Koh Tao is a small island of around 20 square kilometres, situated 65 kilometres to the north of Koh Samui. Koh Tao was virtually ignored commercially until the early 90s, but as the tourist trade increased on Koh Samui, so the diving potential of this island became recognised. Today Koh Tao and the nearby triplet-island of Koh Nang Yuan is a popular dive location with its own accommodation and lifestyle and daily connections from Koh Samui my means of ferries, speedboats and day-trip dive tours.
During most of its history, Koh Tao remained uninhabited, being used only occasionally by passing fishermen. In 1933 the Thai government took over the island, using it as a penal colony for political prisoners. This came to an end in 1947 when the colony was disbanded and islanders from the neighbouring Koh Phangan began to settle on Koh Tao.
Until the advent of tourism in the late 80's, fishing and coconut farming were virtually the only sources of income on the island. Both these industries remain today, although diving tourism has far outpaced these in terms of size. Koh Tao now has a reputation as a diving Mecca, and rightly so, as it boasts over 20 world-class dive sites, all within a 40-minute boat ride of the island.
All the beaches now have a variety of restaurants, supermarkets and bars. ATMs are now a common sight on Koh Tao along with convenience stores such as 7-11. There is little in the way of formal nightlife, as beach parties seem to be the order of the day. However these usually finish early, as most people are here for the diving and expect to have an early start.
Koh Tao Beaches
There are several important beaches on Koh Tao, the main one being Mae Haad Pier, located on the west coast, and this is the place where all the sea traffic of boats and ferries head to.
Directly across the island, on the east coast, you'll find the open and secluded beaches of Laem Thian. This is definitely the place to be if you're of a quieter disposition.
Koh Tao Accommodation
Koh Tao, despite its popularity, is still comparatively undeveloped and with its amenities and infrastructure remaining rustic, to say the least. Roads are basic, with all areas but the popular beaches being connected by dirt tracks which are not easy to explore. Many of the smaller beaches and coves are inaccessible by land, and can be visited only by using water taxis. Electricity is sporadic and with frequent disruptions, and you should expect power to be on only during the hours of darkness, even in the more up-market accommodation. Most of the island's accommodation, however, falls into the 'budget' bracket, with guest houses and beach huts being the order of the day.
However, Koh Tao is expanding, and today boasts no less than seven 5-Star resorts dotted around the island, and there's also luxury villa rental, aimed more at the discerning solitude lover than the younger dive crowd. The island is gaining a reputation for game-fishing too, with the region abounding in marlin, sailfish and barracuda.
Getting to Koh Tao
The only way to get to and from the Koh Tao is by boat, and all boats come and go from Mae Haad Pier. Koh Samui and Koh Phangan run regular ferries as well as the expected chartered dive-tour boats. There's an overnight boat from the mainland city of Surat Thani and day boats from Chumphon.
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