Koh Tao is a spectacular island. Since you’re in Thailand for a few months, you’ll probably want to take a few days off from the dive internship to explore the rest of this tropical paradise and see what else is on offer.
Here are a few of the non-diving highlights around Koh Tao:
Most of the development on Koh Tao is along the western shore, so this is the best area to stay – plenty of restaurants, accommodation and nightlife etc. The roads over the mountain to the east coast of the island aren’t good, but making the journey at least once is well worth the effort.
The bays on the east coast are less developed and have very nice beaches, great for relaxing in the sun or doing some snorkeling. All have some small simple resorts which usually offer Thai food in simple shack style restaurants, so it’s nice to sit and relax over lunch.
Walking up and over the hill to reach the east coast is good exercise and won’t take too long – maybe an hour at most depending where you head. The best bit is that as you descend down the steep slopes towards the other coast, panoramic views open up which make the perfect photo opportunity.
Being a small island, it’s understandable that water sports are popular here. In addition to the scuba diving and snorkeling, you can go wake-boarding or water skiing, kayak round the island or even go sailing. A few companies offer fishing tours, and for a classy day out, Island Cruises offer yacht charters around the island.
Koh Tao’s western style gym (monsoon gym) is close to the dive shop and very popular with people wanting a good workout. Muay Thai boxing is extremely physical and gets you in great shape, so even if you have no intention of ever fighting it’s a good way to get fit.
And twice each month, the Thai Boxing stadium puts on a fight night; This is a must-see occasion whilst you’re here taking your scuba diving internship. Usually consisting of 5 or more fights, the bouts pit Thai’s against Western fighters and even Burmese contenders. It’s an awesome spectacle to attend making for a memorable night out; The smell of menthol tiger balm being rubbed on the fighters, sound of the traditional Thai fight music, excitement of the Thai crowd placing bets and screaming at the ring, a wonderful night out!
Sairee Beach (where our dive school is located) is the main focal point of Koh Tao. The beach is lined with beach bars plus a couple of late night venues. It’s a great spot for s few sunset beers or a crazy night out.
Sports such as mountain biking, rock climbing and bouldering and even cliff jumping are now offered on Koh Tao. It’s an exciting way to explore rural parts of Koh Tao.
If it’s something a bit more relaxing that you’re after, check out one of the yoga / reiki schools on the island. And even if it’s not you’re kind of thing, it’s worth having at least one traditional Thai massage. Very relaxing. Ouch.
Here’s one of the less conventional tourist attractions on Koh Tao which will keep you amused. Mr J is a long term resident of Koh Tao, from Chinese-Thai descent. Mr J is one of the island’s more colorful characters, and with typical Chinese commercial drive has opened a couple of book stores and some accommodation. All normal so far…
Mr J has some interesting opinions on Koh Tao and tourism in general and is more than happy to share them. In fact he’s published his own book, ‘Koh Tao Story’ which more that justifies Mr J’s modest 100 baht price tag.
For example he’s formulated some unique theories on Karma; Specifically what animal you’ll be transformed into if you don’t live correctly or donate to charity. Electric eel, sea lion, giraffe, monkey, cockroach, ‘Alien Head Baby’…. you’ll have to visit him to find out!
Thailand is an incredible country with so much to see. Whilst you’re here for your scuba diving internship, try to factor in a little extra time to visit some other parts of the Thailand.
The first off-island excursion for most people will usually be the world famous Full Moon Party on the larger neighboring island of Koh Phangan. Thousands of people, fire dancers, alcohol, open air beach bars and loud music.
You could check out the seasonal scuba diving on Thailand’s west coast by visiting the Andaman Sea resorts of Phuket, Khao Lak, Koh Lanta or Koh Phi Phi. A great way enjoy the Andaman sea is diving by liveaboard boat, heading up to the Similan Islands to view manta rays.
And on Koh Tao’s doorstep is one of the most spectacular island groups in Thailand; Mu Koh Ang Thong Marine Park. This cluster of around 20 islands is the setting for Alex Garland’s novel, ‘The Beach’, and can be reached by boat from Koh Samui in about 1 hour. The scenery in the marine park is breathtaking, sheer rock pillars and jungle covered islands with pristine beaches. One of the island’s hides a inner lagoon, another has a small visitor center where you can camp overnight and hike up to an incredible view point. We sometimes make special overnight dive trips to the marine park, diving on the way out and back, and camping on the beach.
No trip to Thailand would be complete without spending at least a couple of days in Bangkok. Great shopping in the big malls, Chatuchak Weekend Market, plus countless famous attractions include temples, the Grand Palace, the floating market just outside Bangkok and much more.
There are so many great things to see in Thailand that we don’t even begin to scratch the surface here. The point is, it’s worth taking a little extra time to explore.
Brad R, UK
Id rate Koh Tao 100 out of 10. Its the most relaxing yet exciting place to stay & you could stay forever.
Patty M, Mexico
one of the most amazing places Ive seen in my life .... Oh man, the shenanigans we got up to underwater!.
Joe M, Wales
I remember thinking, wow, is that where Im going to be spending the next 10 weeks...time of my life.