Tao' means turtle, and the island is named for its shape when seen from out in the waters of the gulf. Smaller than Samui and Pha-ngan, Ko Tao lies about 40 km north- west of Ko Pha-ngan, and is also easily accessible from Chumphon, directly west on the mainland.
The island is particularly popular among divers, and has a reputation for some of the most exciting dive sites in the entire gulf. Several dive companies based at Mae Hat, the island's only town, can arrange dives for beginners and experienced divers.
There are many peaceful and idyllic beaches on the island such as Hat Sai Ri, the island's longest beach on its west coast, Hat Chalok Ban Kao and Hat Sai Daeng on the south coast.
There is also a unique geological phenomenon at Ko Nang Yuan, a tiny cluster of islets just off the north- west coast of Ko Tao, where stunning causeways of sand join the islands, offering visitors the choice of two seas to swim in.
Ban Mae Hat
Ban Mae Hat is a village with a busy pier. It is the only commercial centre on the island. Here you will find travel agencies, dive shops, restaurants, internet cafes, shops and motorcycles rentals.
Diving and Snorkelling
Koh Tao is one of Thailand's main diving centers thanks to its high visibility and clean waters. Many international diving agencies are represented on this small island, including PADI, SSI, IANTD, BSAC & NAUI.
Underwater wildlife includes Sharks, stingrays, pufferfish, various groupers and triggerfish. The best sites are offshore islands or pinnacles, including White Rock, Shark Island, Chumphon Pinacle, Green Rock, Sail Rock and Southwest Pinnacles.
Kayaks can be rented hourly or daily on most beaches either though local operators or resorts.
Deep Sea or local fishing
You can hire a long tail boat or go with one of the local tour operators, who also offer deep sea and night fishing. Prices are reasonable.
If you like to walk head for KoK Tao's highest peak, "Two Views" located right in the middle of Sairee and Tanote. The walk takes about 2 hours (depending on fitness) before reaching Tanote Bay where you can catch a taxi or longtail boat to Mae Haad if you don't feel like walking back. The breathtaking views make it absolutely worth the effort. There are also lots of trails around the island. Mountain bikes are also available.
- For the adventurous. There are courses available.
There are several ways to get to Koh Tao
At Bangkok's Hualamphong station you can purchase train tickets that include a bus from the Surat Thani train station (Phun Phin) to the Ban Don pier and then a ferry to ko Pha-Ngan. These generally cost around 30 to 50 Baht more than buying each ticket separately yourself.