The History of Koh Tao

Koh Tao, despite its reputation as one of the best islands in the Gulf of Thailand, has only become an acknowledged destination in this century. Prior to this point it was only known to fishermen as a place to repair their nets and shelter from any big storms. Then, in the early 1930’s Koh Tao was declared a political prison, with some of the original chains and shackles still to be found, until 1947 when the Thai Prime Minister pardoned all the prisoners on the island, who promptly accepted their pardons and returned to families on the mainland.

Within that same year two brothers set sail from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao, which, at the time and with their small boats, was a colossal journey. Upon successfully reaching Koh Tao they rewarded themselves with a healthy chunk of land, Sairee Beach, and after bringing their families over began to cultivate the soil. Koh Tao’s first family had arrived.

With only limited infrastructure remaining from the days as a prison, the family set about harvesting coconuts, growing vegetables, and fishing. Slowly the potential of Koh Tao was revealed, the lush island grew and abundance of everything planted on it, and the water surrounding it contained a myriad of marine life, enabling a healthy trade between friends and family who still remained on Koh Phangan. As the potential of Koh Tao was realized, so too grew the population, and thus the amenities available as well as the ease of Koh Tao travel.

Then, In the 1980’s backpackers started exploring the Gulf of Thailand, reaching Koh Samui and Koh Phangan in growing numbers. As a result bigger, faster and safer ferries arrived to transport them. With these initial backpacking pioneers came an interest in the other surrounding islands, principally Koh Tao.

One of these first pioneers was an Italian man who began exploiting the amazing diving conditions and brought divers from Koh Samui for an overnight diving safari to Koh Tao. He discovered Red Rock, White Rock and Green Rock, which he named after the colors on the Italian flag, and so created the first dive shop on Koh Tao.

In recent years the islands reputation as one of a quiet tropical paradise and one of the best islands in the Gulf of Thailand has spread. Word of its diverse marine life & coral reefs made Koh Tao quickly become one of Thailand’s major diving destinations attracting beginners & professionals alike. And the local businesses have done well to cater to the ever-changing needs of the new arrivals in Koh Tao, catering for all budgets and requirements.