09 Dec Visiting Koh Tao
After leaving the idyllic beaches in Koh Phangan, we hopped over to neighbouring Koh Tao with my friend Jo for more sunshine and sandy beaches as well as a snorkelling trip that rivalled our experience on the Great Barrier Reef – here’s what we got up to.
Disappointment on Sairee Beach
The first shock we received upon arriving on the island was just how expensive Koh Tao accommodation was; considering we’d just paid only 400B for a lovely bungalow on Bottle Beach in Phangan, we were struggling to find anything decent for under 600B in Sairee. We ended up meeting an old English guy, Clive, who persuaded us to stay in one of his apartments in nearby Hin Wong Bay for the night, which cost 1,200B between the three of us. Eventually we found somewhere cheaper for the next night but by then we were desperate to get away from Sairee beach altogether.
Mirroring the experience Andrew had in Koh Phi Phi, we were all turned off by the bars and clubs in Sairee and the drunken, noisy party-goers. After seeing the amount of rubbish washed up on the crowded beach we were feeling extremely disappointed with Koh Tao and had begun to wonder exactly why we’d ever left the serenity and budget-friendly beaches on Koh Phangan in the first place.
Finding Peace on Freedom Beach
In the end we decided to move away from Sairee down to the southern end of the island, where we found a cheaper, quieter area to stay in Chalok Baan Kao and immediately felt better. While the beach directly by our hotel was extremely narrow, we discovered Freedom Beach about a half hour walk away; a tiny secluded cove where we could lie in the shade, read and relax. Freedom beach became our regular peaceful hangout during the rest of our time on Koh Tao, while we managed to find amazing vegetarian food and puddings at nearby I Love Salad.
Our Koh Tao Snorkelling Trip
I knew diving in Koh Tao was the main attraction but at over £200 per course, we simply didn’t have the budget to indulge. Still, we were able to catch a glimpse of the amazing underwater world Koh Tao is famous for when we took a snorkelling day trip around the island. The morning started off windy and cloudy, the boat rocking sickeningly from side to side; thankfully once we turned the corner of the island the wind died down, allowing us to easily see the amazing fish and coral beneath the water’s surface. We moved to a couple of different snorkelling spots over the next couple of hours, encountering new and unusual sights along the way; Christmas tree worms, huge parrot fish, stripy eels and spearfish.
After lunch we spent the last part of the day at Nang Yuan island, snorkelling around an area called the Japanese Gardens. From the sandy beach the water dropped off quickly and we were able to swim amongst the depths and observe the incredible underwater world to round off our day.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)Posted at 08:38h, 11 December
We had always intended to visit Koh Tao because we expected we would want to dive there. However, after diving in the Philippines and in Borneo we met enough people who had done far more diving than us who said that diving at Koh Tao is really pretty middle of the road and its biggest allure is simply that it’s very cheap to learn to dive there. We had heard, however, that everything else was quite expensive so we decided we could afford to give it in the miss. So far, I haven’t heard anything to make me regret the decision! Seems like maybe KT has gotten a bit too big for its britches and is perhaps past its prime…
AmyPosted at 08:57h, 11 December
We’re not divers (yet!) but based on the actual island and the pricey accommodation I’d say you made a good decision to skip it. I have read some great reviews and posts about Koh Tao but on closer inspection these were either written by party lovers or were published a few years ago. Sadly, I think you’re right and the island it might well be past its prime.
DanPosted at 19:13h, 29 March
I found Freedom Beach to be a great beach for relaxing on too. It’s great that it’s away from the main (and noisy!) part of the island and allows you to get some peace and quiet whilst you read a book or listen to some music. The shade option is also a big benefit when that afternoon sun is beaming down!
AmyPosted at 05:13h, 30 March
Glad you like Freedom Beach too Dan, it was definitely my fave in Koh Tao.