Koh Tao means turtle island in Thai. It was named by its first settlers when they saw that the shape of the island resembles that of a turtle when we approached by boat to the Sairee area. The island is also an important breeding area for green turtles and hawksbill turtles. Tourism development has affected the turtle population, however since 2004 a breeding program organized by the Royal Thai Navy and KT-DOC, a coalition of the island's dive centers, has reintroduced hundreds of turtles into the island's ecosystem.
Koh Tao or Ko Tao, เกาะเต่า is an island in the province of Surat Thani, located on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand. It is one of the most popular places in the world among scuba divers, due to its crystal clear waters and the large number of dive companies operating on the island.
Inhabited at the beginning by fishermen, on June 18, 1899 the king of Thailand Rama V visited Ko Tao and carved his initials on a rock near Sairee beach, an inscription that remains today. From 1933 it was used as a prison for political prisoners, until Prime Minister Khuang Abhaiwongse granted pardon to the detainees and released them.
That same year, two brothers came to Ko Tao from Ko Pha Ngan, who settled in the area now known as Sairee and cultivated their land. The population grew slowly, until in the 1980s it became a popular destination for travelers, as it was included in backpacker tours. The ideal environment for scuba diving eventually made it one of the largest dive sites in Thailand and the world, while the infrastructure kept pace with its growth.
The island's economy is almost exclusively centered on the tourism industry, especially diving. Between the 1990s and the early 2000s, Ko Tao went from being an island of fishermen to the second place in the world in terms of the number of diving certifications issued, only behind Cairns, Australia.
La única manera de llegar hasta Ko Tao es por vía marítima, ya sea desde las ciudades peninsulares de Chumphon o Surat Thani, o desde las islas vecinas Ko Pha Ngan y Ko Samui. Los aeropuertos más cercanos son los de Chumphon, Surat Thani y Ko Samui. Dentro de la isla es posible movilizarse en botes fuera borda “long tail boats” (que conectan con los islotes cercanos o entre las playas), taxis tipo camioneta, y motocicletas. El parque automotor de Ko Tao es muy limitado y hay pocos coches en circulación.