From its origins as a penal colony and fisherman’s stop off, Koh Tao was slowly inhabited by pioneers from neighbouring islands. Life was simple, coconut plantations and fishing formed the way of life. The first resort opened just 30 years ago and from those simple foundations grew an island that’s become a mecca for scuba diving training.
Koh Tao means Turtle Island, which refers to its shape rather than its marine life. There’s a much smaller island, called Koh Nang Yuan, which lies off Koh Taos north-west coast. This island makes the shape of the turtle’s head, the main island being its shell. The islands interior rises to provide some great viewpoints overlooking the lush greenery, fringing beaches and blue waters. Below and above the water the island is characterised with boulders of varying sizes. These provide great scenery as well as underwater habitats and some fun rock climbing too.
The island is remote, situated 47 miles (75km) east of the mainland and 30 miles (47km) from its closest neighbour. Koh Tao is just 2 miles (3.4km) wide and 5 miles (7.6km) long. Koh Tao is a little less developed than neighbouring Koh Samui and Koh Phangan but it’s catching up.
White sandy beaches fringe Koh Tao; there are many to explore and some super snorkelling opportunities too. Away from the water you can rock climb, take flying trapeze lessons, play mini golf, take a cooking course or relax in one of the many massage spas.
Koh Tao does not have an airport. The closest is on the neighbouring island of Koh Samui. From there you can hop on a ferry to Koh Tao. Budget airlines land at airports on the mainland at Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani. These leave from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok rather than Suvarnabhumi Airport. They do link to ferry services, but this route is the slower option.
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