If you've never visited Koh Tao, Thailand, here's a bit of background information about the island.
Koh Tao is situated in the sheltered Gulf of Thailand, a little north of the larger islands of Koh Samui & Koh Phangan. The sheltered position means we're able to dive for all 12 months of the year, making it an excellent location to spend a gap year / scuba diving internship.
The island is located 70 km out from the mainland, and is accessible by ferry from Chumphon to the north-east & Samui to the south.
Koh Tao, Thailand has the perfect balance - the natural beauty of living on a small tropical island, joined with an organised infrastructure.
Tourism only reached Koh Tao over the last 10 -15 years, so Koh Tao still retains a rustic island charm [and is not over-developed unlike other parts of Thailand].
The island infrastructure is good - we have decent transport, accommodation, shops and banking. There are plenty of ATMs & on-island medical services are decent. When it comes to food you're spoilt for choice, from Thai restaurants serving up tasty Thai dishes, to European bakeries, Italian, Mexican, Indian and other international cuisine - whatever you want, you can get it here!
The level of progress is just about right, it's a fantastic place to stay, with all the comforts of home.
Most development has been restricted to three main areas of the island.
The pier where you arrive on Koh Tao is called 'Mae Haad'. Here you'll find many shops, travel/tour agents, banks and a number of bars & restaurants. Mae Haad is essentially the 'town centre' of Koh Tao.
To the south is 'Chalok Ban Khao' - this a resort area lining a beach on the southern coast of Koh Tao. Many dive resorts, restaurants etc.
DJL Diving is located on Koh Tao's longest stretch of sand - Sairee Beach. Most visitors end up staying somewhere on Sairee Beach - there are many bungalows, restaurants & beach bars, internet cafe's, mini-marts and a few shops - everything you need!
The east coast of Koh Tao remains very quiet, primarily due to the hills lining the centre of the island which form a physical barrier making it more difficult to drive to the East!
Just off the north-west coast of Koh Tao is Nang Yuan island - 3 small islands joined by a sand bar. South of Koh Tao is another small rockly island, named 'Shark Island' as it resembles a shark's fin.
In the Gulf of Thailand we have two prevailing winds. Through Spring and Summer the prevailing wind blows from the South-West [called the South West Monsoon]. During Autumn/Winter the wind switches and comes from the North East [north-east monsoon].
Because Koh Tao has great dive sites situated on both sides of the island, no matter which way the wind is blowing, we can always dive on the sheltered leaward side.
Between the two monsoons we get short periods with zero wind - the entire Gulf of Thailand goes completely flat, which is primetime for scuba diving. It's difficult to predict when these calm periods will occur [and how long they'll last]. Even when the wind is blowing, wave heights generally remain small due to the sheltered position in the Gulf of Thailand.
This means that we can scuba dive all year round, so whenever you want to start your scuba diving internship is ok!
In Koh Tao we're lucky as many of our dive sites lie just off the island. This means we have short journey times when we head out diving. Further out we have isolated pinnacles that don't break the surface - that's where we see our bigger fish species. If you want to read more and see photo's of the diving check out our Koh Tao Thailand scuba dive sites page.
There are also several deep wreck diving sites just off Koh Tao - see our Koh Tao wreck / deep diving archive to find out more.
The marine life you'll experience diving on the coral reefs surrounding Koh Tao is amazing. Colorful reef fish, turtles, barracuda, squid & cuttle fish and sharks, Koh Tao, Thailand has it all.
There's also a good chance of seeing the biggest fish in the sea - whale shark season occurs during April / May and again in October.
If you want a day off from scuba diving there are plenty of things to do. Other activities here on Koh Tao include:
ATV / Quad Biking
Relaxing on the beach!!
You can pickup the latest DVD releases very cheaply, plus make sure you visit Koh Tao's Thai Boxing stadium to catch some Muay Thai action.
There are a few sports bars so you can keep up to date with the latest sports action around the world, and you can pickup newspapers & books in English.
There are many medical clinics on Koh Tao, including one big one, which has a recompression chamber for treatment of diving specific injuries [which are very rare]. The standard of healthcare in Thailand is high.
By far the biggest cause of accidents on Koh Tao is motorbikes. Here it is:
[little or no experience riding bikes]
Our advice is this - the island is small so you can get around easily by walking, or if you're lazy by grabbing a taxi.
Koh Tao Thailand gets a steady flow of visitors year round. We experience busy spells during typical holiday seasons - summer, Christmas & Easter.
The famous 'Full Moon Party' over on neighbouring Koh Phangan has a big effect on Koh Tao. Each month many travellers collect on Koh Phangan, to drink buckets of alcohol and party on the beach.
Immediately after, many hung-over people covered in fluorescent body paint, make the crossing over to Koh Tao, wanting to learn to scuba dive! As a result, there's normally a bit of a rush during the week following each Full Moon Party.
You should probably try to get to at least one full moon party for the 'cultural experience'!
Lets now take a look at what's special about taking your Gap Year / Diving Internship with DJL Diving, and talk about the social side of doing your PADI Divemaster here on Koh Tao Thailand see here.