Koh Tao (Turtle Island) is the northern most island of the Samui peninsular, some 70 km from the east coast of Thailand and about 38 km north of Koh Pha Ngan (home of the Full Moon Party).
A little history
From 1933 to 1947 the island was used as a prison for political prisoners. Its location meant that there was no means of escape by swimming and, in those times, even taking a boat meant taking your life in your own hands. In 1947 the then King of Thailand granted a pardon to all these prisoners and they were transported to the mainland. Soon after a small but steady flow of people began to come to Koh Tao to farm coconuts and fish. Then in the 1980’s adventurous backpackers discovered Koh Tao and tourism has powered growth here ever since.
Preserving Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a tiny island, just 7 km by 3, and to this day it remains a green jewel in the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Indeed many of the dive schools, business owners and local government officers on Koh Tao are committed to maintaining its natural beauty and bio diversity. For more information on the ecological work undertaken by the Marine Branch of the Save Koh Tao Community Group, visit: http://www.marineconservationkohtao.com. Koh Tao Star Villa would like to pay particular tribute to Dev and Chad at New Heaven Dive School and Nathan at Crystal Dive Resort for their efforts in this endeavour. The good news is that more and more dive schools and other businesses are becoming involved in these efforts.
Koh Tao Star Villa is committed to ‘Eco-tourism’ (a very much over used term in our opinion) and maintaining this tropical paradise. We would like to think that our guests will also play their part in ensuring that their visit here has a positive (rather than a negative) impact on the island. So, if you wish to get involved and get your hands dirty, let us know, and we will be more than happy to bring you along to some of the sites that we are helping to develop or protect.
Our Contribution to Maintaining The Natural Beauty of Koh Tao
At Koh Tao Star Villa we are very proud of the steps that we have taken, and continue to take, to make our Villa as environmentally friendly as possible: we use natural gas to power our hot water system - it is far, far more efficient and much cleaner than the electricity produced on the island; we are completely self suffient for water - hardly a drop of rain that falls on our roof goes to waste - so, not only do we not draw on the very limited ground water supply of the island, but we reduce the amount of run-off and surface errosion that takes place; our septic tank ensures that nothing nasty gets pumped into the ground; whilst our grey water gets used to water the garden. We look forward to the day when all the hotels and resorts on Koh Tao can boast of their 'eco-credentials'. Untill then, we can only hope that travellers will vote with their feet and forego the less reputable operations on the island.
About Koh Tao
Though it is most renowned for its SCUBA DIVING, Koh Tao can now offer you a wealth of activities to enjoy both in and out of the water. In fact it is difficult to know where to start. Oh, I know – what about the fabulous white sandy beaches and rocky coves that are dotted around its coast. Many of these provide excellent snorkelling and if you get up early enough or go later in the day, you can swim with the baby reef sharks at some of these sites. For more about SCUBA diving on Koh Tao, click HERE.
There are mountain trails for the more active, ten-pin bowling, mini golf, rock climbing, flying trapeze lessons, speed boat trips around the island, Muay Thai (Thai boxing), yoga, all sort of adventure sports, or, for the less energetic, Koh Tao is blessed with fantastic scenery, great sunsets and many idyllic hideaways where you can watch the natural world go by.
And then, to follow you hectic (or maybe not so hectic) day, perhaps a massage or some other spa treatment. This, like the yoga, can be experienced on your spacious terrace overlooking the sea and the jungle.
Also, to expand the mind even further still, how about Thai language lessons. Learn to speak basic Thai and some convenient, easy to learn, everday expressions. Jom, cofounder of Mind Your Language, has been teaching for over 10 years and will be delighted to help make your stay in Thailand a little more memorable.
All this, and there is a range of bars and clubs to suit all tastes, just as there are different cuisines from around the world on offer from a host of restaurants. Truely an island with something for everyone.
Koh Tao Star Villa and its place in the natural order
Koh Tao Star Villa is set in just under an acre of grounds about a kilometre from the hubhub of Sairee. The surrounding jungle is dotted with banana, mango, papaya and coconut trees; and from the vantage point provided by your terrace, you will be able to enjoy the daily spectacle of the sea eagles cavorting in the clear blue skies of early morning and late evening; enjoy balmy evenings playing pool or chess and listen to the daytime sounds of the tropical jungle become even more evocative at night.
Watch the sun go down from your terrace (about 80 meters above sea level) and on clearer days you can see the mountains of the mainland in the distance. And at night, turn the lights off, lie back and watch the splendour of the universe wheel across the night sky. On a good night when the moon is new, you might see 3 or 4 shooting stars - except October when you can see a whole lot more. We have even had the pleasure of watching the space shuttle pass above our heads.
Behind KTSV is a Buddhist temple, preserved as a retreat for monks on strict sabbatical from around Thailand and Myanmar. It is even possible to climb the rock behind the Villa (from the temple side) to see a fantastic 360 degree panorama of the island.
In the past Koh Tao was a very difficult place to get to and boat crossing were often delayed for days at a time. Fortunately travel links with the island are now, you will be glad to know, much better. After arriving at Bangkok airport you have a number of travel options:
The easiest is to catch an internal flight to Koh Samui airport.
If you wish to fly with Thai Airways, it is possible to fly from your home country to Koh Samui without having to collect your luggage and check it in again at Bangkok. Be careful, though, to ensure you land in Koh Samui in time to catch the ferry, otherwise you will have to spend the night in Samui.
Bangkok Airways also offer flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui.
From Samui to Koh Tao takes about two hours and there are two operators: Seatran Discovery have two crossings each day: 8.00 am and 1.30 pm. Lomprayah also offer two services each day: 8.00 am and 12.30 pm. The Seatran pier is about 10 minutes from the airport whilst the Lomprayah pier takes about 30 minutes to get to. Both companies offer a free taxi service from the airport to their pier. If sea conditions are bad, you should know that the Seatran ferry stays more upright that the Catamaran but the Catamaran will work in higher seas than the Seatran ferry. October and November tend to be the season for higher winds and, therefore, higher seas.
As an alternative to the domestic flight to Koh Samui, you can make your way from Bangkok to Chumporn overland. We have found that the best way to do this is by first class air con overnight sleeper train. It does get you to Chumporn at an unearthly time in the morning (about 4.30ish) but at least you can go for a walk, stretch your legs, there is a buffet car, and you can lie down and have a nap (depending on how well you sleep normally). Unfortunately we cannot book these in advance for you, but if you are planning a short stay in Bangkok, they can be easily obtained there For an excellent service when making domestic travel plans from Bangkok, we suggest you speak to Dave at www.justdiveit.com.
Or you can travel by first class coach from Bangkok to Chumporn. Both ferry companies run these coaches and sell combined coach/ferry tickets. Again, these can be arranged very easily once you arrive in Bangkok.
A small detour on your way to Koh Tao.
If you are thinking of spending a few days in Bangkok before heading south, you may want to consider taking a couple of days out to visit Kanchanaburi – famous because this is where you find the ‘bridge over the river Kwai’. This town is just a couple of hours bus journey west from Bangkok and there is a host of stuff to do here. If you want to know what we would recommend, click here.