OUR ADVENTURES AROUND THE SOUTHERN TIP OF THE ISLAND
On Koh Tao, the biggest tourism lure is scuba diving. You get the chance to see an incredible array of fish, coral, and various sea critters. However, there’s another fantastic reward if you reverse the verticality and climb above sea level.
We stayed at The Place, which was a solid, uphill walk from Sairee Beach on the west coast of the island. On our last full day on the island, we wanted to explore the southern region of the island. We took a taxi down to Chalok Baan Kao Bay and were met with gorgeous water that was the perfect temperature. We could have spent the day here, but we were on a mission today…
We strolled down the road, heading further south, passing a bunch of tourist-centric businesses – dive shops and English-language restaurants, until we got to Freedom Beach. There wasn’t an entrance fee, but you are expected to buy a drink from the bar. This may have been due to us arriving in the shoulder season.
After taking a dip in the water and toweling off, we made our way up to the destination-of-the-day, the John-Suwan Viewpoint. As you approach the trail up, there will be someone sitting in a shack to take your 50 baht (~$1.60) entrance fee. The walk itself is about 20 minutes, winding through a jungle of trees, with a few beautiful vistas you can see through the trunks. Once you near the top, there will be ropes you can use to pull yourself up on top of boulders with.
The final stretch requires a little bit of climbing, being especially easier with a second person that can take your belongings while you ascend the rocks. What you’re rewarded with at the end is, in my opinion, the best view on the whole island.
We took a few minutes to take in our panoramic view of the island and surrounding water, before swapping pictures with a German couple that had arrived shortly after us.
*Top Tip: Wear comfortable shoes. Uncomfortable flipflops or going barefoot isn’t the best choice, in my opinion.*
The journey back down was leisurely; we stopped at a few lower viewpoints to enjoy some different vantage points. Once we were back down to street level, we decided to keep going around the island to see Aow Luk Bay (I’ve seen this spelled a million different ways.) This required backtracking a little on the street, allowing us to stop at one of the restaurants and get some noodles and coconuts to nourish us after a day at the beach and mountain.
The walk turned out to be a lot longer than we expected, leading to “I told you” stares from Rachel and “We’re almost there, just a little longer” responses from me. We eventually reached a sign for the location and after a sigh of relief, we started down the hill. We had made it! Or so we thought…
As we reached the bottom of the hill and realized there was still a significant walk ahead of us, a pickup truck comes rolling by and urges us to hop on. We did, and he drove us the rest of the way down to the parking lot for a resort where you have to pay 100 baht (~$3) to enter (they included a drink for us both in the price.)
Sidenote: All of the beaches on Koh Tao are public and free. Any entrance fees you are met with are to walk across resort property to get to them.
This was the busiest beach of the day, but I only use “busiest” for lack of a better term. There were only a handful of groups there, with the largest being a group of young guys and girls playing badminton. We had borrowed snorkel gear from The Place and wanted to see what we could find.
We swam out and took a look around the water, seeing a vast array of fish swimming around the rocks on the side, including a dozen or so rainbow-colored fish that were the highlight. Swimming between the two sides wasn’t as enjoyable. There was a small, but noticeable, accumulation of trash and fish poop that we had to swim through. Due to the time of day, the tide was rocking everything around as well.
All of the water movement and waves led Rachel to hitting her foot off of a rock and cutting it open. We immediately got out of the water (1- to treat the cut, 2- the area is known for small sharks being in the area.)
Like some sort of scene from a medical tv drama, she started ordering me through a variety of processes:
“Get the small travel towel.“
“Grab my hairtie from the bag. No, the other one.”
“Hold this here, while I wrap it.”
I felt like the significant other of Drs. Gregory House or Meredith Grey on vacation.
She eventually finished and showed a make-shift compression bandage and what she used to clean up the initial cut. We took a taxi back to our room where they had an actual first-aid kit for us to get it disinfected and re-wrapped. The rest of the evening was for relaxing before we flew off to Chiang Mai the next day.