Koh Tao is nothing short of paradise. Whether you are a diver or a traveller or just someone looking for an escape, Koh Tao is the place for you. Located in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, it is far away from all the chaos of the world. It has beautiful white sands that give way to clear waters of the most magical shade of blue.
The island is solely dependent on tourism. Dive tourism in particular. Its no surprise that most of the certifications for PADI and SSI divers come from this tiny rock in the middle of the ocean.
I spent my time interning with New Heaven Dive School where I was trained as a Conservation Diver. I spent my two months diving around the island, learning about coral reefs, eating insane thai food and meeting incredible people from every corner of the planet. and yes partied almost daily.
Here are my top 5 for Koh Tao
- Snorkel with sharks
- Eat Massaman Pork Curry
- Party in Sairee
- Rent a bike, grab a map and ride around the island
1. Dive– There are over 60 dive schools in Koh Tao so take your pick. I would however highly recommend diving with New Heaven Dive School. They are my new dive family. Run by Marine conservationists Devrim Zahir and Chad Scott, the school is one of the best in the world to learn about reefs and has won many an award for its incredible work with artificial reefs. For details on New Heaven visit their Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/Newheavendive
A single dive will cost you anything between 800 to 1200 baht. It depends on the type of dive and the dive school. I would recommend doing an Open Water Course which involves two pool sessions, two open water sessions and an exam. This will certify you as an Open Water Diver and allow you to continue your diving journey anywhere in the world.
2. Snorkel with Sharks– sharks are beautiful, intelligent and harmless. Sharks are elusive and scared of humans and will not attack unless provoked. They are actually scared of bubbles! which is why its hard to spot sharks when on a dive. Snorkeling is an easier way to spot sharks. Koh Tao has many bays where you can snorkel with these beauties. Shark Bay with its Black Tip Reef sharks is my favorite. Carry fins, a mask and snorkel and a rash guard and head out into the water. Sharks normally swim in the shallows and are fast swimmers. you want to swim as slowly and calmly as possibly to prevent scaring them off. Sunrise and late evening are the best times to spot them.
3. Thai Food is mad. bursting with flavor and spice, i would suggest trying it all. My favorite is Massaman curry and Panang curry. Try No name too which is a deep fried delicacy. There are a range of restaurants on the island that offer great food. The smallest ones with little old Thai ladies are the best. youl find loads along the streets on the island. My favourites were Babaloos near Banana rock, Yangs near the Pier, Ying Yang in Chalok and Koppee off New Heaven Dive School. If you are vegetarian, then simply ask for the above curries in veg. Babaloos has an amazing vegan meat selection. I tried the duck curry and even though it had a distinct meat flavor and texture, it was made of flour. Interesting to try and quite delicious! there are cooking classes also offered on the island, for the chef in you.
4. Partying happens by default. Because the island is so small and everyone is on holiday, it makes the whole island one big party. There are regular parties that happen every week. Holiday islands are particularly cool as there is no such thing as a week day. its like Friday night every night! Parties to watch out for are the Secret Party, you will be invited or find flyers in shops, Latin Party- must go for all the salsa addicts. the whole spanish community comes alive on the latin party nights. if you don’t know how to salsa, you’ll be a pro by the end of the night. 🙂 Lotus Bar parties are where you will find everyone on the island and they stay there till sunrise. Pirate Bar and Bar Next Door in Chalok Bay are regular favorites and Maya if you’re in Sairee. Koh Tao has its own Pub Crawl but my friends and i decided to have our own, Bar Next 2 and Lotus Bar being the favorite stops. Life is one big party on the island. 🙂
5. Theres so much to explore. Secret bays to snorkel in, crazy sunsets, street food and random parties to crash.Bike to the Sairee Viewpoint for an insane sunset on the mountain. Visit the Haunted Hotel in the middle of the forest after an hours hike. the bay makes a beautiful isolated snorkel site, with sharks too! Bike up to the I Love Koh Tao point for a ridiculously expensive cold coffee but a mad view. Sunbathe on Freedom Beach and swim with the parrot fish in Chalok bay. Tired of the beach? try a thai massage! ranging from 200 to 1000 baht, this promises to be the best one hour of your life! try the Thai Stretch Massage, you’ll discover parts of your body you didn’t know you had. pure heaven. Rent a bike ( 250 baht a day usually ) BUT be super careful not to crash it or scratch it though as you could be charged a hefty fine that sometimes goes upto 30,000 baht. In case of an injury or illness, be cautious of random hospital bills as you can get easily fleeced. Most importantly make sure you get travel insurance before you get to the island.
The Island has so much to offer. Pack your flip flops and bikini, leave your brain behind and lose yourself in paradise. 🙂 what are you waiting for!
We as humans are born to travel. That’s what we do. Traverse oceans, scale mountains and explore the unknown. Today the world is but a map. All you need to do is pick a place, pack a bag and travel 🙂
Right now I’m sitting on a wooden deck facing the sea. Its 8 pm on a windy night and streaks of lightening touch the water every few minutes . The island im currently living on is but a tiny speck in the Gulf of Thailand, but for the next two months , it will be home.
Koh Tao translates as Turtle Island in Thai. Its is one of the less visited islands in the bay and as a result still has its lonely island charm. The pale grey roads are lined with champa trees and bougainvillea peek through the hedges that face the blue green sea. It really is a beautiful place to exist.
The islands economy relies on tourism. Dive tourism to be specific. There are around 62 dive schools currently operating on Koh Tao and for good reason. The coral reefs are to die for!
Week one on the island and its already beginning to feel like home.
Read on to know why you absolutely have to visit Koh Tao. This tiny piece of heaven on Earth.