Koh Tao Island
One of the most famous scuba diving destinations in Asia, not just Thailand. Koh Tao Island, which translates from Thai to English as ‘Turtle Island’, is home to two species of indigenous turtles, the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle. Although the name Turtle Island actually comes from the shape of the island viewed from the approach from the neighboring island of Koh Phangan. When you are traveling on the ferry take a look and see if you can recognize the shape.
Where can you see them on Koh Tao Island?
You have a great chance to see a turtle whilst enjoying scuba diving during your open water course on Koh Tao island as there are several resident turtles. 84 named individuals at the last check. There are probably a few more than that. Some turtles will use Koh Tao as a stopping point before swimming off for new adventures. Just like ourselves and some will stay for a day, a week or even longer. Koh Tao is a great island to stay on, not just for people!
If you see them in their natural habitat turtles are usually calm and will allow a respectful scuba diver to come quite close and can then be observed eating algae, and swimming along the reefs. If you are lucky, you see them heading to the surface to take a breath before descending for a further meal!
How to tell them apart
Each turtle has a distinct pattern of scales along its face much like the fingerprint on a human. If you get a photo of the left side of the turtle’s face you can submit the image for identification. You can send them to the Facebook page Koh Tao Turtles. You can find the name of your turtle or if it has not been unidentified you can choose the name. Without photo or video evidence, it is still possible for you to identify the species of turtle? There is an online Sea Turtle ecology course you can take if you are interested.
The Hawksbill turtle has a distinctive beak-shaped face with 2 pairs of prefrontal scutes (the scales on the front of the face in between their eyes). The carapace (or shell) is also distinctive with an elliptical shape with the scutes (or scales) overlapping and a jagged edge. These can be worn smooth in older individuals.
The Green turtle has a rounded face with only one pair of prefrontal scutes. The carapace is rounded or oval with scutes that abut (do not overlap) and a smooth edge.
Do you want to see a turtle then book your dives with us! Either a 1 day try scuba diving or the open water course to get your diving license. You will have the biggest smile on your face afterward and stories to tell your friends and family.
You do need to be lucky to see them though. The best place to see them is at Shark Bay in the south of the island. There are at least 10 that go there regularly to feed on the soft corals and algae. Some of them are quite big. Please remember not to touch them or harass them. Just let them do their own thing and they will not swim away. After all, you wouldn’t want to be harassed while eating your dinner.