Ko Tao is an island in Thailand on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand.It's one of Thailand's most popular tourist spots. The island is well known for scuba diving and snorkelling, as well as hiking, rock climbing, and bouldering.
Arrival in Koh Tao
After coming back from Cambodia and a one-day stop in Bangkok I was joined by my local friend Jeff and we went together to southern Thailand visiting two islands of the Chumphon Archipelago. We decided to take the sleeper train in the evening from the central station Hua Lamphong in Bangkok.
The sleeper train went south and arrived in the city of Chumphon in southern Thailand before dawn. We were notified by the conductor upon arrival, left the train and waited at the station for the coach to pick us up. While waiting, the station staff set up provisional tables and unfolded chairs so that passengers could order and eat some food at really cheap prices. It felt great to be awake so early in the morning lost somewhere in Thailand with a good friend on a journey to another exciting destination. Chumphon is a transit hub for visitors travelling to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, mainly Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui. We were heading for Ko Tao, the smallest of the three main islands.
We got into the coach and drove for over an hour towards the ferry pier. I remember looking through the window and enjoying the sight of palm tree forests and rural landscapes passing by in front of my eyes. It was a very relaxed drive and by the time we arrived at the pier it was already bright. After queuing for a while we walked calmly upon the wooden floor of the long pier and boarded the ferry. I will never forget the long moments on sea on the way to Koh Tao. I was so happy. We listened to some inspirational music while all around us there was only water and the distant shadows of scattered islands in the background all overthe sea. That’s what I call adventure. The breeze was fresh, but not cold. I felt very blissful.
Ko Tao is a very small island and has only one main pier where tourists board the ferrys. While approaching the main island we first stopped at the deck of Koh Nang Yuan. That’s a set of two very picturesque small islands just a few hundred meters off the coast of Ko Tao connected with each other by a thin stripe of sandy land. The sky was blue, the waters were clear, and the surroundings looked like a paradise. I was in awe.
We finally disembarked at our new destination and made our way slowly to the Koh Tao Royal Resort, a camp of bungalows along a hill hidden among trees. The reception area was by the beach a 5-10 minute walk south of the main pier. There was an open dining area from where you could jump straight onto the beach right in front of the resort. We checked in and walked the path up to our bungalow.
The bungalow itself was fine, but a bit dark inside. It wasn’t luxurious, but it had all the basics and a hammock outside on the porch. It also had mosquito nets above the two beds and I used mine during the stay. I felt like a prince sleeping below a baldachin. I was very happy to have finally arrived at this beautiful place on this gorgeous island.
Koh Tao is a perfect place for snorkelling and scuba-diving. I wasn’t into scuba-diving, but we definitely did snorkelling. On the first day Jeff got a cut on his foot from something sharp while walking into the water, so he needed to take some rest. I used the time to explore the shallow waters in front of our resort. We also explored the central area around the main pier, with its bustling shops and bars where we dined frequently.
Boat tour around the island
We spent 4 days in Ko Tao and the main highlight was the boat tour around the island which we booked from our resort one day in advance. The next morning we showed up at a designated area from where we boarded a tourist ferry. The ferry had an upper deck from where you could observe the surroundings. We were a part of a bigger group, and many young people were with us on board the boat. We even made some friends during our one-day trip with whom we hanged out at a later time. We all sat together on the upper floor when the boat left the pier and went southwards. I remember enjoying the beautiful sight of the coastline passing by just a few hundred meters away from us. It was again a very blissful experience.
There would be a couple of stops during which we could do some snorkelling in the water. The first stop was at the southern end of the island in Shark Bay. The boat stopped in deep waters away from the coastline and we followed our young instructor swimming towards the beach. At some point while swimming I regretted I didn’t take the swim vest with me. It turned out the swim was more tiring than anticipated, even though the distance between the boat and the beach appeared so short. Anyway, the goal was to find a shark, as the bay was renowned for the appearance of sharks. Regular sharks are not dangerous to humans and that’s the type of sharks we wanted to see. I remember seeing a scuba diver on the sea floor while swimming towards the coast. The water was good 5-10 meters deep.
Once we reached the beach we were told by the instructor there was a young, small shark somewhere around. It took me a while to find him as he seemed to be swimming all over the place. I saw him briefly for just a few seconds, and it was a very small shark of approximately 30-40 centimetres in length - a very small exemplar indeed. But we reached our objective. The next challenge was to swim back to the boat, but weirdly enough this turned out to be less tiring than the previous swim towards the coast.
We continued on our journey around the island and we made at least two more stops in the water to do even more snorkelling around our boat and nearby the coasts. I did a few jumps from the upper deck of the boat and even messed around with our instructor for a while. I also remember the sight of many fishes within my reach when we did snorkelling in deeper waters at another stop. I felt very close to nature and overall it was a great experience. There was also a dinner break and we had a chance to exchange contact details with a few people whom we could meet at another time.
The last highlight of the boat tour on our way back was the 2-hour stop at Koh Nang Yuan, the small islands just off the coast off Ko Tao that we saw upon our arrival. We disembarked on the pier and together with another couple we joined forces to explore the long beach connecting the two islands. We also climbed the small mountain to get to the main view point from which you could have a breath-taking view of the whole area of Koh Nang Yuan. It was very hot at the top and we spent a few minutes taking photos of ourselves and the amazing landscape.
Once we climbed down and reached the beach, I did a butterfly kick and ran around the sandy beach out of joy for the beautiful moments we were all having at this unique and gorgeous place. I will never forget that. The tour ended and we were taken back to the pier on the main island. However, the day wasn’t over yet and we decided to go out in the evening with the couple we met on the boat tour.
One final party
After the sunset we walked half an hour north from the main pier where we visited Queen’s Cabaret, a drag queen cabaret show with lots of lip syncing and dance. The performers sang popular songs and it was really interesting and fun to watch their performances. The entry was free, but you needed to buy a drink which wasn’t cheap. After the show we went to the Fishbowl Beach Bar nearby the Sairee Beach a bit further south. We had great fun dancing on the tables. There was already a proper party situation going on. After so many impressions I felt like my experience of Ko Tao was now complete.
Slowly, it was time to say farewell to this splendid island, but the adventure wasn’t over yet. Toni, a German friend of mine from Dubai, was spending his vacation in Koh Pha Ngan, the island just next to Ko Tao. Jeff and I decided to visit that island and meet up with my friend. After some cancellations and new bookings we were ready to leave Ko Tao. On the day of departure we boarded the ferry and left from the main pier, making our way south towards the island of Ko Pha Ngan.