Koh Tao, is little more than 21 km², is located about 70 km East of the coastline between Surat Thani & Chumphon, in the Gulf of Thailand.
Koh Tao means Turtle Island, because in the past the waters were rich with these marine animals, which can still be seen, by divers and snorkelers today. Initially the island was not inhabited; there was only the occasional fisherman from the neighbouring islands.
On June 18, 1899, His Majesty the King Chulalongkorn (Rama V 1868-1910) visited Koh Tao and left as evidence his monogram on a huge boulder at Jor Por Ror Bay next to Sairee Beach.
From 1933 on the island was used as a political prison. In 1947, a royal pardon was given for all prisoners on the island & the "Turtle" was abandoned again. But in the same year settlers from the neighbouring Koh Phangan came claiming themselves a piece of land on today's Sairee Beach. They lived a very simple & tough life harvesting coconuts, fishing and growing vegetables the population then grew steadily.
The first "backpackers" discovered Koh Tao in the early 80's and as word spread about this tiny island paradise so did its popularity. It wasn't long before Koh Tao became a diving Mecca. Not only is this lush, pistachio-coloured island blessed with crystal clear water and coral reefs shallow enough for beginners to explore; it's also is one of the world's popular places to get your PADI open-water dive certification.
The island offers more than 20 dive sites, from the tranquil splendour of shallow-water coral gardens to a close encounter with a Whale Shark, Koh Tao provides diving adventure for divers of all experience-levels. Once considered exclusively a dive destination, these days Koh Tao is nearly as popular with non-divers as it is with scuba enthusiasts.
During the past ten years the reputation of Turtle Island's natural beauty, especially its marine life & coral reefs, spread the world over it soon became one of the major dive sites in Thailand, attracting beginners and professionals alike. The island today, though still remaining an absolute paradise, catering for all tastes and budgets.
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