Ko Tao, or “Turtle Island” as it translates in English, is the scuba-diving destination of choice in Thailand. It’s perfect: white-sand beaches and turquoise, shimmering water lures expats from every corner of the Earth.
The vibrant coral is home to a wide range of colourful fish and unique sea creatures—including turtles, obviously. It’s a little piece of heaven where people come to visit for a while, and end up staying a lifetime.
Our visit to the island was short but so sweet. It was a sunny, picturesque morning on the day we arrived by ferry. We were met by balmy 42-degree weather as we collected our luggage and walked a short distance to “Main Street”—but don’t be deceived by the popular name. It’s a simple dirt road packed with diving and trinket shops, cafés and tourist activities. There are locals and expats alike, all smiling and eager to help you any way they can. Taxis, tours, tapas and Thai massages are available 24-7 in this tropical beachside strip.
Snorkelling, scuba diving, hiking, sailing, rock climbing, wakeboarding, fishing, kayaking and cliff-jumping are just some of the popular activities on the island. With this much to do in such a beautiful place, I can understand why so few expats want to leave!
For our stay, we chose diving and hiking as our activities. We wanted a hike close to our hotel, so we chose the popular John Suwan viewpoint at the southern tip of Ko Tao. Named after two friends who discovered the area while house-hunting, it offers a beautiful view of both Chalok Baan Khao Bay and Haad Tien beach.
The climb was steep, rocky and slippery, but worth every step. When you get to the top, I couldn’t believe the view was real. Once you are perched up there, you can enjoy watching the waves roll in below you where the pristine, emerald water meets the soft, sandy shoreline and the salty breeze immediately dries off any evidence from the prior climb.
Sleepy by day, bumpin’ by night. Even though the island is only 3.5 kilometres wide and 7 km long, there is no shortage of nightlife on Turtle Island. Every second building on Main Street seems like a beachside bar offering daily drink specials and nightly entertainment. Fire shows and live music are very popular at Sairee Beach, a notorious place for evening entertainment.
On our last night, we had a chance to visit the Maya Beach Bar and talk with some of the expats to find out how they became locals and why they chose Ko Tao as their home—but you’ll have to read my next blog to find out some of their crazy stories!