Ko Tao: Catch Your Breath on Turtle Island

Thailand’s Ko Tao, also known as Turtle Island, has the best of both tropical worlds: incredible beaches made to lounge on and deep blue waters perfect for snorkeling and diving. The island gets its name from the fact that it is an important breeding ground for hawksbill and green turtles, both of which you can see while out in the water.

Compared to Ko Phi Phi, Ko Tao is much calmer and a little more luxurious (i.e. there are fewer drunken backpackers), and doesn’t get quite as much foot traffic as neighboring Ko Samui. However, if you’re looking for a holiday far removed from any semblance of noise whatsoever, we would recommend Ko Lanta over Ko Tao.

How to Get There
Fly into Ko Samui Airport or Chumphon Airport from Beijing and then catch a high-speed ferry to Ko Tao. Most people get the boat with Lomprayah, which is deemed the quickest, most reliable, and safest option. Make sure to bring headphones as the boat’s TV screens play two terrible songs on loop tempting even the calmest person to start losing their mind. Tickets for the ferry need to be booked in advance as there are only three ferries per day (both inbound and outbound).

What to Do
If you don’t know what to do on a tropical island, well, then perhaps you need to find another holiday destination. In all seriousness though, Ko Tao is one of the best spots in Asia to scuba dive, and also has lots of incredible snorkeling. Head over to Shark Bay to see the, thankfully, small sharks, and plenty of other sea life.

For a great sunset view, go to Mae Haad. If you’re willing to walk somewhere inaccessible to motorists, hike out to John Suwan Mountain Viewpoint on the south of the island or Fraggle Rock in the north.

Where to Eat and Drink
For affordable, tasty Thai food try Su Chilli on the main road in Sairee, which is always busy. They also make good raspberry and strawberry daiquiris. If you’re looking to be near the beach, head to Fizz Beach Lounge just off the main road on Sairee beach, where you can get good value Western food (they have some Thai dishes too), cocktails, and hang out on a beanbag enjoying Ko Tao’s favorite pastime: fire shows.

How to Get Around
Rent a scooter for approximately THB 250 a day (in addition to a THB 3,000 deposit or give them your passport instead) to get around the island (at time of print THB 100 is equivalent to approximately RMB 20). Otherwise there are pickup trucks that serve as the main mode of transportation on the island, with prices starting at THB 400-500 per car to get anywhere (depending on the time of day and supply of trucks – bargain hard!).

A word of caution: It can be dangerous once you leave the main beaches, as many eroded dirt roads boast a 45 degree incline and thus should really only be attempted by skilled off-road motorbike riders. Lulled into a safe sense of security abroad, most people give it a go anyway, regardless of the quality of roads and blood alcohol levels, as evidenced by the amount of bandages you’ll see.

This article first appeared in the July/August issue of the Beijinger.

More stories by this author here.

Email: margauxschreurs@truerun.com
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Photos: Wikimedia Commons


Hi, does the high speed ferry from chumphon departs near the airport? There would be a new pier in Pathiu but I don't know if it's already finished... Greetings

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