Ko Tao is the smallest island among the major islands on the Gulf Coast of Thailand. This little island is most popular not only with divers but with backpackers alike. Turtle Island as it’s called, is considered as one of the top diving spots in the world. But whether you’re a diver, a party person or like us who just want to snorkel and chill, this place is for you.
My friends and I have spent almost two weeks in Ko Pha Ngan. After experiencing the full moon party, I thought it’s time to go to another place, so I suggested we go to Ko Tao. A few travelers have told us that Ko Tao is one of the most expensive places in Thailand and more enjoyable only if you’re diving. Well, that didn’t stop us from going.
Ferry Adventures~ Kay and I holding the boat for a very late Dave
Ko Tao is about 45 KM north of Ko Pha Ngan and can be reached via a regular ferry and a faster ferry. Prices vary but since we were in no rush and are on budget, we chose the regular ferry (B250) that took us to Ko Tao in 2 hours. The two ferries have specific departure times so I suggest you check if you’re getting the faster one (B450- B500) or the regular ferry.
There are two major areas of accommodations in this little island- Sairee Beach and Chalok Bay. Sairee beach is filled with more tourists and divers so we decided to head out to a less touristy place in the southern part of the island. Since we didn’t book anything in advance we had to search for a good place to stay.
We ended up staying at Sunrise Resort in Chalok Baan Kao. We got an ocean front bungalow with amazing views of the water. Sure Ko Tao’s accommodations are more expensive compared to other islands in Thailand but the three of us were spending the last days together so we decided to splurge for a night and stayed at an ocean front bungalow for B800. The sunset view was spectacular.
Sunset view from our bungalow in Ko Tao
We really loved walking straight to the beach from our bungalow and also its amazing views. The place is also conveniently located within walking distance to ATMs and 7-11 since there are only few of them in in the island. Even 7-11 here has more expensive items than in any other place in Thailand.
There were a few irks to staying here. One is that our guesthouse is located just beside a bar with overpriced drinks. It’s cool to stay here if you’re up for that. But if not, it could be loud at night. Since my friends and I are not big on drinking, it was quite hard to sleep at night. Also, the water in Chalok bay is shallow. Very very shallow. You’ll have to walk at least a mile or two before you get the water to your thigh. I’ve seen people walking to a really far point and it’s still not deep enough. It’s quite a funny sight. Instead, go to Rocky Bay.
Rocky Bay in the afternoon
Rocky bay is a quick walk from Chalok Bay. It’s quite hidden from Chalok bay due to the big rocks that surrounds it. Kay discovered this little gem and claimed it her beach. We really loved it. The water here is really really nice and a great swimming spot. It’s not as filled with tourists like Sairee beach which is even nicer.
Miss Annzventures recommendations(aka a few things you need to know):
1. Book the first night in advance
If you want to save money, book an accommodation for the first night. The sawngthaews (taxis) charge B100 per person per destination in this island. If you’re a group like us, it’s recommended to choose a place that has a pick up service.
2. Rent a motorbike (or a dirt bike)*
Ko Tao is a very small island and can be best explored by a bike. Paying sawngthaews/ motorbike taxis all the time is expensive (B100 each time). Renting a motorbike is only B150 a day. Gas is also very cheap. However, I only recommend renting a motorbike if you are a confident and long time driver since Ko Tao has a lot of dirt roads and sometimes you have to go through dirt roads to see other nicer parts of the island. Don’t be fooled by the small island as there are quite a few hills to drive to. I have seen many tourists with bandages due to motorbike accidents here. I even have two other travel friends whom were both beginner drivers when they went here who also had accidents. Think stitches. Since our friend Dave is a good driver, the three of us manage to explore the island in one bike just like in Ko Pha Ngan.
*Note: If you get a major accident, the closest hospital is in Koh Samui or the main land in Chumpon. You don’t really want to go there.
So if you can’t drive a motorbike, or find a new friend who can drive around the island to. It’s best to walk. Since Kay and I love walking, the two of us walked from our accommodation in Chalok bay all the way to Hat Mae Haad. It took us less than 30 minutes to get to the pier. Also, walking is a great way to explore the small shops/ stores in this island. We even met a new friend in a convenience store along the way.
Pinpin is the cutest dog I’ve ever met in my travels
4. Hire a Long tail Boat
Kay and I wanted to do a lot of snorkeling and see Ko Nang Yuan so the cheapest option for us was to hire a long tail boat. We got our boat for B500 per person which includes snorkeling gear, a trip to Mango bay (North part) and to Ko Nang Yuan.
Enjoying the views on a long tail boat
5. Visit Ko Nang Yuan
Ko Nang Yuan is the only island that I went to that required a B100 entrance fee (quite disappointing). You also cannot bring any bottles in this island. So no water bottles as well. Despite the entrance fee, I think this island is really worth a visit. It’s beautiful.
Miss Annzventures in Ko Nang Yuan
Ko Nang Yuan is worth the visit. It has calm and clear waters and an amazing underwater best for snorkeling. Visit this island in the morning as it can get really hot in the afternoon and crowded with tourists around 12 noon onwards.
6. Snorkel in Japanese Garden and Mango Bay
These two places are great snorkeling spots. However, it’s filled with divers. So you’ll most likely see people diving aside from the underwater creatures.
Mango Bay, Ko Tao
Coming to this island was a spontaneous decision. As much as I wanted to try diving here, I would need more time and money for the course. I was also traveling with friends and it was the end of our travels together and were splitting here.
Based on our experiences here, you don’t necessarily have to be a diver to enjoy this little paradise. We really enjoyed snorkeling, wandering around the island and just chilling in our balcony with a good book. Had we listened to other travelers about their not so impressive opinions of Ko Tao, we wouldn’t have seen this charming island. It really has it’s charm. It’s just up to you to find out.
Chiang Mai adventures coming up!