Koh Tao, little more than 21 square km, is located about 70 km east of the coastline between Suratthani and Chumphon, in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao translates as Turtle Island, this is because the shape of the island as you approach it from the south resembles a giant turtle swimming above the blue waters. In the past the waters also teemed with sea turtles.
In the beginning, only the occasional fisherman from neighboring islands would come to stop over and rest or to seek shelter from storms. From 1933 the island was used as a political prison because of its distance from the mainland. In 1947, Khun A -Paiwong, Prime Minister at that time, pleaded and received a royal pardon for all prisoners on the island and everybody was removed.
In the same year Khun Ueam and his twin brother Khun Oh reached Koh Tao from the neighboring island Koh Phangan. At that time, crossing over with a traditional sailboat was long and dangerous. The first generation of today’s community had settled! They lived a very simple and tough life harvesting coconuts, fishing and growing vegetables, which were traded with Koh Phangan. Despite the many difficulties in reaching the island, the population grew steadily.
About 25 years ago, the first backpackers arrived from the more populous sister islands of koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Rumors spread quickly about the islands unspoiled beauty, especially it’s marine life and coral reefs .Due to its natural beauty above and below the water, Koh Tao was hailed as a paradise.
At the present time, Koh Tao has evolved into a haven for divers, adventurers, travelers and holidaymakers from around the world. Local businesses have done well to cater to the ever-changing needs of the new arrivals in Koh Tao, catering for all budgets, styles and taste of living. The island’s unique blend of coral reefs, natural & unspoiled beauty, and relaxed life-style make it an amazing location a ‘must-have-seen-it’ place. However the increase in tourism and population on the island has a diverse effect on the natural resources, to counter these effect the locals have established a conservation group called Save Koh Tao, which New Heaven dive shop supports and assist this local community effort to preserve paradise, check out the link to Save Koh Tao and read more to get involved.