The Gulf of Thailand is a very popular tourist destination. In the upper reaches of the Gulf there are Koh Samet and Koh Chang. In the southern part of the Gulf are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. It is an area that offers great weather, calm, tsunami free seas, magical beaches and plenty of excellent accommodation.

The island of Koh Tao is one of the smallest Thai islands in the Gulf. It is called turtle island because of its shape. It does, however, have some turtle breeding areas. The thing that makes Koh Tao famous, however, is its diving. Koh Tao is the second most popular spot in the world to learn scuba diving. Only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has more people taking PADI courses.

The reason for Koh Tao’s popularity as a place to learn diving is due to its clear waters and excellent dive sites. There are a number of corals to explore off the coast with plenty of fish, turtles, eels and sharks to see.  Great beaches for diving and snorkeling in Koh Tao include Nang Yuan, Mango Bay, Jansom Bay and Sai Daeng.

The most famous dive site is Sail Rock. Here it is often possible to see whale sharks. This is a filter feeding shark that looks like a whale. It is in fact the largest fish species in the world.

To see whales in the Gulf of Thailand it is necessary to go to the upper reaches of the Gulf in such areas as Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Samut Songkhram, and Phetchaburi. Here there are about 20 Bryde’s Whales as well as over 100 Irrawaddy dolphins.

The trouble is that since someone posted video footage of the  Bryde’s whales in the Gulf there has been a massive upturn in tourism in the area.  There are too many tour boats going out to spot the whales. These boats are getting too close to the whales. The result has been that in just a few months whale numbers have drastically reduced. Local and national authorities have so far done nothing to stop the damage been caused by the tour boats. Plans have been mooted to limit tour boats to just 2 or 3 areas so as not to inhibit the whales from feeding and breeding.

This is a good example of how whale watching needs to be carefully regulated.

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