The history of Koh Tao
During the years of 1943 and 1944, the island was used as a political prison with prisoners of the Borawadesh Uprising transferred here from Koh Tarutao. The prison itself was located in Mae Haad Bay in an area of about 35 rai. There were fifty four political prisoners with fifty other inmates and fifteen wardens. According to the prisoners, the island was a living hell with its shark infested waters, and daily life was a constant struggle for survival. Malaria was rife and they were often starved.
In 1944, the prisoners were released and everyone returned back to the mainland leaving the island deserted once more.
The first pioneers
In 1947, twin brothers, Ta Euam and Ta Oh came to the island from Koh Samui. The first ‘pioneers’, they sailed here in a traditional boat with two masts and handmade sails made of woven palm leaves and cloth. They brought with them a supply of rice, and on arrival, they cleared some land and used what was left of the demolished prison to build a temporary shelter. Later, they brought their families here and settled on the north of Sairee Beach. Six years later, others mostly from Koh Phangan arrived here to start a new life. They lived simply and sufficiently by fishing and cultivating the land for coconut plantations, rice paddies and orchards. At that time there was an abundance of turtles, so many in fact, that at certain times of the year, the beach became black.
In the middle of 1977, the first travelers came to dive and explore the undiscovered and pristine underwater world. They arrived on fishing boats and the boats which then transported coconuts. In 1984, the first resort on Koh Tao, was established in Thian Og Bay. Called Niyom Bungalows, the rooms were just 30 Baht per night. Since then, the island has changed from one of fisherman and gardeners, to a place of tourism which now offers the infrastructure, facilities and choices of activity to serve about 350,000 travelers each year.
Information courtesy of Koh Tao, A Complete Guide. For further information go to http://www.kohtaocompleteguide.com
Koh Tao dive sites
A highly favourable dive site for day and night dives, with an abundance of different species of aquatic life this dive site never fails to produce excellent dives. White Rock itself rises to 4m beneath the surface and the dive site can reach depths of 21m. Some of the more common residents are Blue Spotted Ribbon-tail Rays, Titan Trigger Fish, White Eyed Moray Eels, Long Faced Emperor Fish and sometimes, if you’re lucky enough Myrtle the Turtle makes an appearance. A night dive at White Rock completely changes the dive site, great & Pick-handle Barracuda come out to hunt along with the Blue Spotted Rays and the Bio-luminescent plankton creates and illuminating experience.
One of the Managers favourite sites; three pinnacles situated South of Nang Yuan Island ranging in depths from 6 – 18m it never fails to produce spectacular dives with a vast array of species inhabiting the pinnacles. If you’re the diver that enjoys finding macro then this is one of the sites for you with many types of Nudibranc, Bearded Scorpion Fish, Janns & Brown banded Pipefish along with the occasional Saw-blade Shrimp and Spider Crab. Larger inhabitants include the Jenkins Whip Ray, Yellow Margin Trigger Fish, Chevron Barracuda and various types of Pufferfish. One Dive site not to miss on Koh Tao.
Laem Thien Caves & Bay
Located on the East coast of Koh Tao Leam Thien is an outstanding dive site ranging from 2-3m to 22m, a generous mix of coral formations and boulders it provides the diver with a serious eye ball work out, you’ll have a job remembering everything you’ve seen at this location. For the more adventurous diver Leam Thien Caves is an amazing playground of swim throughs, and of course the boom boom room; rising to the surface this opening in the boulders treats the diver to the bass-like noise of the waves breaching the shore above, with shards of light glimmering through, it leaves you with an unforgettable dive.
Chumphon Pinnacle & Barracuda Rock
Approximately 45 minutes from Koh Tao Chumphon Pinnacle rises from 32m to 14m (Depths of 45+ can be found further from the pinnacle). Start rubbing those lucky nipples as this is a popular feeding site for Brian the Whale Shark!! Even if Brian doesn’t rock up you’ll love the huge schools of Fusiliers and Chevron Barracuda. Giant Grouper blend into the rock formation like our Manager in his previous career; keep a keen eye out for those Great Barracuda too, lone hunters that are regularly spotted stalking their next meal. On rare occasions Sail Fish have also been sighted around the Pinnacle so be sure to look out into the blue for them or indeed large Spanish Mackerel, Pacific Pumper-nose & Queen Fish. Another “must dive” site in our opinion.
For those Advanced divers (or those contemplating Advanced Adventurer) the Sattakut has to be on your list of dives. It was involved WWII by the American Navy but Originally a Thai vessel, she was donated to the island to be used as a training aid for the visiting divers and is now showing keen growth in aquatic life and corals. A prize possession of Koh Tao she sits on the sea bed on her hull and is 27m deep at the bow, 30m at the stern, the communications tower rises to 18m depth and the main deck is at 24m. She still holds a 25mm cannon to the stern and a 21mm gun on the bow. It is common to experience a thermocline around her at 25-27m which adds a special eeriness to the dive experience. A favourite final dive of the Advanced Adventurer course for Koh Tao Scuba Club.
What’s the weather like?
January & February
January and February are the months when the summer starts to kick in, the water clarity increases towards the end January so that when February comes all the aquatic life are starting to breed.
As it’s the end of monsoon we do sometimes experience a thunderstorm or two (which tend to be really impressive) so this can change the water visibility for a few days. The water temperature rises week by week and the sun burns through all day long. The beaches attract all the hot chicks in bikinis and all the blokes sucking in their guts of Chang to impress said ladies.
Some of the best sunset shots taken on Koh Tao are at this time of year.
June, July & August
The wind changes direction through the summer and arrives from the West, this disrupts the dive sites visibility on the West coast but this is where Koh Tao is lucky to be a small island but big enough to shelter the coast in the East, therefore you feel as though you’ve visited a completely new island.
We have almost 11 months of the year providing amazing diving on glorious dive sites with an abundance of aquatic life just because we can take the boat around to the other side. The wind does bring some waves so be prepared for a choppy ferry ride as you arrive, sea sickness pills are always a safe bet.
March, April & May
Fish quantities increase, the water temperature rises the seas get flatter and the sun stays hot, hot, hot!! By May it is sweltering and you’re desperate to get into that 30 degree water and submerge.
April is the first month of the year when you have an increased possibility of seeing Brian the Whale shark around Koh Tao on a regular basis. Surprisingly, May is very quiet with not many tourists so if you want to make the most of it this is the best month to visit. Again, we do experience the odd tropical lightning storm at this time of year, but quite frankly, it’s an awesome spectacle. The sea is generally a flat plate of clear glass with very little tidal movement, on most days you can see up to 30m into the deep from the boat!!
September & October
The great weather continues with very similar sea conditions, the temperature drops slightly and we get back to a more manageable 30 degrees. Every now and then we may also experience a quick storm as summer ends but it is usually only a couple of days out of a 1 month period.
The scantily clad tourists are still around but not in as great a number as earlier in the summer so this tends to be regarded as the low season. Visibility and quantities of sea-life is still fantastic and second period of the year where Brian tends to show up a lot.
Wind 4 m/s, SSE
Pressure 757.56 mmHg
|mon jan 22||28°C /27°C||1 m/s, NNE||100%||767.17 mmHg|
|tue jan 23||27°C /27°C||1 m/s, ENE||100%||766.68 mmHg|
|wed jan 24||27°C /27°C||2 m/s, ESE||100%||766.83 mmHg|
|thu jan 25||28°C /27°C||2 m/s, SE||-||764.41 mmHg|
|fri jan 26||27°C /27°C||3 m/s, SE||-||764.62 mmHg|