One of the newest additions to Thailand’s western Mu Koh Similan Marine National Park is Ko Ta Chai (Tachai Island), and it may just be the most easily accessible too. For decades the impeccably clear waters of Thailand’s Andaman Islands have lured divers with colorful protected wildlife, including whale sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, quirky frog fish, ornate harlequin shrimp and hundreds of species of reef fish. Only recently, however, have travelers and day tour operators, put uninhabited and less-than-a-square-mile Tachai Island on the map. While geographically distinct from its famous cohort—Tachai is about halfway between the largest northern cluster of Similan Islands and the Surin Islands to the south—it shares the region’s renowned palm-fringed, white sandy beaches and wildlife. In fact, some say Tachai’s coral and chances of spotting mantas or whale sharks are superior. It also really is a lot more accessible; Tachai is only an hour-and-a-half speedboat ride from coastal Khao Lak.
Most visitors to Tachai Island come via a full-day organized snorkeling or diving tour from popular Phuket. Once on the island, expansive sandy refuges and an interior jungle await. Still blissfully remote, the only things to do here besides snorkel and dive are relax, swim, enjoy a Thai picnic and take a light trek to discover the island’s land-wandering hermit and unique “chicken” crabs before hopping on the boat back home.
The best time to visit is between December and April when the water is the clearest and tours run regularly. Many day-trip boats depart from Khao Lak, but some tours will include the almost two-hour transfer from Phuket in the south. Proof of dive certification is required for certified dive trips. As a member of the Mu Koh Similan National Marine Park, Tachai Island visitors will be required to pay the approximately $20 USD park entrance fee; this is often incorporated into tour prices.