Samui Wining & Dining
Koh Taen – the mapmaker’s secret getaway spot.

Koh Taen – the mapmaker’s secret getaway spot.Once they’ve been to Koh Taen (it’s also referred to as Koh Tan), holidaymakers are always glad they went. But they’re also bemused that this small island is so unknown, when other tourist attractions seem to bask in permanent limelight. If there are marketing mysteries, this is surely one of them. The 7.5 square kilometre island is as beautiful as it is unknown. It seems to have totally escaped development. Even many repeat visitors to Samui haven’t heard of Koh Taen, and most people who live on Samui have never been there. Strangely it’s not included on many maps of Samui and seems to be a victim of cartographical amnesia. Yet when you drive through the south of the island, you can clearly see it offshore from the village of Thong Krut. Large as life, the island looms very close to the shores of Samui. From the beach, all that can be seen is the island itself, looking suitably mysterious with its forested hills, all dark green, temptingly close. Not much else can be seen.


Once you’re in Thong Krut, a small beachside village, you can see that there are quite few tours that operate out to the island, which can be booked through travel agents. Most tours operate a day or half-day excursion, but the cheapest way to get there is to take a taxi boat from the small pier at Thong Krut. One way tickets cost just 200 baht per adult and 100 baht per child (4 to 11 years old).


On the island itself, you’ll find some chalets where you can book rooms, and there are places to eat, too. You’ll also see abandoned houses, and signs that the island was once much more thriving than it is today. Not so long ago, in the 1960s, it was home to some 500 people and had its own school; today those numbers are less than 30. What happened? The inhabitants left for Koh Samui and its ever-growing tourist industry.Koh Taen – the mapmaker’s secret getaway spot.It’s made Koh Taen a real hideaway spot, and if you’re looking to get away from crowds, then this is the place to head.


From the landing spot, a path meanders along the coast in both directions. If you go south you will come to the island’s main attraction, a dense mangrove wood. Islanders have built a kind of boardwalk that takes you through the trees which grow directly out of the sea. It’s very atmospheric; the shady trees are a little world of their own.


If you take the same path to the north, you soon come to the island’s celebrated bat cave. Head inside and you’ll see the bats asleep, upside down and completely silent. All that changes at dusk, when the bats shoot out of the cave and head for Koh Samui to find food. It’s worth watching, if a little creepy. For dogs, it’s said to be unbearable; Koh Taen is also popularly known as ‘Island of No Dogs’, as the sound of the bats drives them mad. However, that said, you can sometimes see stray dogs there.


Most people who visit Koh Taen will partake in swimming or snorkelling. The island has some beautiful beaches with strips of white sand, and they are usually deserted. Paths and tracks traverse the island if you like walking, but it can be very arduous.
Koh Taen – the mapmaker’s secret getaway spot.The heat is a factor that keeps many people close to the landing spot. For some reason, many forget to bring enough sunscreen with them, and there are relatively few amenities offering respite from the sun.


Things may change, but it doesn’t look like any time soon, and Koh Taen doesn’t have the facilities that most of Samui has. However, when it comes to food and drink, there’s quite a variety available, and the island even has an international restaurant, Au Bout du Monde.


If you’ve chosen to go on a tour, many opt to have lunch on Koh Taen, and often you can visit the neighbouring island of Koh Matsum too. It’s even quieter than Koh Taen while being every bit as beautiful. Or your trip may take in the rocky islets called Koh Si Koh Ha, which translates as Four Five Islands – due to their positions it’s almost always impossible to see all five at the same time. The tours also offer lunch and cool drinks along the way. Usually they’ll pick you up from your hotel and take you back there. Alternatively, you can head to Thong Krut yourself, stopping off in the scenic village of Ban Taling Ngam and via the quiet and picturesque road that starts just south of Nathon and brings you round to Ban Hua Thanon.


Everything about Koh Taen is enjoyable, and going there is highly recommended. After experiencing it, you’ll definitely be inspired to search out more unknown islands. Fortunately, Samui is part of a massive archipelago, and some 70 islands await your discovery.


Dimitri Waring


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