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How to Visit Shark Bay to Snorkel with Sharks & Turtles: Koh Tao

How to Visit Shark Bay to Snorkel with Sharks & Turtles: Koh Tao

How to visit Shark Bay? Finding the best way into this bay can be a little confusing but a trip to Koh Tao would not be complete without a snorkel here.

This rugged and wild part of the coastline is located on Koh Tao’s Southside and gets it name from the Blacktip Reef Sharks that call this bay home, but they are not alone many Turtles can also be found swimming just off the shore.

There is no better feeling than being in the water surrounded by tons of fish then spotting a Blacktip swimming amongst the reef, if you are lucky they will be young and inquisitive giving you a good chance to have a real close-up view!

Make sure to save this guide and use the tips throughout to ensure you know how to get to Shark Bay, where to head to spot the Sharks & Turtles and the best times to visit.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and purchase something I have recommended I will earn a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay but helps me to keep Travels by Izzy going.

The Complete Guide to Visiting Shark Bay

How to Visit Shark Bay

Visiting Shark Bay should be on everyone’s agenda if you want to spot one of the Blacktip Reef Sharks or Turtles that call this island home.

There are four different options to get to Shark Bay, throughout this guide I will run you through each one and what pros/cons each option has.

Free Beach to Shark Bay Cafe

Located on the south side of Shark Bay is a small beach, on this beach you can find ‘Free Beach to Shark Bay‘ Cafe.

‼️ Note that you can only see this cafe on Google maps so ensure you are using this map to find your way.

The easiest way to reach this cafe is by scooter, however, you can also get a taxi or walk there depending on where your accommodation is on Koh Tao.

💡 You can find scooters to rent all over the island from various rental shops or speak to your accommodation and they will probably be able to assist you in finding one. 

You will know when you have arrived at Free Beach to Shark Bay Cafe because you will see scooters parked up on the road before you reach Koh Tao Relax Resort, look out for the sign on the left hand side, you can use my images below to help you find your way.

Once you have arrived follow the path down through the jungle to the beach, when you get to the beach you will see the cafe, here they offer food and drinks and have snorkel gear for you to rent.

Make sure to buy something from them if you plan on using any of their seating areas, you can find plastic chairs on the rocks, beanbags and cushions scattered all around.

Haadtien Beach Resort

Another way to reach Shark Bay from land is by driving to Haadtien Beach Resort, this resort is located on a different road towards Hat Sai Daeng Beach and is situated perfectly on the white sandy beach at Shark Bay.

Once you arrive at the resort just park up and follow the signs to Shark Bay.

‼️ Visiting from this resort however, is not free. Entry is 100 THB per person so be prepared to pay this on arrival.

Shark Bay Main Beach

Taxi Boat

Another great option to get to Shark Bay is to arrange a taxi boat directly to the bay, you can do this either through your accommodation or you can find them from the pier or Sairee beach.

One benefit of the taxi boat is that it brings you right out into the deeper ocean without having to swim all the way there.

From here you have a better chance of seeing an adult Blacktip Reef Shark or Turtle.

💡 However, you will have to bear in mind that the sound of the engine when you arrive in the Shark Bay could scare quite a lot of the marine life away.

Shark Bay Ocean

Oxygen Snorkelling Tour

If you would like to visit Shark Bay and many other spots around the island but do not have a scooter or much time, then the Oxygen Snorkelling Tour is a great option.

This way you will see Koh Nangyuan Island, Mango Bay, Hin Wong Bay, Aow Luek Bay and Shark Bay!

Throuhgout this trip you will see tons of vibrant coral, colourful fish and if you are lucky a Blacktip Reef Shark & Turtle.

🙋🏻‍♀️ Whilst this is a great option to see a wider variety of marine life, if your main goal is to see a Blacktip Reef Shark then I wouldn’t reccomend the Oxygen Snorkelling Tour as you will arrive later in the afternoon when it is rarer to spot a Shark as it’s usually very busy from other tours.

Best Time to Visit Shark Bay to Snorkel With a Blacktip Reef Shark

If you are serious about spotting a Blacktip Reef Shark in Shark Bay then the best time to visit is first thing in the morning.

The closer you can visit to sunrise the better!

🙋🏻‍♀️ When we visited and saw 5 Blacktip Reef Sharks we arrived at 8 am and there were only about 3 other people there snorkelling, I returned later that day to take photos as I didn’t take my phone with me in the morning – this was at around 1 pm and you can see just how busy this small little beach gets from the photo below!

Shark Bay Beach

Where in Shark Bay to Find The Sharks & Turtles

These inquisitive animals can be found just a short swim away from the beach in the shallow reef, the shallower you are the higher your chances are of seeing a juvenile Blacktip, ranging from a foot long to about a metre.

If you want to try and spot an adult Blacktip then head straight out and just keep swimming until you get to about 5 to 6 metres depth.

Here you will leave the shallow warm waters of the reef and will find a bed of mostly bleached coral, this is also the best spot in Shark Bay to spot a Turtle.

Quick Facts about Blacktip Reef Sharks

  • Easily distinguished by the black tip found on their dorsal fins and tail
  • They are a relatively small species of shark ranging from 5 to 6 feet when fully grown
  • Often found in shallow warmer waters in the Indo-Pacific region
  • They can swim incredibly fast of speeds up to 20 miles per hour
  • Blacktips are a social type of shark and often remain in groups or schools to help them hunt
  • Their lifespan often ranges from 10/12 years in the wild
  • Whilst they are not seen as a dangerous species Blacktips can approach divers out of curiousity and are rarely a threat unless provoked.
  • Blacktips are classified as ‘Near Threat’ by the IUCN due to habitat degradation and overfishing

Quick Facts about Green & Hawksbill Turtles

  • The Turtles you can find in Shark Bay are Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles
  • Both Turtles look similar however Hawksbill have a sharp and prominent beak
  • Green Turtles are mostly herbivores eating just seagrass and algae – they eat so many greens that it turns their fat green which is where they get their name of Green Turtle
  • Green Turtles can hold their breath for up to 5 hours and only females will ever return back to land but only when its time to lay their eggs
  • Green Turtles have existed for more than 110 million years! They used to hang with the dinosaurs
  • Hawksbill Turtles help to maintain the coral reefs by eating their competition – sea sponges
  • Hawksbill Turtles are the smallest of all the sea turtles
  • Hawksbill Turtles prefer shallow waters along rocks or coral reefs – you will rarely see them any deeper than 65 metres

Best Time of Year to Visit Shark Bay

Koh Tao has 4 main seasons, they are cool and dry, hot and dry, hot and wet and monsoon season.

The best time to visit and the most popular on the island is generally the hot and dry season which tends to run from January to May. The island can get very busy during this time and due to its small size accommodation can easily all get booked up so make sure to book in advance if you can.

However, if you are mainly visiting the island to dive visibility under the ocean surface can reach up to 30 meters in July, August and September – although this is the wet season.

Where to Stay on Koh Tao

Luxury: Sensi Paradise Beach Resort

Overlooking Mae Haad Beach, Sensi Paradise Beach Resort is close enough to everything you need while still feeling as if you are in a secret oasis. Sensi Paradise offers bungalows that all feature private balconies with garden, pool or sea views. All the bungalows are equipped with fridges, tea and coffee-making facilities, mosquito nets, shower facilities, bathrobes, slippers and ensuite bathrooms. The hotel can book private fishing and snorkelling tours for you as well as assist with booking diving and transportation. The beachfront restaurant offers a complimentary buffet breakfast as well as Western and Thai-style lunch and dinner. Check out my full guide to discover more about Sensi Paradise Beach Resort.

Mid-range: The Ozo

This 3* hotel offers everything you need to feel like you are getting a little bit of luxury while not breaking the bank. There are 5 different room options to suit each budget, each one has a balcony with views over the pool and jungle-covered mountain behind. Room service is available and air conditioning, TV, safety deposit box, private bathroom, fridge and toiletries.

Budget: Blue Chitta

Located above the Blue Chitta Yoga Studio and the newly opened Prana Cafe, Blue Chitta Hostel has 18 beds made up of 2 rooms, a 10-bedroom dorm and an 8-bedroom dorm. These dorms are finished beautifully to ensure you have a relaxing and enjoyable stay, there are no bunks and each bed has privacy curtains, shelves to keep your belongings, lockers and air conditioning. It is also perfectly located to catch the sunset and you have access to Mae Head beach through a neighbouring resort. Due to its location and its encouragement for you to join the meditation and yoga classes and workshops, this is a very relaxed and chilled-out hostel. Please note that they do not tolerate drinking, smoking and loud behaviour so please ensure you only book if you want to relax and enjoy the well-being vibe!

Final Thoughts

I have visited Shark Bay three times before and have not spotted a Blacktip Shark, only Turtles.

However, once I used the tips that I have given you in my full guide above, i.e. visiting just after sunrise and exploring both the deep and shallow waters we saw 5 Blacktips Reef Sharks (1 adult, 3 juveniles and 1 baby) as well as a huge turtle!

I highly recommend visiting Shark Bay to experience swimming with a Shark if that is something you’d love to cross off your bucket list in Koh Tao.

I hope this How to Visit Shark Bay Guide helps you find it smoothly and allows you the incredible opportunity to swim with one of the world’s most revered marine creatures.

Cafe at Shark Bay

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