Photo: Sai Daeng outlook.


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Once jokingly referred to as a drinking island with a diving problem, Ko Tao has evolved far beyond backpackers diving and beach boozing and today the island draws families, flashpackers and sports junkies alike.

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Visitors will find hiking trails of various levels of difficulty that end with the promise of picturesque views, rock-climbing, live jam sessions where locals and tourists showcase their talents, beach barbecues accompanied by fire shows and even trapeze-flying classes. The draw though for many visitors remains scuba diving. With dozens of dive sites, plenty of scuba schools and notably inexpensive scuba certification costs, Ko Tao is the most popular place to learn to dive in Thailand.

This is how you do it. Photo taken in or around Ko Tao, Thailand by Ayesha Cantrell.

This is how you do it. Photo: Ayesha Cantrell

It hasn’t always been snorkels and sunscreen on Ko Tao though. Mostly uninhabited aside from the fishermen who would occasionally take shelter on shore here, Ko Tao became a political prison in 1943 when more than 100 prisoners were transferred from Ko Tarutao.

The prison was home to several prominent Thais including the novelist Nimittramongkhon Nawarat, who authored The Dreams of an Idealist. In 1944 the prisoners were issued a general pardon and released to the mainland. Many had been incarcerated for a decade or more and their release to Surat Thani was met with bowls of food and wishes of good luck from local residents.

For another two years the island remained mostly uninhabited, until two brothers made their way here to begin a life for themselves. Their families joined later and several other families followed suit. Some say that the abundance of turtles at this time gave the island its name of Turtle Island. Others say it was named for its shape when viewed from Ko Pha Ngan. Either way, the turtles have largely moved elsewhere as tourism has ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,900 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Tao.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Tao.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Ko Tao.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Tao, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Tao? Please read this.
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