Attracted by the striking coral reefs surrounding Ko Tao, and the expansion in recreational scuba diving, a number of enterprises started a scuba diving businesses on the island. These enterprises in turn constructed accommodationfor their clients, and after a while quite a few of these places transformed into quite luxurious.
Straight after the horrible events of the December 2004 Tsunami, the type of visitors visiting KohTaohave changed, before it had been a Mecca for back packers, young travellers along their way North to Bangkok and beyond.
From the days of being a prison, through to its current redevelopment, Turtle island has retained it's magic, though it now caters for everyone's tastes and expeniture.
There is a wide range of Guesthouses and Bungalows on Koh Tao for every type of budget, availible to book online here.
KoTao island is positioned approximately 75 km east of the coastline between Suratthani and Chumporn in the Gulf of Thailand and is about 20 kilometer in size - so small but not too small.
In 1947, Khun A-Paiwong, Thailand's Prime Minister at that time, asked for and received a royal pardon for the islands prisoners and thanks to a gracious act by His Majesty the King. They were repatriated and moved to Suratthani on the nearby mainland and the islandwas abandoned once again. This was the same year that the original people laid claim to a big piece of land on what is nowadays recognized as Sairee Beach. These were the twin brothers Khun Ueam and Khun Oh who came to KoTao by a small boat from the next islandof Ko Phangan.
The name Ko Tao means Turtle Island; some say that the name is due to the islands shape which is meant to look like an inverted down turtle whilst others say its from the days when the sea surrounding KohTaowere rich with turtles and the island was their main breeding site.
These days, you can get everything from basic simple bamboo huts with thatched roofs to exotic up-market villas with their own private swimming pool.
In the late 1990's Ko Tao's very first, and until recently, only road was constructed, the road runs South to North from the far side of Sairee to the southern settlement of Chalok Baan Kao.
A new road is under construction towards Tanote Bay, and when finised it will open up the far side of the island for greater development, it is accessable with care at the moment by 4x4. Koh Taois a very small island, only twenty sq km and just about half of that too rough to get to. Initially the island was not colonized, visited only by fishermen from nearby islands when looking for protection during storms or when they require fresh water and supplies. It seems strange that such a tourist paradise should have been originally earmarked as a top-security prison. Strange, but true. From 1933 until 1947 the island was home to political prisoners. Being just about 70 kilometers from the mainland meant it was somewhat escape proof! Alcatraz...piece of cake. Ko Tao is surrounded by lots of Black Tip ans Whale sharks too.