For a small and fairly remote island of just 21km², Koh Tao nature is way more diverse than most people imagine! Whether you are snorkeling or scuba diving Koh Tao’s tropical waters, exploring the jungle hiking trails, checking out some of the island’s famous beaches and viewpoints, or rock climbing some of the granite peaks and ridges, you’re sure to see a whole heap of wildlife along the way.
If you are staying in one of Koh Tao’s main villages (Sairee, Mae Haad, or Chalok Ban Kao), it may feel at times like the island is quite built-up – and the vibrant nightlife certainly provides a while different tye of Koh Tao nature!. However, move just a short distance away from the restaurants, bars, shops and services, and you’ll see the island from a completely different perspective. From any of the island’s higher vantage points, you’ll see that Koh Tao is largely still a jungle-covered array of various green foliage, providing homes to all manner of reptiles, birds, and land mammals. Moving away from the land, golden beaches slope into crystal blue waters where extensive coral reefs surround the island, providing habitats for multiple species of vibrant tropical fish and other reef dwellers.
In any given weather season, the hillsides of Koh Tao are full of healthy plant life. From gently swaying palms, banana trees, and mango trees, to ancient banyan trees with roots that sweep over rock faces (and anything else that happens to get in their way!), there’s always something impressive to see. Areas of dense green are often punctuated by flashes of whites, pinks, and purples thanks to hibiscus, frangipani and bougainvillaea vines that also take root.
Wherever you go on Koh Tao, nature is all around you! Explore any of Koh Tao’s hiking trails and jungle paths, and you have a good chance of spotting some of the island’s rarer animals. You need good eyes, often a bit of stealth, and sometimes just a good dose of luck, but if you keep looking you will generally be rewarded. Don’t worry though, we have very few dangerous species on Koh Tao, and most of our wildlife is much more afraid of us than we are of them, so you need to be quick to spot most of the following:
Reptiles – From small newts and skinks to monitor lizards and geckos of various sizes, the undergrowth away from the well-trodden tracks and trails is alive with well-camouflaged life.
Animals – Wherever you go on the island, you can expect to bump into a few island dogs. The vast majority are well cared for and fed regularly – so don’t let them fool you! Many are allowed to roam free throughout the day and most are friendly, so there is little cause for concern and there has never been a recorded case of rabies on the island, and the Koh Tao Animal Clinic does a great job of spaying and neutering the stray population. If you explore further out of the town areas, you may see some more unexpected animals like wild boars and pigs. Koh Tao doesn’t have a native monkey population, although there are rumours that they exist in some of the most uninhabited corners of the jungle.
Snakes – Koh Tao is home to some stunning species of snakes. Some you are most likely to see include vine snakes, golden tree snakes, and common wolf snakes. Again, no need to be afraid as these are all harmless, none venomous, and most certainly likely to be more afraid than you than the other way round.
From singular sightings and family groups of lesser spotted species in quiet jungle areas to oceanic species in large formations, any twitchers out there will love exploring Koh Tao. While by no means an exhaustive list, some of the species that are regularly spotted here include buzzards, nicobar pigeons, herons, oriental dollarbills, coucals, shikra, and sea eagles.
The coral reefs of Koh Tao support a rich ecosystem of marine life. Coral reefs occupy only 0.5% of the entire ocean but support 25% of all marine life. So you can expect to see a diverse range of colourful tropical fish at whichever of Koh Tao’s beaches or bays you visit. Aside from the thriving fish populations, you may also see turtles, sharks, schools of pelagic fish, and plenty of crustaceans hiding in cracks and crevices. For more information on Koh Tao nature underwater, and trips you can take to see some, check out our pages on marine life, snorkeling, and scuba diving.