As one of the handful of gems sprinkled in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is a tropical island located 70 kilometres from the mainland. Named "Turtle Island" after the shape resemblance when seen from a distance, the once-political prison has been attracting visitors since the 1980s with its natural beauty. Koh Tao offers travellers an alternative tranquil barefoot paradise to its more developed nearby islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan.
Renowned for its shallow reefs and clear cerulean waters, Koh Tao is a divers' paradise with the surrounding ocean averaging 20 metres visibility year-round. Sea turtles, stingrays, barracudas and reef sharks cruise the deep while the serene shallower tides teem with kaleidoscopic fish darting amongst colourful coral. With white sandy beaches lining the water's edge and granite boulders speckling the mountainous ridges inland, the island is as postcard tranquil as it is exciting.
Other than world class diving and snorkelling, visitors can spend their days hiking to one of the many small secluded bays around Koh Tao, rock climbing, abseiling over sheer rock faces, dangling from an overhang above the ocean, or cliff jumping into warm waters below. If you'd rather stay on the water rather than in it, kayaking, wakeboarding, game fishing, and sailing are also on offer at this island in the sun.
For families travelling with children, paintball jungle games and mini golf cater to the less adrenaline-inclined. Cooking courses and yoga retreats are also popular choices for short term visitors and long term residents alike. A 15-minute boat ride away and a highly recommended day excursion is Koh Nangyuan, a captivating cluster of three tiny islands interconnected by pristine sandbars.
Haad Sairee is the Koh Tao's longest and most popular beach and is lined with beach bars, restaurants, and dive centers. Running along the west coast, this beach boasts one of the most picturesque sunsets on the island. As the main entertainment stretch, the general rule of thumb for overall rowdiness is: 'quieter towards the top, and progressively louder as you head south'. The southwestern bay of Chalok Baan Khao is also increasingly sought after for its laid back feel and serene surroundings.
A villa holiday on Koh Tao offers a unique opportunity to lavish in the comforts of a private residence while nestled in the heart of nature. Activities abound, and with the sea just a pebble's throw away, Koh Tao offers visitors to its shores a paradisiac vacation they'll never forget.
Suratthani, Chumphon, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan all offer ferry services to Koh Tao. Once docked, transfer services can be arranged through accommodation providers. Motorbikes and long-tail boats are the most convenient ways to get around the island.
You swam with the most fascinating sea creatures on your dive, but unfortunately the vibrancy inevitably fades after surfacing. Document your underwater journey to share with with your friends and family. Oceans Below offers professional underwater videography and video production training with HD cameras.
Dive into the deep blue without the aid of artificial breathing equipment. Enjoy the freedom as you experience exhilarating sensations immersed in the total serenity of the underwater universe. Learn proper breathing and safety techniques from fully-certified Apnea Total, the only school of its kind in South East Asia to feel free as a fish.
Take a break from the sea and try your moves on a full scale flying trapeze. Flying Trapeze Adventures offers beginner to advanced courses in a safe environment for adults and children from as young as 6. They'll film the class as well, so when your children threaten to run away to join the circus, you can tag along too.
What better way is there to drink in the sunset than washing it down with a refreshing beverage? Sairee Beach on the west coast of the island is the best place to enjoy this mesmerising time of day. Grab a bean bag and sit out on the beach at Fizz Beachlounge with a drink in one hand and a camera in the other.
The ocean around Koh Tao offer the best diving spots in Thailand with its clear tranquil waters teeming with flamboyant sea creatures. Chumpon Pinnacle is a divers dream with the variety of marine life that lives on and around the large submerged rock. Consult your fish chart before the dive so you know how to differentiate between the types of sharks see how many animals you can identify.