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  If you have done it before, you are already addicted. If you haven''t, then it is remarkably easy. Whatever: Koh Samui is your gateway to the best diving sites in the Gulf of Thailand.
 
  Imagine being weightless, suspended in a world of color and light. As in a dream you can fly anywhere, exploring a rainbow-hued garden. The ocean here is a fantasy land, and the wonderful thing is, that anyone can enter it.
 
  Not a strong swimmer? You don''t have to be. Scared of sharks and other sea monsters? They will be more afraid of you. Don''t want to be shown up as a land lubber? We''re all like that.
 
  Professional diving instructors have to go through rigorous training before they can qualify, and part of that includes putting people at their ease.
 
  So, ready to take the plunge?
 
  Most of the diving schools on Samui will offer an introductory course which involves a swimming pool dive. This usually has an amazing effect on anyone who has any doubts, because the very act of strapping on the equipment and disappearing under the surface of even a hotel pool gives that essential little spurt of confidence.
 
  After that you are ready to begin exploring , and the sheer diveability of Samui is what brings so many people here. The calm waters with their gradual depths just off the beaches are almost designed for beginners. Further out, at other island and rocky outcrops, there are other dive sites perfect for the novice and the experienced diver.
 
  Apart from Samui, Koh Pha-Ngan and the Ang Thong National Marine Park Archipelago offer great snorkeling sights. Many are easily accessible on a day-trip: the overnighters will include land accommodation, as few boats from Samui have sleeper facilities.
 
  Koh Pha-Ngan is developing as a tourist resort and now offers some attractive beachfront accommodation. It takes just 45 minutes to reach the island by boat from Samui, and once you are there the easiest way to travel from beach to beach is by water taxi: the rocky interior of the island is hard on walkers.
 
  Off the beaches you will fine Coral reefs, but the nearby smaller islands do have clearer waters with better reefs. Koh Mah is generally rated the best, and it''s about 45 minutes from Pha-Ngan : a nicely sloping reef here, with caves and crevices forming homes for snappers and sweetlips makes this a very pretty dive. Koh Tae Nok and Koh Tae Nai are also recommended.
 
  These are two islets just off Pha-Ngan,and the site is good for beginners as the maximum depth is around 16 meters. There are some attractive coral mounts here, with sponges and sea cucumbers, and the sandy seabed in between the islets is home to lizard and goby fish.
 
  Hin Bai, or Sail Rock, is a dramatic rocky outcropping about 2 1/2 hours from Samui''s Chaweng Beach. You can dive here to depths of more than 30 metres, and one of the most distinctive features is the 12 underwater pinnacles with their rocky gorges. There is plenty of brilliantly colored soft coral at this site, and it is also a mating and spawning ground for groupers and snappers. You may see the occasional whale shark which feeds on the plankton close to the surface.
 
  Some two hours from Samui is Koh Wao, which with its shallow water of a maximum 19 meters has particularly colorful coral growing in the warm sunlight. There is a particularly dense population of coral fish here, plus butterfly and angel fish and snappers. Antler corals are host to sea anemone, and brain corals to starfish and big oysters.
 
  Hin Nippon, or Jap Rock, is only 10 minutes from Koh Wao, and experienced divers come here for the deeper dives of 30 meters or more. About half-way down are shoals of barracudas and yellow tails, and with a strong current prevailing big fish often swim in from the deep ocean to feed on plankton and other marine creatures.
 
  Koh Tao is an up and coming dive center, following close on the heels of Samui as its infrastructure improves. You reach Koh Tao by boat in about five hours from Samui. Much of the beachfront accommodation is still fairly pretty basic, but is already beginning to improve.
 
  The island''s name in Thai means "Turtle Island" and on a clear day you can see its distinctive humped shape 55 km away on Samui. Apart from its turtle-shape, it does in fact play host to sea turtles who every year crawl up the beaches to lay their eggs in the sand. For divers, the island is far enough offshore to be away from riverine sediments from the mainland, and the waters are exceptionally clear. Some of the best diving can be had at around 18 meters, an easy depth for novices, and there are many shallow sites for snorkelers.
 
  Ao Leuk is just off the island and offers depths of up to 12 metres, a very relaxing way to unwind after the journey from Samui. Some unusual rock formations can be seen here, with clumps of sponges and some sea whips. Staghorn coral is home to schools of small white spotted damsel fish.
 
  For a night dive, Koh Nang Yuan is just 25 minutes from Koh Tao. There is a sheltered bay on the eastern side of the islet which is ideal with depths of up to12 meters.
 
  In the light of your torch you will surprise nocturnal fish and crustaceans, and some of the shy fish which spend the day deep in caves and crevices and only come out at night.
 
  Chumporn is also emergine as a dive center, with day dive programs to offshore islands located just one or two hours from the coast.
 
  The dive sites surrounding the islands of Koh Ngam Noi and Koh Ngam Yai offer some very comfortable depths of between 10 and 18 meters, and the sea is very calm here. There are also some interesting swim-throught, hard and soft coral, and a huge variety of fish. The islands are famed for more than their diving sites: the caves and crannies here are home to the swifts who build those nests so highly prized by lovers of Chinese food the world over.
 
  The outcrops of Hin Lak Ngan and Hin Pae offer excellent dive sites with depths going to 25 metres or more. The rock walls are riddled with crevices, holes and caves, and if you hover gently outside these you may be rewarded with a pair of eyes peeping curiously back at you.
 
  It takes an experienced skipper to find the Northern Pinnacles, Located about 40 minutes from Koh Tao, and only recently discovered. He steers by taking readings off distant landmarks, and it is rather like a treasure hunt. Once you have found the place, there is plenty of excitement, and it is well worth the excursion. Man-sized groupers, Spanish mackerel and eagle ray are all part of the marine life. You can swim through gorges and there is a cave at 25 meters which, if you enter and swim upwards through the funnel in the roof, will bring you out at a depth of 18 meters.
 
  Progressing from novice to the kind of experience levels which allow you to tackle some of the more fascinating dives is highly satisfying.

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