Sailing Thailand – Koh Tao / Turtle Island
Koh Tao – The Paradise Island
Koh Tao is a small island about 70 kilometers off of the eastern shore of Thailand. It is only 21 square kilometers with large elevation changes. Along the shores of Koh Tao are numerous bays and small beaches, some without any sign of human development. Underneath the water, are countless coral reefs with swirling schools of fish, sea turtles and even the occasional whale shark.
History of Koh Tao
Koh Tao was first charted in the mid-1600s, labeled “PuloBardia”. However, it was named Koh Tao by its first settlers. Translated from Thai, Koh Tao means “Turtle Island” referring to the islands geographical resemblance to a turtle. Coincidentally, the island has been a long time mating ground for Hawksbill and Green Turtles. In early times, Koh Tao was mostly uninhabited, visited only by an occasional fisherman or sailor looking for safe harbor. On June 18th, 1899 the then King of Siam, King Chulalongkorn, visited Koh Tao and left his monogram on a giant boulder near Sairee beach. After more than one hundred years, this monogram can still be seen today! In 1933, the island was designated as a political prison and was used as such until 1947, when Khun Khuang Abhaiwongse arranged for a royal pardon to be given to all prisoners on the island. Once again, Koh Tao became free from human presence.
However, in the same year two brothers, KhunUaem and Khun Oh, made landfall on Koh Tao after having sailed from KohPhangan on their traditional sailboat. At this time point in time, the trip KohPhangan was an extremely long and dangerous voyage. Even so, they brought their families over and began to cultivate the island, harvesting coconuts, growing crops and fishing. The two brothers and their families became the first generation of permanent inhabitants on the island.
The first foreign travelers began visiting Koh Tao in the 1980’s and by the 1990’s the island was known as a popular scuba diving destination. Today, Koh Tao is a popular alternative to the larger and more hectic islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.
Koh Tao Today
Today, Koh Tao is a popular destination for travelers trying to escape the crowds of tourists in KohPhangan and KohSamui. The island is most well known for scuba diving, being home to over a hundred different dive courses available in many different languages. However, there are many other activities catering to the active lifestyle such as yoga, crossfit, muythai kickboxing, rock climbing, motocross, hiking, snorkeling, cliff jumping and even a flying trapeze center. One of the best ways to explore the island is not by land but by water. Sailing offers a quiet and unique to explore the beautiful island of Koh Tao and gives you the ability to visit the few small bays and inlets that have no signs of human development
The main attraction for tourists is the 1.7 kilometer long Sairee beach, located on the West side of the island. The beach is lined with restaurants, dive centers, beach resorts and bars. Longtails, kayaks, paddleboards and even sailboats can be rented along the beach. At sunset, beautiful orange colors are cast onto the water and you can see the red globe of the sun sink into the horizon. The bars that dot the beach arrange lounging mats and beanbag chairs from which you can watch this amazing spectacle. As night falls fire dancers put on shows outside many of the bars. These can be seen all up and down the beach as the fire dancers toss their flaming batons high into the air. If you look up into the night sky you can see the glow of many fire lanterns ascending to the stars.
Discover Koh Tao on the Water
Due to the multitude of dive shops there are many ways to discover the island under the water, but not many ways to discover it on the water. Fortunately, Island Cruises offers unique ways of discovering the island by sail, a much nicer alternative to taking a loud, smelly longtail boat or a group tour on a converted fishing vessel.
If you would like to go sailing for an hour or two, we have three small sailing dinghies that are available for rent. Our fleet includes a Hobie Getaway (a catamaran designed for 4 to 6 people), 3 Laser standard (a popular one person racing dinghy) and a Zuma (a one person training dinghy). Together these boats provide a safe and fun sailing experience in any wind conditions. They are located in the south of Sairee beach, in front of Flower restaurant, next to Maya beach club. You can rent any of these for an hour, an afternoon or even a whole day. Even when there is not much wind, peering into the crystal clear water as you glide over the colorful reefs can be a lot of fun. If there is wind, you can even try sailing around the entire island of Koh Tao if you rent a boat for the day!
Don’t know how to sail? Enroll in our five day learn to sail course, which will teach you everything you need to know in order to sail a small boat effectively and safely on your own. Don’t know if sailing is for you or just want to try it out? Come down for a private hour-long lesson or three hour introduction to sailing lesson!
If you are more interested in sailing on a larger boat come out and join us on a sunset sail on Freedom Fargo, our forty-foot sailing yacht. Leaving at two and sailing until past sunset gives you more than enough time to enjoy a few drinks and being out on the water.
If you are interested in learning how to sail larger yachts you can sign up for our Ocean Hiker Competent Crew course on Freedom Fargo. This introduces you to the basics of yacht sailing including sail trimming and handling, meteorology, anchoring and mooring, emergency procedures and much more. This course can be shore-based or you can totally immerse yourself by choosing the live-aboard option! This course typically lasts five days and by the end you will have logged at least 100 nautical miles fulfilling the international standards to certify you as a competent crew.
Island Cruises also offers of variety of charters that give you full use of our yachts. Our full day charter on Freedom Fargo offers you a fully open and customizable itinerary around Koh Tao. Explore some of the unique bays that dot the coastline and make sure you take full advantage of the snorkeling gear on board the yacht. In addition to the amazing reefs for snorkeling, some of these bays provide cliff-jumping areas for the more adventurous.
Island Cruises also offers longer charters ranging from 3 days to up to 21 days. These charters give you the freedom to truly explore the gulf of Thailand to the fullest extent. Popular destinations include Koh Phangan, home of the famous “Full Moon Party” and KohSamui, the largest of the three islands.
For those looking to truly escape into nature, take a trip through the Ang Thong Marine National park. Ang Thong is a group of approximately forty islands spread over 97 square miles, characterized by unique limestone formations that rise anywhere from 10 to 400 meters above sea level.
More Information about Sailing Thailand & Live aboard Diving
More Information about our sailing courses: Sailing Courses in Thailand.
If you would like more details about our dinghy and yacht sailing courses in Koh Tao or you maybe have a general question about sailing courses or sailing Thailand, please don’t hesitate to contact Island Cruises here.