Introducing Ko Tao
Scuba virgins from all over flock to Ko Tao to learn how to dive. Not only is this lush, pistachio-coloured island blessed with crystal clear water and trippy coral reefs shallow enough for beginners to explore; it’s also is one of the world’s cheapest and most popular places to get your open-water dive certification – only Cairns in Australia issues more PADI diving certificates each year. Diving is definitely the island’s mainstay, and on its busiest areas you can’t walk 100m without tripping over a shop. Once you choose an outfitter, there are dozens of spectacular reefs with plentiful marine life to swim through. Experienced divers should note, however, that while Ko Tao may be advertised as Thailand’s diving Mecca, when it comes to truly awesome dive sites, the island can’t compete with the world-famous Similan Islands or even the fishy waters off of Ko Phi Phi.
Once considered exclusively a dive destination, these days Ko Tao is nearly as popular with nondivers as it is with scuba enthusiasts. Small (it measures just 21 sq km) and laid-back, it’s become a haven for those seeking the beauty found on big sisters Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan without the chaos. Fast and frequent ferries make travel to Ko Tao easy, and once you arrive there’s plenty of entertainment – from lounging on pristine beaches to mountain biking through the lush and rugged interior. All in all Ko Tao is a romantic place, where nights are casual affairs, usually involving a quiet drink by candlelight on a cushion near the edge of the sea.
Even though Ko Tao has become more hip with each season, it hasn’t let this celebrity status go to its head. Although there are pockets of frenetic activity in the main tourist ghettos of Ban Hat Sai Ri and Ban Mae Hat, much of the island retains an easy-going pace. Infrastructure on Ko Tao is still pretty basic, with much of the east coast only accessible by 4WD or boat, and 24-hour electricity blanketing only about 75% of the island.
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Last updated: Feb 8, 2013
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