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Koh Tao is an island in Thailand, located near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand.
Administratively, the island is part of Surat Thani province, in the district (Amphoe) Ko Pha Ngan.
All boats dock at Mae Haad, a small village with only a few bars and shops. The most popular place is Sairee's beach. Sairee's white sandy beach stretches about 1.7km over most of the west coast, interrupted only by a few huge boulders.
The island is well known for scuba diving. Unlike Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao is not yet developed and thus not flooded with tourists, although becoming increasingly popular.
The main street at Ko Tao.In the past several years development on Koh Tao has boomed. As of this writing (Dec05), Koh Tao has about 150 resorts offering accommodation and probably near 50 bars/clubs. Most of the resorts are still bungalow-style, not hotel/resort style. The massive growth can be attributed mainly to the Scuba Diving market which continues to appeal mainly to the mid-20's backpacker crowd. Accommodation prices are still much lower than nearby Koh Samui. Most dive shops offer scuba diving PADI certification classes as well as hostel/bungalow accommodation. Accommodation rates drop significantly upon registering for scuba classes. Typical open water certification classes run around $200-250 (8000-10000 Baht) and last 3-5 days.
Koh Tao is serviced by about 6 different ferry services. Due to the terrain of the island, there is no airport, and it's unlikely one will ever be able to be built there. This adds to the welcomed remote feel of the island for many of its long time residents.
The island does have cell phone towers, internet access and ATMs, all added within the last 3 years.
Internet access is expensive, running at 120baht per hour.
95% of all traffic on the island is motorbike, with mopeds and dirt bikes being the main mode of transport. Mopeds can be rented for around $5 (200 Baht) per day.
Almost all roads are dirt roads, with few exceptions. However, new roads are being paved at a quick rate.
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Koh Tao is a great place for divers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Koh Samui and want more than the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan. Koh Tao is a great place to learn how to dive. There are hardly any currents and you have to travel in a boat for at least an hour to find depths deeper than 40 meters.
Take a bike around the island. Shark Bay is a good place to go snorkeling for the day (don't worry too much about sharks, they are only small black-tip reef sharks).
However, to see the best places, go by foot as some are inaccessible to motorists.
Scuba diving is by far the biggest attraction on Koh Tao. Diving in Koh Tao is easy, fun, and you can see turtles, stingrays, barracudas, lots of small fish, reef sharks, and there is a very small chance of seeing a whale shark.
Nearly any time of the year except November is good diving weather in Ko Tao, In November, the visibility is reduced and the seas are choppy, but diving is good by the standards of many other destinations.
When diving is good, the visibility can be 40+ meters. Average visibility is around 15-20 meters.
There are a huge number of dive operators on the island, many offering budget accommodation (sometimes described as "free" accommodation, but this is not really true as you will usually get a discount if you stay elsewhere). Currently (2006) the price for PADI open water certification including the new PADI training manual, professional instruction, rental equipment, boat dives, and certification is around 10,000 baht; insurance and basic accommodation may also be included. Shop around as not all shops teach the in the same way. Look for experienced dive instructors instead of a low price.
A common method for teaching new divers is to train in a pool first by being taught about 20 basic skills before being taken out into the open water. Others will instead take you to a private beach so you will see fish and coral from the start (you can also squeeze an extra dive in this way). Also try and find a shop with a private pier as many others will make you climb across several boats at the main pier. Find out maximum number of dive students in a group. These are the little things that will make the difference between an OK course and a great one.