Snorkelling can be enjoyed off every bay in Koh Tao, which is why it is such a haven for underwater lovers. If you don’t have your own snorkelling gear, fins, masks and snorkels can either be bought from dive operators and mini markets or rented from resorts and travel agents, usually for around 200-300 Baht a day.
A couple of good recommendations for snorkelling right off the beach are Ao Thian OG, where you will encounter reef sharks, and Tanote bay, where you can rent a kayak to take you out to the nearby reef. Mango Bay on the north coast is also an excellent choice, as it has a wealth of marine life in only 10m of water. Even turtles can be spotted here sometimes. Haad Sairee on the west coast also has snorkelling just 100m from the beach.
If you would like to go farther afield for snorkelling, tours can be arranged in advance on the internet or through travel agents or dive operators once you arrive. On these official tours, you will usually be bunched in with a load of other tourists, although lunch and equipment rental is included in the price, usually about 650 Baht.
If you go for a snorkelling tour with a reputable company, they will help you make the most of the trip by offering safety tips and advice on how to protect the reef and minimize damage. Some companies will offer a guide who will point out fish and sea life that you may miss on your own. If you don’t have time to stay over on Koh Tao but would like to visit the island and sample the snorkelling, day tours can be arranged from both Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Alternatively, you can approach the owners of the long tail boats, moored up on the beach and negotiate a price for a half or full-day tour, taking in the best sites around the island. They bigger the group, the better value for money you can secure, but expect to pay around 1,000 Baht for the boat and its captain.
Sometimes these captains will bring along fruit and water and provide information about the snorkelling sites. Other times they will simply steer the boat, so don’t expect too much if you go for this cheaper option.
Most tours will include a few stop offs, including Angthong National Marine Park, Koh Phangan and Koh Nang Yuan. The latter, which consists of three beautiful connecting coral-edged coves, is only around 400m from the Koh Tao mainland.
Strong swimmers could therefore make it alone, although longtails will happily ship you over for a small fee. There’s also a nature trail boasting panoramic views at the tip of the southern island and some great lunch options here.