Ko Tao: scuba diving paradise
Ko Tao, the “turtle island” in Thai language, is the less know of the islands of the south of Gulf of Thailand. It’s located in a sort of archipelago together with most famous Ko Samui, the biggest island, and Ko Phangan, the island of full moon party. Ko Tao is one of the best islands in the Gulf of Thailand for scuba divers and snorkelers and for nature lovers. It’s one of the world’s cheapest and most popular places to get your open-water dive certification since only cairns in the Australian coast issues more diving certificates than Ko Tao.
Diving is the island’s main business: you can’t walk 100m without coming across a diving shop. Once you rent your diving material, you can choose among many spectacular reefs all around Ko Tao coasts with lavish marine life to dive through. Tuna fish, clown fish, sea turtles, dolphins, barracudas, sharks, hard and soft corals and much more. These are only a sample of the great fauna and flora bio-diversity you can see in more than 10 diving spots around Ko Tao such as Chumpon Pinnacle just 5 miles (11 kms) in the
northwest of Koh Tao where you can see one large main pinnacle surrounded by corals, sea whips, barrel sponges, whale sharks and manta rays. Or you can have a 1 hour trip by boat to reach Sail Rock, considered the top dive site in the Gulf of Thailand, famous thanks to its natural vertical chimney which daring divers can enter at 6 meters and exit at 18. Here you will see barracudas, big schools of mackerel, trevally, jacks and tuna. Very interesting is also Mango Bay located to the north of Koh Tao, perfect for beginners and snorkelers. Tanote Bay, located south of Laem Thian, is also a nice protected bay, great for snorkelers. The reef slopes from around 2 meters below sea level to around 18 meters. Here, you can find angelfish, butterfly fish, anemone fish, blue spotted ribbontail stingrays, and sometimes the occasional sea turtles.
In the south of Ko Tao, you should visit Aow Leuk, a beautiful long bay, perfect for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. There are wonderful fringing reefs on either side of the bay with great sea life: Butterfly fish, Monacle Breams, Rays, Clown fish and occasional Lion fish.
If you travel to Ko Tao you cannot miss a visit to Koh Nang Yuan a very small island located in the north of Ko Tao that can be reached in a few minutes by boat, and where you can have a spalsh at Japanese Garden: this dive site’s name is due to the elaborate arrangement of coral boulders here Koh Nang Yuan is composed by two small islands connected by a thin sand tongue. Jump up to the hill to have a great global view of both islands: it will be a sweaty experiences but it will be worth.
For more daring swimmers it will be a breathtaking experience to swim in Shark Bay, in front of Shark Island.
Despite what its name suggests, the most “dangerous” here is the very aggressive trigger fish. There are also odd leopard sharks here, but they are not dangerous: however, the mere sight of a shark, though not dangerous, is an experience that makes the heart beat faster.
Other good diving and snorkeling spots in Ko Tao are Green Rock, Twin peaks, Red Rock, White Rock and Hin Wong Pinnacle.
But Ko Tao is not just diving or snorkeling: small (just 21 sq km and with approximately just 1500 inhabitants) and laid-back, Ko Tao is a paradise for those who are seeking the beauty found on big sister islands Ko Samui and Ko Phangan without hustle. Relaxing on pristine beaches or mountain biking or hiking through the lush and rugged interior are alternative activities in Ko Tao.
Ko Tao is without doubt the most romantic island of the Gulf of Thailand, where nights are casual and quiet, usually accompanied with a drink by candlelight on a pillow near the edge of the sea.
Although there are places of frenetic activity in the main tourist locations such as Sairee Beach and Mae Haad, much of the island retains a peaceful atmosphere. Accommodation offer on Ko Tao is still pretty basic, especially if compared with Ko Phangan or Ko Samui hotel offer. If you want to travel to this natural paradise you have to know that Ko Tao can be reached by Ko Samui (where you can land in its airport) with a boat trip passing through Ko Phangnan, or by the mainland from Chumpon or Surat Thani which can be both reached from Bangkok by train or plane. And to get around the island you can move with a songtaew (pick-up taxi that normally pick up more clients along its way) or long-tail boat, surely the fastest and easiest way, and sometimes the only one. Motorbikes, ATVs, and mountain bikes are also available for rent to explore the island, but take extremely care with the dirt roads of the island.
Just pick up fins and mask and head to Ko Tao!
To Know more about Ko Tao visit www.tourismthailand.org