Koh Tao – Turtle island

Sairee beach
Koh Tao in southern Thailand is mostly known as a diving destination. Almost every second house is a diving shop and a lot of people come here to do their PADI open water course, as the prices are lower than almost anywhere else. Open water courses start as low as 7500 THB (190 EUR), single dives are from 700 THB (18 EUR). The island is very touristy. Back in the 1970ies, when the first travelers arrived, barely anyone lived permanently on the island. Today more than 15'000 residents make their living from tourism.

We arrived on Koh Tao from Bangkok, by night bus and ferry (550-800 THB or 14-20 EUR for a combined ticket) and headed directly for Sairee, the biggest village of the island. There are bungalow guesthouses and resorts on almost any beach of the island, but Sairee is where the action takes place. The town features plenty of bars, restaurants, shops and
Blending in
guesthouses to take care of all your needs. 
We found a nice bungalow with fan and private bathroom quite close to the beach for 500 THB (12 EUR). There is plenty of bungalow accommodation in the price range of 500-800 THB (12-20 EUR) or 1000-1200 THB (25-30 EUR) if you fancy AC.

The whole island is very hilly, so if you want to hike to one of the more secluded beaches, you need some stamina. Else, you can rent a motorbike, but beware of the steep and bad roads as well as the sand. We've seen many tourists with “Bali tatoos” (bruises) on their knees and elbows.

During a not so sunny day, we hiked to a beach in the south of the island. While it was raining, we had the beach completely for ourselves, dancing in the rain, swinging on a giant swing and snorkeling in the warm waters. But, to be honest, for a diving Eldorado, we were quite disappointed with both the visibility and the marine life around Koh Tao. And so, we decided to skip scuba diving.

Hidden beach, just for us
But we discovered an even better thing we just HAD to do. Back in July, on the Gili islands, I got hands on a handout from a freediving shop. Lisa at that point called this simply crazy and dangerous. But now suddenly she was more thrilled than me to try this. Especially after talking to two of the instructors of Apnea Total. We signed up for a two day introduction to freediving. I don't usually like to use superlatives like “mindblowing” and such, as they are over-used and lost their meaning about five social media years ago. 

But it was a big step out of our comfort zone, and never did we get so richly rewarded. We learned how to breathe properly to put a maximum of oxygen into our bodies, let go our fears of running out of breath and drowning and just dive. Dive down the line and up again, not counting the meters or seconds. Arriving back at the surface relaxed and with a big smile, like you wouldn't just have been 15 or more meters below. We're already looking forward to our next freediving experience, wherever that will be.

More pictures from Koh Tao


  1. Great to know that you experienced freediving and found it mind blowing! I will definitely also try to learn this sometime. Regarding Koh Tao supposedly being a diving Eldorado: absolutely not! It's mostly a (budget) dive certification FACTORY on the backpacker trail. The only Koh Tao dive site which I find decent is Chumphon Pinnacles, a bit off the NW of the island and not suitable for beginners who normally dive around Koh Tao... And of course Sail Rock, that's closer to Koh Phangan and also frequently visited by Koh Tao dive boats. On both sites the conditions are generally best between April and September, so you were probably just a bit too late. Postpone your trip to North America and come again in spring...! ;-)


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