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Koh Tao

Tiny “turtle island” Koh Tao is a top destination for scuba divers though even non divers are easily drawn in by the island’s beauty and its inhabitants charm.

The tiny island of Koh Tao ("Turtle Island"), 45 km north of Koh Phangan, is one of the top scuba diving destinations in Thailand, if not the world. In fact, only Cairns, Australia issues more PADI certifications than Koh Tao. While some globetrotting SCUBA snobs may express disappointment, the shallow, crystal clear waters of Koh Tao feature abundant marine life and considerable coral that are certain to please both beginners and experienced divers, particularly as the island itself is so spectacular and the atmosphere on Koh Tao is so relaxing. What’s more, the island, which is the site of important breeding grounds for Hawksbill and Green turtles, is now a center for environmentally friendly diving practices, including the reintroduction of hundreds of juvenile turtles to the island's ecosystem and efforts to preserve and grow coral reefs.Non-divers can appreciate the beauty of Koh Tao, which seems relatively devoid of inhabitants while the majority of visitors are spending their days underwater, by taking a boat trip around the island to visit Koh Tao’s many gorgeous beaches and bays, hiking to the summit of the island, studying yoga, or simply relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the view of nearby Koh Nang Yuan, a spectacular attraction in its own right.

Over the past decade Koh Tao has transformed from a sleepy, yet popular place to get a scuba certification to the second most popular place in the world to do so. Once a destination almost exclusively for scuba divers and those looking to get away from it all, Koh Tao is now also a destination for wild 20-somethings to warm up before or unwind after neighboring Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party. Fortunately, despite its quite small size, most of the beaches around Koh Tao have retained a charming, laid back atmosphere and bungalows ranging from ultra-basic thatch roof to chic and boutique are available for those on any budget to enjoy the beauty of one of Thailand’s most spectacular islands.

Key Tips

  •     While there are numerous clinics on Koh Tao at Sairee Beach and Mae Haad, the closest hospitals are on Koh Samui and mainland Chumphon.
  •     Electricity, supplied by generators, is very expensive: switch off the lights, fans, and air conditioning when leaving your room.
  •     Don't throw paper or other things into the toilets: the pipes are easily clogged and very difficult to clear.
  •     Exercise extreme caution when driving motorbikes on Koh Tao.
  •     Avoid drinking the night before scuba diving.
  •     Wear mosquito repellant with DEET, particularly around dawn and dusk.
  •     Koh Tao is a fragile ecosystem hosting over 100,000 visitors a year: please DO NOT LITTER: even cigarette butts and plastic wrappers from water bottles take a heavy toll over time
  •     Water is scarce: don't leave it running, especially during showers.
  •     Don't throw anything at all into the sea!
  •     While diving or snorkeling, look, don't touch; this includes turtles, coral, and any other marine life!