Are you ready for an adventure of a lifetime? Imagine swimming alongside sea turtles in the crystal clear waters of Koh Tao.
In this post, I’ll tell you all of the best spots to see turtles in Koh Tao, Thailand and I’ll give you all the details that you’ll need to plan your own turtle-watching excursion, including the best time of year to visit.
So grab your snorkel gear and let’s dive in!
Are There Turtles on Koh Tao?
Yes, there are turtles present in the waters around Koh Tao. In fact, Koh Tao is one of the best places in Thailand to see turtles!
You’ll get the chance to come face to face with both green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles at Koh Tao.
In fact, the name ‘Koh Tao’ literally means ‘Turtle Island’ in Thai. It was named because early settlers and fishermen thought the shape of the island resembled a turtle.
I guess the turtles seemed to dig that because they’ve made a home for themselves around the island.
Where To See Sea Turtles In Koh Tao
There’s actually several beaches across Koh Tao where you can easily see sea turtles.
In the list below I’ve covered all of the best ones including a few that not many people know about.
To get the most out of your trip and basically guarantee seeing turtles, I’d recommend joining this Koh Tao snorkeling excursion.
They take you all over the island to several spots listed in this post where you’ll get the chance to snorkel and spot turtles.
It’s absolutely the best and most cost effective way of seeing the island and its marine life (it’s pretty cheap, you’ll probably spend more on your dinner than on the tour).
So, without further ado, here’s my ultimate list of where you can see turtles in Koh Tao…
Hands down, the best place to see turtles in Koh Tao is at Shark Bay, also known as Thian Og Bay, which sits on Koh Tao’s southern tip.
Contrary to the scary sounding name, you’re not going to meet a sticky end at this bay by being eaten by a shark.
The name comes from the fact that this area is a literal haven for blacktip reef sharks (who are friendly and don’t eat humans).
You’ll get the unique opportunity to swim and snorkel with loads of baby sharks (imagine putting that on your Tinder profile!). You’ll also find lots of turtles here too.
I mean turtle sightings are basically guaranteed here so it’s not a matter of if you’ll see one but when.
Here’s exactly what snorkeling at Shark Bay looks like:
The best way to see and swim with as much marine life as possible is by joining a snorkeling excursion like this one.
Not only will you visit Shark Bay to swim with turtles and sharks, you’ll also visit 4 other top snorkeling spots in Koh Tao meaning your chances of swimming with turtles are sky high.
This tour is very reasonably priced and super highly rated so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t book onto it.
Shark Bay’s most famous resident is a green sea turtle named George.
He is one of the oldest sea turtles in the area and has been known to live at Shark Bay for many years. See if you can find him to say hi!
This bay is also one of the most beautiful on the whole island. You’ll find soft white sand and crystal clear blue waters. It’s like the stuff of dreams.
💡 Helpful Tip: There is a 50 baht entrance fee ($1.50) to enter Shark’s Bay.
Koh Nang Yuan
One of my favorite places to see turtles in Koh Tao is actually on the neighboring Koh Nang Yuan.
This tiny little island group is actually just a few minutes away by boat as it sits just off the northern tip of Koh Tao. And let me tell you, you’ll be so glad you made the journey.
It’s made up of three tiny islands that are all linked together by sandbars.
To visit for yourself, I’d recommend booking onto this Koh Nang Yuan day tour.
This tour includes transport to and from the island, several snorkeling activities and a hike up to the best viewpoint in town.
Koh Nang Yuan is actually one of the best dive sites in Koh Tao but it’s also pretty great for snorkelers too.
The best place for snorkeling here is in the so-called ‘Japanese Garden’ which is a marine paradise.
You’ll be able to swim with turtles and meet sea anemones, so many different kinds of tropical fish, Christmas tree worms, eels, rays and maybe even a giant sea clam.
It’s actually one of the most popular places for people to learn to scuba dive for the first time.
Here’s what it’s like to snorkel at Koh Nang Yuan:
The water is crystal clear here meaning spotting turtles is as easy as taking a walk in the park. It’s also fairly shallow making it ideal for beginners.
It costs 100 baht ($3) to enter the island and another 150 – 200 baht ($4.50-$6) for the boat ride over.
- Koh Nang Yuan Tour (includes snorkeling activity)
Hin Wong Bay
Hin Wong Bay is another one of the best snorkeling spots in Koh Tao where you have a high chance of seeing sea turtles.
The bay itself, which sits on Koh Tao’s eastern shore, is surrounded by boulders so keep your feet safe by wearing water shoes.
Whilst exploring the underwater world here, you’ll likely meet turtles, huge shoals of fish, sea anemones and rays.
You’ll get the chance to visit this gorgeous bay on this Koh Tao snorkeling tour. You’ll also be able to visit several other top snorkeling spots including Shark Bay.
You can see what Hin Wong Bay looks like in the video below. Pretty stunning, right?!
My favorite thing about this bay is that you don’t have to swim far to find marine life. It’s fairly shallow making it ideal for beginners or less confident swimmers in particular.
This beach is also pretty much always quiet, even during peak tourist season. Not a lot of tourists know about it.
Aow Leuk Bay
Another amazing snorkeling spot where you’re bound to see turtles is at Aow Leuk Bay on the southeastern side of the island.
In English, the name of this bay literally translates to ‘deep bay’ making it ideal for snorkeling as, even during low tide, snorkeling is still possible.
The best place to find turtles here is around the rocks and coral reefs. You’ll see tons of bright colored fish, sea turtles and maybe even a baby shark or two.
If you want to visit this bay for yourself then why not book onto this snorkeling tour.
It’s very reasonably priced given all that’s included and you’ll spend the whole day exploring the island searching for turtles.
Here’s some of the sights you can see whilst snorkeling at Aow Leuk Bay:
Not many people know about this place (it’s kinda a locals secret) meaning it never gets busy.
Expect soft white sand, crystal clear waters and a stunning enclosed bay. Turtles or no turtles, this bay is worth a visit regardless.
💡 Insider Tip: Just to let you know, you do have to pay 100 baht (~$3) to access the beach.
Sai Daeng Beach
Another one of the best places to swim with turtles in Koh Tao is at Sai Daeng Beach which sits on the southern shore.
Both edges of the beach are the best for snorkeling as you’ll find an abundance of coral here which attracts marine creatures including, you guessed it, sea turtles!
As well as turtles, you’ll likely come face to face with large schools of fish, sea anemones, Christmas tree worms (never heard of it either) and maybe even a *friendly* blacktip reef shark.
Turtles can often be spotted swimming around the bay munching on some seagrass, relaxing or playing with their other turtle friends.
Check out the stunning hawksbill turtle spotted at Sai Daeng Beach in the video below:
The best way to see them is to get out into the water either by snorkeling around the bay or heading out in a kayak (there’s several vendors nearby who can help you out).
Not a ton of people know about this beach so it’s usually pretty quiet (and I’d like to keep it that way).
It’s also incredibly beautiful and you’ll get a pretty great view of nearby Shark Island (more on that later) from the beach here.
There’s no better place to learn to scuba dive than in Koh Tao (erm, it’s kinda famous for it). You can book a 4-day Open Dive PADI Course in Koh Tao for a pretty decent price.
Another place in Koh Tao where you have a high chance of seeing turtles is at Shark Island, a tiny island that lies just off the coast of southeastern Koh Tao.
Whilst Shark Island kinda sounds like a place that you’d want to avoid at all costs (I’ve seen Jaws), you don’t need to worry as you won’t find any dangerous sharks here.
The name actually comes from the shape of the large rock that makes up most of the island. It’s shaped a bit like a shark fin.
Now I know I said you won’t find any dangerous sharks here but it is a good place to see whale sharks which are completely harmless to humans!
These huge sharks can reach up to 40 ft in length!
Take a look at the video below which shows the sorts of sights you can expect at Shark Island including a huge whale shark and turtles:
This lil island sits around 800m south of Koh Tao but it’s pretty easy to visit. Most people rent a kayak from Sai Daeng Beach which is the closest beach to Shark Island.
On one side of the island you’ll find a shallow area which is filled to the brim with bright coral.
This area is a great snorkeling spot where you’ll be able to see tons of bright tropical fish, sea turtles and rays.
💡 Insider Tip: This area is only accessible by boat or kayak. You can’t walk or drive here unfortunately but it’s worth the effort, I promise!
Another one of the best places to see sea turtles on Koh Tao is at Tanote Bay which sits on Koh Tao’s eastern shore.
This bay is super picturesque particularly because it’s surrounded by lush green hills and large boulders (some people even jump into the ocean from these rocks!).
It feels more remote and undeveloped compared with some of Koh Tao’s other beaches so it kinda feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere (which I love).
Check out the cute lil turtle spotted at Tanote Bay recently in the video below:
Tanote Bay is one of the best places to snorkel in Koh Tao as you can see a variety of bright corals, huge fish, turtles and you can even explore a shipwreck!
It’s actually one of the most reliable places to see green sea turtles on the whole island!
💡 Helpful Tip: Unlike a lot of Koh Tao’s other beaches, access to this beach is completely free.
Another one of Koh Tao’s absolute best places to swim with turtles is Jansom Bay. The snorkeling here is out of this world!
You’ll see a ton of other interesting sea life at Jansom Bay from stingrays to pufferfish and maybe even the odd octopus.
Turtles spend their days swimming around this little bay looking for some lunch. You can easily spot them from the shore or in the water.
Not a lot of tourists know about this one either so it’s usually very quiet meaning you have a better chance of seeing a turtle up close (don’t get too close though).
Take a look at the video below to see the sorts of sights you can expect at Jansom Bay:
The conditions here are absolutely perfect – soft white sand, calm & clear waters and few other tourists. What more could you want?
💡 Insider Tip: Just a heads up, you do have to pay 200 baht (around $6) to enter this bay but I promise it’s worth it!
Sai Nuan Beach
Another one of Koh Tao’s best turtle beaches is the Sai Nuan Beach which is actually made up of two beaches situated right next to each other.
This is one of the best snorkeling spots on Koh Tao for beginners as the water is super calm due to the sheltered bay and it’s pretty shallow.
You’ll come face to face with tons of marine life including cute sea turtles, tropical fish, sea horses and even the odd ray. It’s also filled with vibrant coral.
Here’s what Sai Nuan Beach looks like:
The best snorkeling spot can be found around the large rocks that line parts of the beach and lead you into the water.
This beach feels super remote, like you’re hidden away from the rest of the island.
Best Time Of Year To See Turtles In Koh Tao
The best time of year to see turtles in Koh Tao is between the months of October and March.
During these months the tide is high which makes the conditions for snorkeling and swimming in the ocean perfect.
From April to September, the tide is low which means the beaches are wider. This is ideal for beach activities like sunbathing but less ideal for swimming and snorkeling with turtles.
Having said that, it’s still possible to see turtles at any time of year in Thailand. There’s a resident population of turtles that live around Koh Tao all year long.
October to March also corresponds to Thailand’s peak tourist season as the weather is warm and dry.
Best Time of Day to See Turtles in Koh Tao
In general, the best time of day to see turtles is during the morning and early afternoon between the hours of 7AM and 2PM.
This tends to be when the turtles are most active however you can still easily see them at any time of day.
Tips For Swimming With Turtles In Koh Tao
If you want to swim with turtles in Koh Tao then there’s a few things you need to bear in mind.
All of the different turtle species present in the waters around Thailand are endangered so it’s really important that we do what we can to protect them.
Here’s a few tips for you:
- Don’t be too loud. Try to be as quiet as you can when swimming close to a turtle as loud noises may scare them.
- Don’t touch the turtle. Turtles are wild animals and should be respected.
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen. Regular sunscreen damages coral reefs which negatively impacts turtles. Wear a reef-safe sunscreen to keep the turtles safe.
- Don’t get too close to the turtle. This may scare them and they could even bite you if they get really frightened (don’t worry this is super rare!).
- Don’t feed the turtles. They don’t need any help finding food.
- Always approach the turtle from the side. This gives them a clear view of you and a clear path ahead if they want to swim onwards.
- Don’t disrupt the turtle’s natural behavior. You can enjoy the turtles by watching them do their thing but don’t disturb them.
These important tips aim to protect both you and the turtles.
So there you have it folks, that’s all the best spots to see turtles in Koh Tao!
Whether you just want to swim with these gentle giants or you want to see them in their natural habitat, you’re sure to have a pretty amazing time.
Did you know that you can also see turtles in Phuket too?
Kap kun ka for reading and happy turtle-spotting!