Koh Tao is a small island located in the Gulf of Thailand off the west coast of the southern mainland peninsular. The name means ‘Turtle Island’, and it is so called because of the large amount of sea turtles which used to breed there before tourism made its mark.
Koh Tao has an interesting history but has changed dramatically with the onset of tourism. Thousands of visitors come to the island every year to take advantage of the relative peace on this remote location; for the same reason, back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, Koh Tao was used as a political prison!
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Nowadays, the island is renowned for its beautiful bays, crystal clear waters and marine life. Backpackers ‘discovered’ Koh Tao over a decade ago and it has since developed into a desirable tourist destination for those looking for diving, snorkelling, comfortable but affordable accommodation, tranquility and pristine beaches.
The infrastructure has improved in line with development and there is now a main concrete road from the north to the south of the island. Smaller roads have also been built to access some of the main bays, but there are still plenty of dirt tracks around for those who like exploring.
Travelling around the island is easier than it once was, with a choice of taxis, motorbike taxis, car and motorbike rental as well as cycling options. Some of the roads are very steep and not in great condition, however, so be careful if venturing out on a motorbike.
Getting to Koh Tao involves a two-hour ferry from Samui or Chumphon or a 90-minutes high speed ferry from Koh Phangan. There are also six-hour night ferries which have bunk beds and can be comfortable depending on the exact vessel and number of passengers. This added to the Robinson Crusoe-feel of the Island as only the most intrepid travellers made the journey. Nowadays, however, due to increased demand, there are plenty of comfortable options available from the mainland, Koh Phangan or Koh Samui.