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Koh Tao

Ko Tao is an island in Thailand located near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand. It covers an area of about 21 km². Administratively it forms a tambon within the district (Amphoe) Ko Pha Ngan of Surat Thani Province. As of 2006 its official population number is 1382[1]. The main settlement is Ban Mae Hat. The economy of the island is almost exclusively centered around tourism, especially scuba diving. Ko Tao was named by its first settlers for the island's turtle-like geographic shape.[citation needed] Coincidentally, the island is an important breeding ground for Hawksbill turtles and Green turtles. Development of tourism has negatively impacted the health of these grounds but a breeding program organised in 2004 by the Royal Thai Navy and KT-DOC, a coalition of local scuba diving centres has reintroduced hundreds of juvenile turtles to the island's ecosystem. 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.