Thailand’s tiny island of Koh Tao sits peacefully off Southern Thailand’s Central Gulf Coast. Literally translating to ‘Turtle Island’, Koh Tao’s crystal, temperate waters attracts divers from every corner of the world. Even though the island is only 21km², its beaches and bays are visited by over 100 000 people every year.
The island paradise is geared almost entirely to life below the waves, and it’s not hard to see why. The island is beautiful and peaceful, pristine dive sites abound and dive training and tours are incredibly cheap - even by Thai standards.
Chumphon is one of the most frequently-visited dive sites around the island. Beautiful sea anemones sway gently in the current and huge schools of batfish and trevally rush around. Barracudas and scorpion fish are very common, and if you’re lucky, you might just spot a giant Barracuda or whale shark too.
Shark Island is another popular site. The island got its name because it resembles a shark fin, and not because you’ll find yourself diving with the oceans’ most revered predators; but this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to watch your fins. Aggressive trigger fish are common amongst the brightly-coloured corals and nudibranchs, and the graceful stingrays and moray eels.
A recent addition to Koh Tao’s dive site repertoire is Sattakut’s wreck, where an American naval ship sank. You’ll need to be an advanced diver to enjoy this one, but it’s worth it! Koh Tao is the perfect destination to get your Open Water or Advanced Divers qualification. The sites are stunning and the conditions are ideal year round with over 300 days of sunshine and underwater visibility easily reaching an astounding 40 metres. In between dives, spending some time on the surface isn’t too bad either! The island is known to have a very laid-back atmosphere, with small shops, restaurants and beach bars that offer visitors a personal and hassle-free experience.
But diving isn’t the only activity this tiny gem of an island has to offer. Largely undeveloped and very safe, the island is hiker’s dream, and bungalows and resorts nestled high up in valleys and on peaks offer the perfect luxurious overnight end to a day on the trails. Other adventurous activities include abseiling, wake boarding and some spectacular rock-climbing for all levels of climber.
If you’re less inclined towards the adrenalin activities, don’t worry. Koh Tao can keep you feeling relaxed with stunning sailing, where you can visit some of the 40 surrounding islands or islets, discover the marine parks, or simply enjoy a sunset cruise with a cocktail or two. Fairly recent – but very welcome – additions to the island are the handful of luxurious spas, where you can relax either at the seaside or overlooking the forested hills and be pampered like never before. Most of the spas and some of the resorts also offer yoga classes and courses, where you can centre and balance yourself surrounded by untouched mother nature.
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