Photo: Just hanging out.

Turtle conservation on Ko Tao

Our rating:

Ko Tao may be named after the turtle, but this is due to the island’s shape, rather than an abundance of real live turtles. There is however a place you can see them – and support a worthy cause while you are at it.

Research suggests that there once were quite a few turtles coming to Ko Tao’s beaches to nest, but as the number of visitors rose over the years, turtle numbers declined. The island does see still see three species of turtles – Green, Hawksbill, and Olive Ridley – and if you’re diving or snorkelling (and in luck) you may well see one.

In an ideal world. Photo taken in or around Turtle conservation on Ko Tao, Ko Tao, Thailand by Ayesha Cantrell.

In an ideal world. Photo: Ayesha Cantrell

As a part of a turtle conservation project, rather than being released when still babies, turtles are instead kept for a year in simulated natural conditions through a process called "head-starting". The aim of this is to reduce the mortality of juvenile turtles by essentially releasing a one-year old healthy turtle rather than a baby.

Turtles are kept in marine tanks at New Heaven Dive School in Chalok Ban Khao. They’re fed raw fish daily between 16:00 and 17:00 and as there is no zoo-like barrier, you can really get up close and personal – though you are not allowed to handle or touch the turtles in any way – and watch them swim around, chase each other, snap, eyeball you or generally laze around in the flow of the water. The centre is open to visitors daily 08:00 to 19:00.

According to the New Heaven website, they receive new turtles around the middle of June, and begin releasing them in October. Depending on the starting size of the sea turtles, most will be released by the following January or February.

This is a grassroots project undertaken out of love for the ocean and its inhabitants and the project really needs the support of visitors. While there is no entry charge and the team will take their time to chat to you about turtles, their survival and progress – you will see their passion, dedication and excitement.

Donations are welcome and as this is just one of the many marine conservation projects New Heaven is involved in, this seems like a good spot to make a contribution.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to support independent travel writing on Southeast Asia, please subscribe to Travelfish—it’s just A$35 per year (less than A$1 per week)!

By .

Start planning your holiday today

Sent every Monday, our newsletter is full of travel advice, news & special deals. Read past issues.


Location map for Turtle conservation on Ko Tao

Popular attractions in Ko Tao

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Ko Tao.

Best places to stay in Ko Tao

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Ko Tao.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Tao.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Tao.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Ko Tao.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Tao, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Tao? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.

See below for more sights and activities in Ko Tao that are listed on

Top of page

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Ko Tao? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

Top of page