Snorkeling? Scuba diving? Sign us up.
We love Thailand, and we’ve visited the country several times. This trip, we included a visit to Koh Tao.
Koh Tao is reputed to have some of Thailand’s best snorkeling and diving.
“Cavort with sharks and rays in a playground of tangled neon coral,” says Lonely Planet of Koh Tao.
So on our recent island visit, we decided to book a “big boat” Koh Tao snorkeling day trip.
A gazillion little “tour shops” tucked into the sides of the main sandy street in Mae Haad town (a 10-minute walk from our beachfront bungalow resort) hawk these Koh Tao snorkeling and diving tours. We thought we’d be clever and check out TripAdvisor and other online sites as to what would be the “best” snorkeling tour. No luck though – the Internet was slow (island life!) and helpful sites seemed woefully lacking.
Maybe we should ask?
Koh Tao snorkeling tours are all the same
“Same same,” said our enthusiastic tour seller.
And she was right. It doesn’t matter what Koh Tao snorkeling tour company or boat you pick.
The colorful wooden boats (which have shade) are all the same, and they cost the same too (though you might be able to bargain $5 off the cost).
They all go around the island, tying up side-by-side at the same snorkeling stops, hitting Mango Bay, Shark Bay (no sharks) and other “same same” spots. And they all serve the same simple “Thai” box lunch in a plastic container onboard – warm rice with a fried egg on top, accompanied by a ground pork concoction from a plastic bag, all eaten with a plastic spoon.
You’d think someone would tweak a tour so it’s a little different :-).
Where are the fish?
The snorkeling was a bit disappointing as the water wasn’t crystal clear and much of the coral is dead (it looks brown and uninteresting underwater). And we didn’t see the galaxies of fish we’d expected – just a relatively few fish.
A French couple we met on our tour also commented that their Koh Tao diving experience the previous day wasn’t very inspiring – certainly compared to what they’d seen in Mozambique and the Dead Sea around Egypt.
Too many people!
Our last stop was a small private island, Koh Nang Yuan (which is actually three little islands connected by sand spits), where you have to pay an extra fee.
Koh Nang Yuan is stunning in its natural beauty.
And it has a shady bar and restaurant, very popular for its welcome cold beer and drinks.
But it was BUSY! There must have been over 1,000 people vying for space to drop a towel on the sand or hide from the burning sun under one of the limited numbers of teeny umbrellas.
Overall, what we got was a pleasant scenic boat tour around the whole island of Koh Tao (very good value for about $25 USD p.p.). And if we hadn’t signed up for the snorkeling, we’d forever wonder what we had missed there…