The 19th century in Koh Tao

On June 18, 1899, His Majesty 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 worship and reverence for local residents now.

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 big flcoks of pied imperial and nicobar pigeons. 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 was used 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 about 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 shark infested waters, and daily life was a constant struggle for survival. Malaria was rife and they were 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 were released and everyone returned 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 here 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, and on arrival, they cleared some land and used what was left of the demolished prison to build a temporary shelter.  Later, they brought their families here and settled on the north of Sairee Beach.  Six years later, others mostly arrived here to start a new life.  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, that at certains 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 and the boats which then transported coconuts.

1984 The First resort on Koh Tao

Established in Thian Og Bay. Called Niyom Bungalows, the rooms were just 30 Baht per night.  Since then, Koh Tao has changed from one of fisherman and gardeners, to a place of tourism which now offers the infrastructure, facilities and choices of activity to serve about 350,000 travellers each year.