Holiday in Ko Tao
The cashew shaped island known as Ko Tao was discovered by western vacationers back in the 1980s and has been since then also known as “Turtle Island”. Locals say that this cute nickname was coined either due to the turtle shape of the island on the map and/or for the reason that there used to be hundreds of turtles migrating and breeding on its vast beachfronts. Back in the days, there have been stories told about Ko Tao as the breeding ground of pirates, a favourite stopover for gung ho backpackers, a quaint layover for fisher folks and even a place for incarcerating barbaric criminals. Today, unfortunately, the turtles have gone elsewhere more secluded and safe for their nesting haven and what took their place are thousands of divers and visitors searching for their particular recreational activities under the sun.
Boasting for having the second most numerous PADI certificates issued, Ko Tao is just one of Thailand’s top diving destinations, second to Cairns, Australia. Why wouldn’t it? Ko Tao has plenty of unbelievable dive sites extremely accessible to avid tourist divers. Now, the myths of old days are replaced by numerous shops selling almost anything from snorkels to sunscreens. Makeshift bamboo lodgings took the place of the ruins of pirates’ hideouts which was further gradually replaced throughout the years by a myriad of accommodations catering to all types of travellers.
Indeed, so much tourism-related development has happened in Ko Tao that it has been known to surpass the other long established vacation destinations found in Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. Add to the mix the affordable huts, snorkelling fees and the ridiculously numerous diving schools and mid to high end, themed resorts and the island is now transformed into one of the favourite spots to visit while in Thailand. As a matter of fact, the innovations seen at Sairee and Mae Haad are classic examples of the changes brought about by the demands of the industry. The rugged dirt routes and wooden bamboo villages have slowly disappeared but the allure of Ko Tao still exudes ancient Thailand neatly tucked away on an island. So much can be said for the island’s other competitors at Phuket, Pa Ngan and Samui.
Only at Ko Tao can you swim and dive alongside whale sharks during September to November and March to May for the waters are not that congested. But if you are not into diving, Ko Tao still has plenty up its sleeves to offer in water and non-water based activities like yoga, hiking, site seeing, swimming and cultural immersions.
We recommend booking ahead if you plan to visit during the Christmas and New Year months and between the months of July to August since it is during these times when finding budget accommodations get extremely difficult. Also, the island is jammed pack by visitors during and after Ko Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party.
Although the political atmosphere in Thailand’s capital has raised the travelling advisory flags from most countries resulting more or less in the decline of visitors, rest assured that the issues and commotions will not spill over to the island. The Ko Tao now still is and remains the island of safety, fun and action under the sun.