Living the dream in Ko Tao

Published on 22 September 2023 at 22:58

This small Island in the Gulf of Thailand is famous for some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkeling spots, and palm-fringed beaches.  Let's go!

There are three main islands in the Gulf of Thailand which are located off the East Coast of Surat Thani. We will be spending the next month exploring each island to see how they differ and what’s on offer in each location.  At the Pier in Chumphon we boarded a highspeed catamaran bound for Ko Tao, our home for the next 10 days.

Ko Tao has three main areas: Mae Haad – which includes the main Pier where the ferries arrive and depart, Sairee Beach which is the main tourist strip, and Chalok – which is where we are staying.

Chalok is 10-minute drive from the busy pier area, and as such has a very chill beach vibe.  I booked us into a self-catering unit at Woodlawn Villas Resort, a quiet, family-owned complex that is set back from the road with plenty of greenery and many squirrels leaping between the trees. The property has a pool and a shuttle service into the other main areas on the island, which was very handy as we again opted not to hire scooter due to the busy, narrow roads and steep hills of this island. Our one-bedroom apartment had everything we needed for a slow travel stay including a full-sized gas stove and fridge for self-catering.  

After unpacking and settling into our new home we took a short stroll along the main street of Chalok to familiarise ourselves with the area.  We found it had everything that we would need to make for a good long stay with all amenities in walking distance including a small supermarket, bars, local Thai restaurants, laundry services, massage clinics, and dive shops. I was able to walk to yoga classes, have my hair done, and buy local ingredients to make a home cooked meal within a 10-minute walk from "home".

On some evenings we would take the shuttle into Sairee Beach, a gorgeous long white sand beach offering beachside accommodation, fun activities like kayaking, beach volleyball and later in the evening the famous fire shows. Behind the beachfront there are several walking streets that have it all: souvenir shops, tattoo parlours, street food, and busy bars for the backpackers with many drinks’ specials on offer.  The beach is also west facing, which makes it the ideal spot to watch the sunset, either from a bar or restaurant or simply by stopping at 7-Eleven to buy a can of Chang and finding your own spot.

The main reason for this visit was for Tony to experience some of the best dive spots on the planet, and he's written a separate blog on that here.  During scuba school Tony made friends with another couple in the class, Simon and Jani, who were holidaying from Australia and keen to have company to explore the island in the evenings.  Tony’s dive instructor recommended we wander down to Koppee Espresso Bar and Restaurant, which quickly became our favourite spot in Chalok to unwind from a day out on and in the ocean. This was our first experience of a “beach club”, with a restaurant, swimming pool, impressive cocktail list at happy hour for only 99 Baht ($5 NZD), and beanbags, all overlooking the bay. No charge, just buy yourself a drink or a meal and stay as long as you would like.

We enjoyed having the company to double-date and for the next three evenings we spent a bit of time exploring the shops and drinking and dining around the island. One memorable night out in Siree Beach started with sundowners at “The Whitening” restaurant, then progressed to a Barbie Party and dinner at “The Fishbowl" and finished with dancing and karaoke at a backpacker bar. Fun times!

By this time, it was clear to us that Ko Tao was the island experience we had dreamed of, so we decided to extend our stay for a few extra days.  Tony was keen to visit other dive spots and, now that scuba school was finished, visit other parts of the island together including a day trip to Ko Nang Yuan Island which is made up of three tiny islands just off Koh Tao that are all connected by a white sandy beach. 

Koh Nang Yuan is home to a reef called “The Japanese Garden”.  The reef starts shallow and is perfect for snorkelling, then runs deeper for scuba diving. Wow! We’ve been lucky to snorkel around many of the Pacific Islands, but Koh Tao has jumped right to the top of the list of best spots we have visited. So much colourful coral, rocks covered in hundreds of anemones, and so many fish! it was truly like being in a giant aquarium.

For the extra days we decided to indulge ourselves by moving to a beachfront resort that was closer to the action.  We booked into Sensi Paradise Beach Resort right on Mae Haad beach.  The resort sits on the most gorgeous semi-private beach offering warm crystal-clear waters and is walking distance to Mae Haad Pier, which was ideal for Tony to continue his diving, and many of the same amenities as Sairee Beach.

You know that when we extend our stay in a location it is special, and Ko Tao is certainly that.  It’s beautiful above and below the water, and you can be as active or relaxed as you feel on any given day.  We absolutely loved it and would come back again tomorrow…except we’re off to make an appearance at the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan. See you there...

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8 months ago

Wow wow what an exciting time for yyou guys you not going to want to go home. Love it.

gordon douglas
8 months ago

I keep repeating myself BUT it looks fantastic,as Linda has said, you will struggle to come home to boring work!