Today marks the start of the 13th annual Koh Tao Festival. The Festival is an amazing event organised each year by the Save Koh Tao group and the local community.
For over a decade, this festival has been the highlight of the year’s activities and parties on Koh Tao, with two nights of live music and DJs, food stalls, performances, dancing, and much more.
The last few years the festival has drawn a crowd of over 3,000 people, and raised about 2 Million THB per year for local social and environmental projects.
Since 2013 the festival has been held on June 18th and 19th. These dates are significant because that is also the date when His Majesty King Rama IV visited Koh Tao over 114 years ago, and signed his name in a rock on Sairee beach.
The rock is now called Rama Rock.
Environmental Awareness – Land, Marine & Education
The festival is a great party, but it is much more than just that. It is a way to raise awareness, for both locals and visitors, of the environmental problems our island faces as well as increase participation in local conservation projects to raise necessary funds for the three branches of the Save Koh Tao Group: Land, Marine, and Education.
In addition to all the fun activities, we also release around 150 juvenile or rehabilitated sea turtles into the sea, put 1,000 baby giant clams into nurseries under the sea, clean beaches and roads, conduct underwater clean-ups, host lectures by well known environmental researchers, and much more.
For two days and two nights, this environmental festival literally takes over the island, with the whole community coming out to get involved.
Every year we host the ‘Save Koh Tao Underwater Festival’ which celebrates our local community on ‘Turtle Island’. This festival includes the dive community, local businesses, schools, conservation groups and local services such as Koh Tao Rescue.
Every year we attempt to break some kind of record (e.g. most divers in the water), however we have realized that this is having a huge impact on our coral and it isn’t involving all of our community.
This year we hope to attempt our first ‘on land’ world record and intend to join our entire community together by holding hands to reach from one side of the island to the other.
This is more than just a record attempt, this is an attempt to bring our community closer so that we can live and work together in harmony.
There is also a trash sculpture competition, the idea being to create sculptures of marine life, made majority from waste materials. There are two prizes to be won; 10,000 THB will be given to the best sculpture voted by the public on the day, then 7,000 THB will go to the most creative voted by a panel of environmental judges.
The panel will look not only at the how they used the materials, but also its possible use after the festival. (e.g underwater structure, or furniture.)
Only the skeleton and base of the sculpture, can be made from new materials.
Sculpture must be no smaller than 1.5m x 1.5m, but can be large enough to fill a space 3m x 3m.
If the sculptures width is less than 1.5m, it must be compensated in length, to fill more of the space given.
A display of pictures showing where the majority of the materials were collected from, must be attached to the sculpture.
Number of people per team is unlimited.
Avoid using toxic materials to decorate the sculpture (e.g paints).
Spike & Smash – Beach Volleyball
For the first time there is a Knockout Volleyball tournament, where many different dive schools, businesses and teams will compete to be the best on the island.
Team Crystal has been practicing for the last couple of months. ‘Work hard, play hard’ is our team motto. Staff and students can be found on the beach in front of our bar playing ball until the sun goes down each evening. The games start on the 16th at 1pm, so come on down to the festival grounds to show Team Crystal your support!
The Crystal family loves to get involved, each year doing something different. Previous years have seen our staff and DMTs in the Mr and Mrs Koh Tao Contest and many different performances.
Watch the full video of the 2014 performance here.
After all, the festival is called the ‘Save Koh Tao’ Festival, so here are some tips on how you can minimize your negative impact on the local environment.
When buying souvenirs, exclude items that are made from materials such as shells, coral etc.
Apply sunscreen at least 1 hour before swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Some contain materials that are harmful for marine life.
Avoid using plastic bags. These can make their way into the sea and disguise themselves as food for marine life such as turtles and whalesharks. Many turtles die every year from eating plastic bags.
Avoid eating at restaurants that serve endangered animals such as sharks. Continuing to support these establishments aids in the support the shark fin trade as well as the exploitation of other endangered animals.
Author: Nina Horne (PADI MSDT #355693)