Ko Tao (also spelled Koh Tao, meaning “Turtle Island”) is a Thai island that is part of the Chumphon Archipelago off the western coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It has a total size of around 21 km2. Administratively, it is part of Surat Thani Province’s district (amphoe) (as of 2013). Its official population in 2006 was 1,382. Ban Mae Hat is the principal village.
The island’s economy is nearly entirely based on tourism, particularly scuba diving.
The original inhabitants called the island Ko Tao given the turtle-like shape of the island. The island also serves as an important nesting place for hawksbill and green turtles. Tourism development has harmed the health of these areas, but a breeding effort organized in 2004 by the Royal Thai Navy and KT-DOC, a coalition of local scuba diving centers, has restored hundreds of baby turtles to the island’s environment.
Ko Tao was originally a site of imprisonment for political prisoners. Today, it’s a popular destination for divers and those looking to escape the noise and bustle of Ko Samui or the insanity of the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan. The island caters to more wealthy divers rather than travelers on a budget. As a result, you won’t find any affordable food vendors here. There are little ocean currents, and there are several diving sites, dive shops, dive schools, and resorts. Activities other than diving are becoming more popular, and the cuisine and nightlife are among the finest in the Gulf of Thailand.
Ko Tao is a tiny island of around 21 km2 that attracts over 100,000 people each year. This is a large number of visitors for a tiny island with minimal sanitary facilities. Everything that cannot be burnt must be transported to the mainland. There is no sanitation agency to keep the roads and other public spaces clean, so don’t drop your trash carelessly. Avoid using the superfluous plastic bags that are handed out blindly with almost every transaction. Don’t squander water or power, which are both limited resources.
The peak seasons in Ko Tao are December-March and July-August. It is also a favorite location among Thais, therefore Thai vacations might be practically completely booked.