Nearly Died Kayaking from Ko Tao to Koh Nang Yuan

So I have looked on Google Maps and found out that my lone Kayak trip from Ko Tao to Koh Nang Yuan was about a kilometer. I was on Ko Tao for about 4 days and had gone there alone. Luckily on the ferry there I bumped in to someone (Ray) who recognised me from our hostel in Bangkok. We went to get off the boat and I immediately lost him in the crowds. I wandered down the road to the right of the pier and got to the end saw a hotel, and did this whilst I had the chance. The owner took the photos for me

ko tao graffiti

Anyway, Ray had arranged to stay in a scuba hostel, and was scuba diving every day, so I had to amuse myself during the day times. So on the second day I decided to rent a kayak for the day and see the island from the sea.

I kayaked up to the right side of the island and was able to see my piece from the sea which was funny. I kayaked through the pier and had to dodge all the massive ferries. I don’t know whether the locals were angrily shouting at me, telling me to move, or laughing at me, or all of the above. The hand signal for ‘come here’ is what I would perceive as ‘go away’ so there may have been some elements lost in translation. Either way I kayaked away from the port for fear of getting bashed by a ferry

ko tao ferry

Anyway, kayaking soon got boring so I went back to the kayak rental place and asked if I was allowed to kayak across to the island I could see. They said ‘yeh…should be ok, just watch out for boat traffic’. That there, was the worst piece of advice I have ever received. Firstly there was NO boat traffic, and secondly there were much MUCH bigger dangers involved with crossing to an adjoining island. I asked how long it would take and he answered ‘about an hour i guess’ and to his credit he was correct. It was by far the scariest hour I had whilst in Thailand.

I set off and all was fine, I had a couple of disadvantages on the way there though. Firstly the wind was pretty strong and it was blowing straight at me. At a few points on the trip, my paddle was nearly taken from me by the wind, and I only just managed to hold on with one hand. If I had lost that I would have been pretty stuffed to say the least. There was nothing but massive rocks surrounding the island and if I hadn’t drifted out to sea I would have been headed straight for them

Secondly, there were huge waves out at sea, which were going straight at me. A couple of them even broke on the front of my kayak which was terrifying to say the least. The problem is, you can’t see these HUGE waves when you are on the beach, and the calm sea at the shore is a complete deception to what is occurring out between the islands.

For a good 40 minutes, from the point when it got really wavey, I was paddling as hard as I could, riding up and down these HUGE waves. I knew full well that the only reason I could keep paddling that hard for that long was because I was in genuine fear for my life. If I stopped paddling I would be pushed back and as I looked to the land to my right it just wasn’t moving – I wasn’t getting anywhere.

So after about 50 minutes I got close to the island. I didn’t think I could carry on paddling so I lowered my paddle and decided to let myself drift towards the rocks, hoping I could jump out the boat and avoid getting smashed up by the waves. As I got closer to the rocks though I realised how FUCKING STUPID that idea was and paddled away as much as I could. There was a walkway going round and I saw people on it so I waved to them to try and get them to get help. They laughed and waved back. (note to self: find out the international signal for ‘help me, I’m fucked’ before setting out on a dangerous voyage).

So anyway I summoned my last energy reserves and made a break for the beach. I got there and collapsed on the beach. Then some ass hole waltzes up to me and demands 100B for the privelidge of being there! I walked to the bar and asked if this guy was serious and they confirmed that yes, you had to pay to visit this island. So I looked in my WATERPROOF bumbag for my money. All of which was soaked. Thanks eBay, you liar.

I went to a lifeguard and asked him if I could put my kayak on to a boat and get them to taxi me back to Ko Tao as I was fearing for my life and getting back in that kayak to paddle back to the island was about as logical as escaping from the tiger enclosure at the zoo, and then jumping back in because it’s a much shorter route back to the car. He laughed at me and told me to ‘get some food and rest, and then kayak back’. Needless to say I wanted to punch him in the head, but instead I smiled and said ‘OK’ and went to the bar for an overpriced spaghetti bolognese and a coke. I had initially planned to get drunk here and kayak back but after the harrowing journey there I was 100% NOT buying any beer.

I went to the scuba place before I left and asked them if they knew anything about kayaks. They didn’t really but I asked whether it was more safe to be kayaking with the waves behind me as I didn’t want to get tipped over. He recommended to ‘ride the waves, it should be easier to get back, and make sure not to be sideways to the wave or it would knock me over’. This was all sound advice and gave me confidence for my trip back. He also added ‘I have no idea why they (the kayak rental co.) let you come across here, the journey is so dangerous’. OK THANKS KAYAK RENTAL COMPANY

I dragged my kayak round to the beach and the life guard said hey ‘go from the pier, it will take you straight to the waves’. He was the same one who laughed at me so I was wary of taking his advice but to his credit he was right. It only required a 10 foot climb down the rusty pier, in to my boat, with the help of a lovely European couple, but hey.

The trip back was BLISS. The waves pretty much carried me and I just needed to paddle lightly and stay straight. I got back to Ko Tao in about half an hour and went straight to the kayak rental place. I asked for the guy who rented me the kayak and I said to him ‘you really shouldn’t be saying it is safe to kayak across to the island. The waves were breaking on my boat and the wind nearly took the paddle out my hand a few times, it felt so dangerous’. To which he responded by looking at me blankly and saying something along the lines of ‘hmmm, ok’.

thailand kayak


  1. Great story! Considering doing this journey as well but they need the adequate vessels, which by the sounds of it, they don’t. A simple ‘Sea Kayak’ does the job, but I would prefer and actual kayak made for the sea – they’re longer and have a rudder to help you stay true to your course. I highly doubt they even have boats like this in this country so I may have a similar experience. Great read!!!


  2. I was nearly on the floor whilst reading your blog.. so funny! I’m at ko Tao right now but will refrain from kayaking after reading your story, thank you very much ūüėČ hope u’re good!

    Greets, Siz

    Liked by 1 person

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