depending on the company, with a cost between €12 and €50) and then the ferry.
There are 4 main ferry services from Chumphon to the island:
- Lomprayah – high-speed, air-conditioned catamaran service, the journey takes 90 minutes and costs 600 baht (approximately €16);
- Seatran – high-speed boat service, though not as fast as the Lomprayah catamarans. Tickets cost 650 bath (approximately €17.5);
- Songserm – the boats are fairly small; in good weather you can sunbathe and chat to fellow passengers during the 3-hour journey. This service doesn’t operate in rough seas and refunds aren’t allowed. If you’re willing to take the risk, tickets cost 450 baht (approximately €12);
- Night Boat – definitely the cheapest option; the journey takes 6 hours but for 350 baht (approximately €9.5) you also get a mattress to sleep on.
Useful tip: don’t accept the first price you see, smaller agencies often offer discounts.
WHERE TO STAY
The island offers a variety of accommodation options. We chose to stay near the diving school we’d chosen for our course.
We visited almost all the resorts between Mae Haad and Sairee to seek out the “perfect place”, for us of course!
Our choice: Koh Tao Beach Club.
Situated at the end of Mae Haad, bordering on Sairee, we found this small resort to be really good value for money. The superior bungalows, spacious but simple, are right in front of the resort’s own private beach, in our opinion one of the most beautiful in Mae Haad. The price per night, including breakfast, is 1,000 baht (approximately €27). The helpfulness of the owners and the good restaurant both add to the welcoming atmosphere.
WHERE TO EAT
Like elsewhere in Thailand, Koh Tao offers something to please practically every palate: from roadside stalls to restaurants on the beach, improvised barbeques and bars set up in 1960s trucks.
Some of the places we’ve tried:
- Drop Zone Bar & BBQ – a seemingly impromptu bar beside the sea. A romantic, candle-lit atmosphere, the beach and excellent fish. The best BBQ we’ve had so far.
- Cafe del Sol – the French owner offers delicious French, Italian and Western cuisine. Friendly, helpful service and the best pizza on the island make it worth eating here.
- Utopia – the best burger on the island, satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back. Really!
- Taste of Orient – if you want a change from curry, tom yum and pad thai, we recommend this restaurant that offers a more varied menu including some unusual dishes.
WHAT TO DO
Diving, diving, diving. Koh Tao offers numerous other activities besides scuba diving, such as snorkeling, sailing, walks and bike rides. This is the ideal place for anyone who loves the outdoors, excursions and the sea.
There are numerous places where you can rent mopeds, but beware of cons: many stores offer competitive prices but then charge huge amounts for even the tiniest scratches. Be sure to carefully inspect the moped with the owner and perhaps take photos of any damage before rental, and read all parts of the contract carefully.
THINGS TO SEE
Shark Bay offers superb snorkeling. Koh Nang Yuan, Freedom Beach, Laem Thian, Mango Bay, Hin Wong Bay and Tanote Bay are perfect for excursions by land or sea. But the most beautiful places can only be reached on foot.
For any additional information, we usually visit Trip Advisor, Wikitravel o la nostra Lonely Planet.
Be careful: the roads on Koh Tao are badly maintained and completely non-existent in places. Accidents are an everyday occurrence and injuries are common.