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downundergal Koh Tao - A travel report by Kerrie
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Koh Tao,  Thailand - flag Thailand -  Surat Thani
8959 readers

downundergal's travel reports

Slow and steady on Turtle Island

  15 votes
Page: 1 2 3 4
My idea of a dream destination is a palm fringed island where the main activities are diving, snorkeling and relaxing so Koh Tao fits the bill perfectly.

Take deep breaths, slow down and just relax.

This little piece of paradise will have you in a chilled out state in no time at all.

About a two hour boat ride from bustling Koh Samui off Thailand’s east coast the contrast between the two islands could not be greater. Koh Tao is the quieter sister to Koh Phangan, the latter famous for its full moon parties. This island is approximately 21 square kilometers in size and it takes its name from the fact that it resembles the shape of a turtle and is also home to some its namesakes.

The boat ride is a prelude to the relaxation you will soon feel, skimming through the azure waters of the Gulf of Thailand your first glimpse of the island will more than likely be the sentinels of Grandma and Grandpa Rock. As you draw closer hidden bays begin to appear with the deeper blue water soon giving way though every shade of blue in the spectrum. The ferries arrive at the port of the main village Ban Mae Had and you will be accosted by taxi drivers as soon as you set foot on firm ground.

Favourite spots:
Arriving to Koh tao
Arriving to Koh tao
The main concentration of resorts are scattered along Sairee Beach just north of Ban Mae Had.

Most of the resort fronts and main entrances along here are off the main road and stretch back to the waters edge. Along the seaside edge runs a footpath that is used as a walkway and doubles as a roadway for the many motorbikes that are the main transport around the island.

Also along here are the majority of the restaurants. Many belong to the resorts. The majority have Thai style pavillions with a choice of comfy floor cushions or seating to relax on.

What's really great:
Beautiful Jansom Bay
Beautiful Jansom Bay
The water is calm and shallow so it is perfect to grab a deckchair and laze around. With the setting sun comes the most amazing sunsets. I have never seen so many dogs come out and meet their buddies and spend a few hours playing in the water and along its edge.

The diving is top notch as is the snorkelling especially if you head around to Jansom Bay. This is privately owned beach so you may have to pay a small fee to use it. It is beautiful little sandy bay reached only by foot.

If you want to explore hire a motorbike although most of the roads around the island are dirt and are quite rutted in places. If you do go for a cruise around the island make sure you call in to visit local character Mr J. He’s easily to find just follow his prominent signage that proclaims how great he and his shop is! He’s a real character and will make you very welcome while all the time trying to sell you something you probably don’t need or want

Mr J!
Mr J!
Our first dive was off “Twins” . It has a pair of bombies with a smaller one a bit deeper down. The dive takes you down to about 18 metres before working back up the sloping bottom which is mainly white sand and visibility is clear as crystal. These pinnacles are home to lots of Gobies these are funny little fish that stop and peer back at you, pugnacious Sergeant Major Damsels, Parrot fish that are always noisy as they are forever snacking with their big teeth and lots of Yellow tail Barracudas. This dive is more about the fish than the corals.

The second dive that we did was about the same depth and was at White Rock located about a kilometre off shore. We saw a large Moray Eel and a Sea snake along with plenty of feisty little Triggerfish, Butterfly fish and Angelfish. The Angelfish are my favourite fish as they are all the same inquisitive but timid at the same time. More corals here mainly Staghorns.

The pool at sunset.
The pool at sunset.
Most of the Resorts have a dive centre attached to them so chances are this is who you will pick to dive with. Pricing is competitive so it will just be a case of picking you are happy to go out with. If you are staying and diving with the same place you will receive a discount on your accommodation.

We stayed at two places as we weren’t impressed with the first place we stayed.

The Sunset Buri Resort is located a little way along the main beach of Sai Ree. It has a great pool area and restaurant on the ocean front. The accommodation is made up of individual bungalows each with their own front patio and bathroom. Trouble is they they are very plain and are in some desperate need of some TLC. Virtually devoid of decoration we also found the bed was really uncomfortable, the toilet leaked and none fo it was very clean. We stayed the night as it was late afternoon when we arrived so the next morning we hired a motorbike and went looking for somewhere a little more pleasant.

View from our room.
View from our room.
Accommodation continued
The second place we stayed was fabulous! Ban’s Diving Resort is a large professionally run resort in the main strip of Sai Ree beach.
The Resort is three stories high and offered various standards & prices. It is built in a U shape around the pool. The grounds were beautifully lush and manicured gardens complete with walkways, ponds and statues.
The cheapest accommodation was spartan, a bed and bathroom, fan cooled but cheap as chips at between 2 – 5oo baht ($5US) with aircon just under double the cost.
Then you had the choice of either the newer deluxe or standard rooms. The deluxe rooms were lovely, new, modern and clean but at a price of 2500 baht ($70) per night as opposed to 1500 baht ($42) for the original ones we didn’t think the extra cost was warranted. Overlooking the lovely gardens they were a little more dated but still very acceptable. Spotlessly clean, airconditioned, a comfortable bed & safe.

Grandfather & Grandmother Rock
Grandfather & Grandmother Rock
There are plenty of great bars to hang out in and have a cool drink. They also offer live music. We were here at the time of the full moon which means the full on rave party happened on Koh Phangan. There are ferries running across so it easy enough to go if you wish. We opted out and judging by the survivors and the stories we heard the next morning I am glad we did. Magic mushies seem to wreak the most havoc from the sounds of things.

Chilli Fish
Chilli Fish
Eating is a joy here with lots of local seafood, pick a beachfront restaurant, get comfortable and enjoy some freshly caught fish with a spicy Thai chilli sauce and rice – yum.

Other recommendations:
Ferry from Koh Samui
Ferry from Koh Samui
There are about 5 ferry services that connect with Koh Samui so getting to and from the island is relatively easy except that the waters here can be rough so always allow a couple of days spare to make your flight out of Koh Samui.

There is some shopping to be found here but you will find a bigger and cheaper choice on Samui or in Bangkok. Although there is a great CD/DVD store here, they are happy to have you play before you buy. We spent an afternoon in here listening to music, buying approximately 50 CD’s and ended up running the shop while the “person in charge” was engrossed in his Playstation!

Published on Thursday January 18th, 2007

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Sat, Jan 27 2007 - 11:05 AM rating by marianne

Sounds great and I suppose it is also a good place for non-divers.

Mon, Jan 22 2007 - 04:06 AM rating by magsalex

Great report. Brought back memories of those Thai sunsets.

Fri, Jan 19 2007 - 09:44 PM rating by eirekay

Kerrie, Sounds like a terrific dive location! This is another REALLY great report!

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 06:10 PM rating by picasso

Wonderdul and very easy to read report with a great knowlage of a salt water fish in colorful photographic presentation.

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 06:01 PM rating by rangutan

Fantastic report of a quite place of the kind we all wish to experience now and again. Wonderful!

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 03:58 PM rating by moehre

Nice sunsets.

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 12:46 PM rating by esfahani

I never went to thailands east side.. but sound really great

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 12:36 PM rating by mrscanada

I've been to Thailand but not here. Thank you so much for so much information.

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