For the first day we enjoyed a lie in after 2 heavy nights and just hang around Sairee Beach for the day getting to know the area and enjoying the beautiful sandy beach as it was the first opportunity to relax since we arrived. Being the first day there Sean and Kyle spent the day with us and we spent virtually the entire afternoon in the warm water with an occasional fruit smoothie and enjoying the music being played by the beach bars.
After a brief but enjoyable stop in Koh Samui we all headed over to Koh Tao on the ferry which was approximately an hour and a half away. On the way we met an Australian (Brad) who was living in Koh Tao running crossfit excerise classes. He recommended Roctopus diving for Sean and Kyle who were interested in doing their PADI course and an Australian bar called Choppers for drinks to start off at in the evenings. During our time there Sean and Kule were busy getting certified but would meet up every night.
Arriving just after sunset, we quickly booked a place just as we got off the ferry at the first wifi hotspot. For the first two nights we stayed at Queens Resort at the beginning of the well known Sairee Beach. The accommodation was nice, set on a hill over large boulders in amongst the trees and right at the waters edge. It was reasonably priced considering it was a private bungalow on Sairee Beach.
Despite our reasonably nice accommodation, it was slightly too far from the main area with a 15 minute walk to the majority of restaurants and beach bars. After having looked around we found Lotus Bungalows which were nicer bungalows for a better price and right in the centre of Sairee Beach in amongst all the action.
Known for its beaches, diving and general relaxed lifestyle, given the number of days we were there, we were able to enjoy the entire island, visiting a number of its beaches and coves making the most of the beautiful weather, coastline and snorkeling. Despite the island not being a very large island, there was still the need for some sort of transport to access other beaches and the smaller coves. For a mere £3, we found renting a scooter was definitely the cheapest and most enjoyable form of transport. Over two days we visited Sai Daeng Beach /Shark island, Thian Og Bay, Mango Bay and Ao Leuk.
Despite each beach being unique in its own right, they were are all relatively similar and so would be hard to pick a preference as each cove had white sand and was surrounded by a dense green backdrop and turquoise blue waters. Despite the waters impressive color, in terms of snorkeling the visibility in general wasn’t great being the end of rainy season. Although we found it hard to find very clear waters for snorkeling, shark island was an exception with great visibility and plenty of beautiful and bright marine life. In order to get there Sean, Kyle, Lou and myself hired kayaks from Sai Daeng Beach and paddled out to the island where we snorkeled for around two hours. The snorkeling was really enjoyable but as a consequence got quite burnt backs.
Sai Daeng Beach
Sai Daeng Beach
First time Sean and Kyle drove a motorbike! Our kayak adventure to Shark Island
Mango bay was at completely the opposite end of the island to the other three and was by far the hardest cove to get to. It took us at least half an hour along very windy, steep, uneven tracks full of holes and a lot of overgrown greenery. In order to access this cove, a scrambler is definitely necessary as we found that a scooter was not the wisest choice. Taxi boat is defiantly the easiest option as they take you directly to the beach as none of the tracks take you as close as you would like. Due to not very accurate maps and poor tracks we didn’t actually get down to the beach but we’re able to get a spectacular view of the entire cove from a vantage point in a resort under construction.
Although each cove was nice in its own way, Thian Og bay was probably our favorite in terms or scenery; a quiet thin white sand beach with coconut palms surrounded by mountains with a mix of large boulders and dense forest. Just off the beach, set in amongst the greenery were wooden bungalows looking out into the bay (quite a romantic place Lol).
Thian Og Bay
Only access to the beach
Carrying our belongings to get to the beach
As well as visiting the coves, one of our days was spent out on Nang Yuan Island which was quite a bit different. Just a short taxi boat ride away were these two small islands connected by a very thin isolated beach. Although visibility for snorkeling once again was not great we were still able to see some of Koh Tao’s bright marine life. As well as just enjoying the beach and warm water, we also ventured up to the view point; this was definitely a must when given the spectacular view over the majority of the island.
Nang Yuan from the view point
With Sairee Beach being a lovely beach with a relaxed vibe throughout, like the first day, we spent a couple more days just on that beach and around the area. With our bungalow close to the beach, bars and restaurants we were able to just come and go as we pleased, enjoying swims, eating overlooking the beach and sipping on fruit smoothies with the occasional swim in the resort’s pool. On the odd occasion we were forced to hang about the bungalow during heavy downpours, however it was still just as enjoyable to sit on the porch overlooking the gardens and main walkway.
Most of our evenings were spent enjoying a nice, local meal from one of the very many restaurants in the area (usually a Paneng for Lou and a Massaman for myself), with the Cottage restaurant, Big Blue Dive restaurant and Blue Chair restaurant being our favorites. After dinner we would usually then head down to the beach to watch some of the fire acts whilst enjoying a beer or smoothie. The fire acts, famous on the islands, were endless routines throughout the night with fire balls on the ends of chains and poles or skipping ropes completely engulfed in flames. Fish Bowl and Lotus Beach Bar were two good beach bars to enjoy most of our evenings.
On one occasion, prior to dinner we made our way up to the sunset viewpoint (not too far on bike from the main area on Sairee beach) which over looked the entire beach and port area. This was probably one of the nicest areas to enjoy the sunset whilst having a drink. Despite this, sunsets from the beach were also pretty impressive.
WARNING: At most bars and restaurants on the island you need to remove your flip flops at the a trance and so there is a possibility you end up leaving with a different pair. With this in mind, on the final evening before leaving, my flip flops needed replacing as mine were broken from our adventurous trip to Mango Bay. With a short stop at the closest restaurant and a friendly exchange I was able to leave Koh Tao with a new pair of flip flops :) (TBC).
With Koh Phi Phi our next island, the overnight ferry to the mainland was the best option, saving us money whilst not losing a day on travel. With the ferry packed with double bed bunk beds, a good nights sleep was possible until an early arrival at Donsak Pier in Surat Thani at 5:30am. From here we got a mini van across to Krabi on the west coast where we got a fast ferry over to the island.