Koh Samui's nearest Neighbor
Although people are apt to think of Koh Phangan as Koh Samui's nearest neighboring island, a case could be made that it is actually Koh Tan. It is an island that is 7.5 sq km in size and contains a small village. Koh Tan is often referred to as Coral Island due to its once spectacular off-shore corals.
Koh Tan is the largest island in a group of islands that include Koh Mudsum, Koh Raab, Koh Wang Nok and Koh Wangnai. These islands are reached via longtail boat from the southern pier of Thong Krut on Thong Tanote beach. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the small archipelago.
As you can see from the picture opposite Koh Tan has a distinctive shape. There is a curving headland that makes a large natural bay area.
There are a few tour operators that do trips out to the islands. They usually head for Koh Tan first. Tourists enjoy snorkeling and get the opportunity to explore the village on the island.
Koh Tan or Coral Island used to be famous for its snorkeling as it was surrounded by corals. However, due to global warming and the consequent rising of sea temperature levels coral bleaching has occurred which has killed a lot of the coral. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of fish to spot snorkeling.
Koh Tan is an island without cars or motorbikes. The main village is inland and involves a short trek. The highlight of a trip to the village is seeing s 7 meter whale skeleton at 'Bor Muang Sanctuary'.
The inhabitants of Koh Tan survive through coconut cultivation, fishing and tourism. They also help to conserve the mangrove swamps that are another tourist attraction of the island.
According to local legend no dogs are allowed on the island because any dog that does step foot on Koh Tan will go mad, wail and howl and quickly die.
Koh Tan is the only inhabited island in the archipelago known as Katen Archipelago. Most tour groups also go to the nearby island of Koh Mudsum (also spelt Koh Matsum). As with Koh Tan it has a great beach and some good snorkeling spots. The small island has some granite cliffs that overhang the water that are good for kayaking. Koh Mudsum is also famous for its seaweed which the Thai government is trying to preserve in this area.
Note on Tours to Koh Tan and Koh Mudsum
Tours leave Thong Krut Pier at 8am or 8.30am. Obviously most tour operators include pick up and drop off as part of their package. The tours usually return at 3pm or 4.30pm. All tours include lunch and soft drinks. Some include kayaking, others a trek on Koh Tan to the central village.Tours cost about 2,000 Thai Baht per person.
The Future of Koh Tan
On the internet their is a webpage promoting 'Koh Tan Hideaway - A World Class Resort'. Obviously, it's still very much a project looking for financial backing. With the damage already suffered by the coral it seems unlikely that a new a building site on the island would do much to conserve the precious natural resources of the island.