Koh Tao, little more than 21 km², is located about 70 km east of the coastline between Suratthani and Chumphon, in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao means Turtle Island, because in the past the waters in the area had been rich with sea turtles, nowadays they have mostly moved on to other breeding grounds.
On June 18, 1899, His Majesty the King Chulalongkorn (Rama V 1868-1910) visited Koh Tao and left as evidence his monogram on a huge boulder at Jor Por Ror Bay next to Sairee Beach. This place is worshipped even today and should be treated with respect.
From 1933 on the island was used as a political prison. In 1947, Khun A-Paiwong, prime minister at the time, pleaded and received a royal pardon for all prisoners on the island. Everybody was taken to the Suratthani shore and the "Turtle" was abandoned again. But not for long. In the same year Khun Ueam and his twin brother Khun Oh reached Koh Tao from the neighboring Koh Phangan by trying out their traditional sail boat, for that time a quite long and dangerous journey. Even though the island was still under royal patronage, it didn’t stop these pioneers claiming themselves a good piece of land on today's Sairee Beach. Having brought their families over, they began to cultivate and harvest the excellent soil. The first generation of today's community had settled!
They lived a very simple and tough life harvesting coconuts, fishing and growing vegetables, which were also traded with Koh Phangan. Despite the difficulties in reaching the island, the population then grew steadily.
In the eighties the first travelers discovered the island paradise and their special "backpacker-network" quickly made it widely known and a popular destination. As a consequence, bigger, faster and safer boats were used to allow easier access to Koh Tao.
During the past ten years the reputation of Turtle Island's natural beauty, especially its marine life and coral reefs, spread the world over and the number of paradise seekers increased rapidly. It soon became one of the major dive sites in Thailand, attracting beginners and professionals alike. The local businesses expanded immediately to catch up with the needs of the new clientele. The island today, though still remaining an absolute paradise, caters for all tastes and budgets.
If you are interested in more historical details and stories about the Turtle, go to visit Khun Orawan at Seashell Resort, Sairee. She is the great-grand daughter of Khun Ueam and will be more than glad to give you further information.
Attractions in and around Koh Tao include:
- Hat Cho Po Ro or Hat Sai Ri – This small powdery beach provides accommodation. The Giant Clam Park nearby breeds the near-extinct giant clam and exhibits many aquatic animals. It is open daily.
- Koh Nang Yuan - A coral island with a high viewpoint and long white sandy beaches.
- Kong Hin Khao and Kong Hin Khiao – These overlaying rocks have submarine alcoves, whereby many fish frequent.
- Kong Hin Chumphon – Many fish frequent this area on the northwestern part of the island. During breeding season in March – April, this area is closed from any fishing activities.
- Ban Mae Hat – Pier, transportation terminal, diving schools and shops renting diving gear, concentrate in this economic centre of the island.
- Kong Sai Daeng – Rarely seen black-eared shark frequent the red sandstone by the mouth of Thian Nok Bay.
Koh NangYuan, is a small island standing side by side with Koh Tao to the south. It comprises three tiny islets linked by a line of white sand beach. Taking a packet long tailed boat from Haad Mae Haad for just 15 minutes, ones can take a walk on the sand-bar that links the three tiny islets
Koh Nangyuan is the turtle's tail as someone said. Small as it it, wonder wht almost everybody taking a trip to koh tao will never miss the tour program to koh nganyuan
The reasons are as follows;
1. All and sundry would like to see the viewpoint on Koh Nganyuan.
2 All and sundry would like to walk on the sandbar that link the three islets
3. All and sundry would like to dive around Koh Nangyuan, which is the great place for coral view.
4. This reason is for you to add after having experienced it
The best period is from December to April. It is possible to travel to Koh Tao during the rainy season (May to October), though obviously, you should be prepared to run into showers and rainstorms.
Travel to Koh Tao by Boat
Koh Pha-ngan - Koh Tao
Songserm Express Boat leaves Koh Pha-ngan’s Thong Sala pier at 12 noon daily. Travelling time is 2 hours. The fare is 250 baht. Speedboats leave Thong Sala pier on Koh Tao at 8.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Travelling time is 1 hour. The fare is 350 baht
Koh Samui - Koh Tao
A boat departs from Ko Samui at 11 a.m. to Koh Tao via Koh Pha-ngan. The boat arrives Koh Tao at 1.30 p.m. The fare is 350 baht. Speedboats leave Maenam Pier on Ko Samui at 8 a.m. Travelling time is 1 ½ hours. The fare is 550 baht. Call Lomphrayah 0 7745 617 ot Songserm Travel 0 7742 0157 for details.
Surat Thani – Kho Tao
A night boat departs from Surat Thani at 8 p.m.and arrives Koh Tao at 8 a.m. The fare is 250 baht.