History of SCUBA Diving on Koh Tao


Jacques Cousteau donning the first 'Aqualung" 1943

The History of scuba diving itself is not so old, although there have been many attempts for man to submerged himself into the beautiful Ocean. The  early Egyptian  civilization were amongst the first to ‘breath’ under the water, diving with air-filled animal bladders, an early prototype of the modern scuba tank.

Moving forward a few thousand years we come to Jacques Cousteau’s famous ‘Aqualung’ the first commercially available underwater breathing apparatus.

At the time Cousteau was making his first dives on the Aqualung, Koh Tao was still a sleeping Island the few inhabitants were political prisoners, stranded on the island with no means of escape. The fate of Koh Tao was soon to change as the prisoners were given a Royal pardon in 1948, they were all released and the island was silent again.

It wasn’t long after that the first generation of settlers came First just a few families at first,but slowly the population grew and  by the early 70’s there was a few hundred inhabitants living on Koh Tao. These early settlers were not Scuba Divers, but they definitely made their living from the surrounding nature. Families worked both the land and the sea to edge out a life for themselves,trading the natural riches of Koh Tao  with nearby islands, and mainland. In those days the wild nature offered an abundance which appeared would never end.Trade boats came to barter for the local produce, clam meat,dry fish and coconuts being the main produce. It was with these trading boats that the first tourist came. One by one, story by story, word of the island’s beauty began to circulate on the back packer trail. Apart from the endless tropical days,that you could also find on the bigger more famous Sister Island’s of  Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan, Koh Tao had something very special to offer. The amazing coral reef, which covers the whole of the island’s coast line is what set Koh Tao apart from it neighboring islands. The first divers came in the 80’s carrying gear with them from Koh Samui, camping on desserted beaches diving the specular dive sites completely alone. Cesare Benelli from Italy was one of the first pioneers of the scuba industry in the region. He named the islands first dive sites after the colours of the Italian flag, today those dive site names still stand  so we have Green, Red and White rock, all great early dive sites on Koh Tao.

For a while all dive trips were long trips from Samui, the ‘rock’ as Koh Tao was known in those days was said to offer no comfortable sleeping accommodation, but towards the end of the 80’s the first dive shops stared to open. ‘Koh Tao Divers’ was the first , followed by a string of others, New Heaven Dive School open in June 1995 and we were the 13Th. diving operation to open.

Back in those days the diving was so relaxed, there were no big boats, or large numbers, just a few relaxed divers going out to enjoy the sea. It was always our intention since opening to keep our dive school this way, keeping the group sizes small so we can enjoy Koh Tao ‘old school style’.

Today, although so much has changed on the island, we still run our dive school with the same passion and enthusiasm that we had at the beginning, group sizes are no more than 4 people,no matter if you and making a course or just joining us for fun dives. Our dive school and accommodation are built with the mind of keeping in close contact with nature, natural materials are used as much as possible which we feel is important to keep that tropical feeling alive. We hope you can join us soon to become a part of our history and to add your stories to the History of Koh Tao.