THAILAND’S SNORKELING PARADISE: KOH TAO
Explore a stunning underwater world with goggles and snorkel on a Koh Tao snorkeling tour
Koh Tao, the little sister of the famous islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, covers only about 21 km² but it has so much to offer!
Since we have been traveling, snorkeling has become one of our favorite hobbies. After exactly one year of no snorkeling (last time we snorkeled on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador) it was about time to get our goggles and snorkels again and to jump into the water.
BoB enjoying beautiful Koh Tao
The little island of Koh Tao is known for its amazing dive spots. It’s paradise for everyone who wants to become a Certified Open Water Diver as you get very attractive offers here. And for divers there is a high chance of spotting the very impressive and giant whale sharks around Koh Tao.
The great thing about Koh Tao is that it’s absolutely not necessary to be a diver to see colorful fish and corals. The many small bays are full of life. It’s so much fun to hop from one bay to the next and to explore the small island’s underwater world.
Watch our video of Koh Samui and Koh Tao and see by yourself how beautiful these islands are. Enjoy!
We spent an amazing day and experienced some great moments under the water. It’s so hard to describe these moments… when a school of fish is right in front of you and hundreds of fish change the direction in the same second. Or when you snorkel above a rock crevice and suddenly a gorgeous colorful fish appears and starts nibbling on corals. Did you know that the crackling noise one hears under water comes from fish biting off pieces of coral? When you get close to a fish it can be pretty loud.
Blue sky and blue water
As I mentioned before Koh Tao has many different bays that are great for snorkeling. In the following I want to tell you which bays we visited during our Koh Tao snorkeling tour and how much we liked them. So you know a bit better what to expect.
It all started with a big surprise
Our boat left the pier at 10am and the tour was supposed to have 5 snorkeling stops when the weather condition is good. Unfortunately we had a pretty strong wind that morning and the water surface was a bit rough. So our guide told us that we would only go to four spots which we could totally understand.
Surrounded by other tour boats and a few longtail boats that were booked for private snorkeling trips, we arrived at the first spot:
Suddenly a reef shark was right under us
Yes, this is the bay where you would expect sharks. But no, the internet says the possibility to spot a shark in this bay is really low. With minimum expectations we climbed down the ladder into the water, started our first snorkeling of the day and suddenly… a SHARK!!!! No kidding, there was a reef shark!! We were so excited and I’m just happy that Lars could capture the moment with our GoPro. What an amazing start! Even if the tour had ended at that point, we would have left the boat with a big smile :-). Except the shark there was not much to see. Just some small fish crossed our path. Next stop:
Sea urchins between corals
I really enjoyed this bay. Here I spotted the first colorful corals surrounded by little fish. And even some bigger fish suddenly appeared. There is a rope swimming on the water surface and you have to cross it. Then you get close to the corals and you can float above them. The less you move the more trusting the fish get and they’ll come closer to you.
BUT: Be careful when you move. The corals are right under your body and you have to be careful not to touch them. Don’t forget, what you destroy will take many years to recover. Next stop:
Hin Wong Bay
Golf ball BoB snorkeling and exploring the underwater world
Hin Wong Bay was a bit different to the first two stops as the rocks were bigger and therefore the distance to the sea ground seemed larger. I really like that because it feels a bit like flying. Do you know what I mean?
Lars preferred this bay where we could also see schools of fish, corals and sea urchins.
Be careful with the rocks! Lars dived through a tunnel and scratched his arms and legs. The rocks are super sharp. Next stop:
Wonderful schools of fish
At Mango Bay we snorkeled between big rocks and spotted many beautiful fish. We even saw a ray that tried to hide on the sea ground as well as sea anemones. Unfortunately we didn’t find little Nemo ;-). It’s also a great snorkeling spot. Next stop:
Japanese Garden/Ko Nang Yuan
Colorful fish right in front of us
Our fifth and last stop was the small island of Ko Nang Yuan. The view from the viewing point to the island is very famous and absolutely stunning. We had a two-hour break here which was perfect. First we climbed up the steps to the viewing point and afterwards we still had enough time for a quick refreshing drink and a snorkeling tour in the shallow water.
The way up to the viewing point is covered by plants and therefore it’s pretty shady. But nevertheless you will sweat like hell. Especially when we reached the rocks at the top the sun was brutally hot. But the view from up there is amazing and I’m sure you will take one of the best pictures of the day up there. So, don’t miss it.
The amazing view of Koh Nang Yuan
The narrow strip of beach looked wonderful but the shallow sandy bay didn’t look very promising. But we wanted to have a short look if we are lucky and can find a few fish. And again we were surprised. Just a few meters from the beach you can observe different types of fish. They are very relaxed and although the surrounding is just sand, it’s great to snorkel here.
More people snorkeled in the deeper water and I am pretty sure that you get to see a lot more fish there. But at that point we had such a fantastic day full of fish and coral that we didn’t care to see more and we were happy to go back to our boat.
When we went back to the boat we saw that the water on the other side of the strip was much calmer and clearer and also full of fish. Maybe you should go here and see if it’s better.
We arrived at Koh Tao at 4.30pm and a pick up brought us back to our hotels. It was such an amazing day and the whole group had a big smile in their faces.
Our agency and prices
The typical tour boat
We booked our snorkeling tour the day and followed a recommendation of the owner of our hotel. He was absolutely sure that we would like this tour. I can now tell you that he was totally right indeed. When you book a tour, don’t worry too much about the company when you want to have a “normal” tour. I mean, if you want to have a more private tour and you are more flexible with the budget, you can ask dive schools if they would take you to the dive spots.
We booked with Diamond Tours and paid 550 Baht per person which is not even US$17. Normally the trip would have cost 600 Baht but our nice hotel owner gave us a small discount. If you find a sign saying 650 or 700 Baht, try to get a better price.
On Tripadvisor Diamond Tours has some good and negative reviews. We were very satisfied with our tour. And to be honest, in the end it doesn’t matter which agency you chose as they distribute their guests among the different boats and all go to the same spots. Also the size of the group is about the same. I guess we were something between 30 and 40 people on the boat but we had enough space and it didn’t feel crowded. I know 40 sounds a lot but it really wasn’t. Surprisingly even in the water it wasn’t crowded. We never follow the group of snorkelers as much movement frightens off the fish. Snorkel by yourself or in pairs and you will get to see a lot more.
From Ko Samui and Koh Tao you can also book day trips to Koh Nang Yuan. I am sure it’s a nice trip but when you want to do some proper snorkeling, it’s better to do a fully day tour and to see different bays.
What you should bring
+ Bottle of drinking water (I have the feeling that we drink less when we have to go to the water container every time to fill up the small cups. To avoid dehydration you should bring a bottle and fill this up.)
+ waterproof sunscreen
+ hat & sunglasses for the Ko Nang Yuan view point
+ t-shirt and shorts when you are sensitive to sun
+ 100 Baht for the entrance to Ko Nang Yuan
For 550 Baht we spent a great day full of…
The fresh fruits made Liane happy
+ nice people (mixed group from children to grandparents)
+ transportation from hotel to boat and back
+ good snorkeling equipment (we used our own but my brother used their equipment and was happy)
+ life vest for snorkeling if necessary
+ fresh fruit (it was more than enough and we could take as many pieces as we wanted)
+ Drinking water
+ Lunch box (yummy Thai food, no stomach problems ;))
Have you ever snorkeled?
You have never been snorkeling but want to try it? We have 5 Tips for your perfect snorkeling trip. Have a look here.
Don’t be afraid! Snorkeling is super easy and super super :-).