The 19th century in Koh Tao

On June 18, 1899, the King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1868 – 1910), visited Koh Tao and had his initials carved on a large boulder at Laem Jor Por Ror, South end of Sairee Beach.  It is now a place of reverence for residents. The whole lsland belong to the royal family, there is no real Thai or Foreigner owners of land in Koh Tao. The government allow short-term lease for businesses and long-term lease for agriculture.

The early 20th century in Koh Tao

Only fishing boats visited the local waters of Koh Tao, in search of fishes. Koh Tao was a jungle with an abundance of turtles and fishes. The fishermans were camping on the island to spend more time fishing before returning to the main land. Then built houses and structures needed to live.

Koh Tao between the years of 1943 and 1944

Koh Tao is use as a political prison with prisoners of the Borawadesh Uprising transferred here from Koh Tarutao.  The prison itself was located in Mae Haad Bay in an area of 35 rai. There were fifty-four political prisoners with fifty other inmates and fifteen wardens. According to the prisoners, Koh Tao was a living hell with its sharks infested waters. Daily life was a constant struggle for survival. Malaria was rife and they often starved. One of the prisoners wrote on King Rama V statue:

“The only joy each day is watching the sun set to the sea. It is a spectacular scene. The waves are light purple with an indigo sky.”

In 1944, the prisoners released and everyone return back to the mainland leaving Koh Tao deserted once more.

1947 The First Pioneers in Koh Tao

The twin brothers “Ta Euam and Ta Oh” came to Koh Tao. The first ‘’pioneers’’. They sailed in a traditional boat with two masts and handmade sails made of woven palm leaves and cloth. They brought with them a supply of rice, they cleared some land and used what was left of the demolished prison to build a temporary shelter. Later they brought their families and settled on the north of Sairee Beach. 

Others arrived to start a new life later on. They lived simply and sufficiently by fishing and cultivating the land for coconut plantations, rice paddies and orchards.  At that time there was an abundance of turtles, so many in fact, hat at certain times of the year, the beach became black.

1977 The First Travellers in Koh Tao

In the middle of 1977, the first travellers came to dive and explore the undiscovered and pristine underwater world. They arrived on fishing boats that transported coconuts. They had to walk through a dense forest to go anywhere on the island.  

1984 The First resort on Koh Tao

Established in Thian Og Bay. Called Niyom Bungalows, the rooms were just 30 Baht per night. Then the first few diving center set ups. The philosophy was to make diving affordable for travellers. Over the years, the concept got extremely successful and made Koh Tao famous for the large amount of diving offers, high quality and price. We estimate that 100 000 certifications are made on the island every year. Some of those young divers become professionals and go work around the world. Koh Tao success have a major impact in the development of diving worldwide.

2019 The modern Koh Tao Island

Koh Tao has changed from one of fisherman and gardeners, to a place of tourism which now offers a large choice of accommodation and activities. The island host half million to two millions of tourists each year. The West coast of the island is very modern, full of restaurants, bars and water sports. The East coast is almost untouched, very peaceful. We organise big diving festivals, several environmental projects and take care of the animals on the island. Safety is regulate by the Thai army, tourist police and Thai police. Communities keep improving the island every year to make it a little paradise for your holidays.