Koh Tao - Turtle Island

Koh Tao

Koh Tao

Koh Tao (Turtle Island) is a pristine island in the Gulf of Thailand known for its beautiful underwater life. From colourful soft and hard corals, to the ambulant tropical reef fish and even whale sharks and turtles – you can all experience them with just a quick dip in our tropical waters. With over 300-days of sun a year, clear waters and sandy beaches it’s the perfect holiday destination! Koh Tao offers the ideal balance between diver education and active island entertainment. Even for the non diver there are many opportunities for fun and relaxation!

The island has evolved in the last 10 years so that you can now live in a tropical paradise with all your usual creature comforts. Having said that you won’t find any big business on the island. So there’s no McDonalds, no Sarbucks but plenty of intuitive people who have started up some excellent small businesses.
Our dive centre is located in Sairee on the north-west side of our turtle island. This is the main ‘city’ for having a great time on our tropical paradise. The streets are packed with both Western and Thai style restaurants. At night the bars will open, so do it ‘Koh Tao style’ and have a cocktail in one of the many beach bars. The Sairee sun sets are something to behold, so have your camera ready for making amazing pictures which will make your friends at home jealous!


Of course we’re going to convince you to keep diving each day. After all they do say, “Just one more day with New Way!”, however if you’re itching to explore the island why not let us share our wealth of information about the place were we all love and love!

One of the benefits of having an experienced team that have lived here for several years is that we know everything about our beautiful island. We know the best place to rent scooters, the best place to buy a sandwich or a cold ice tea. We know the best bars, restaurants, viewpoints & can give you all sorts of information based on your budget and requirements. We know where to do yoga and who to go rock climbing with, or how to jump off some boulders into the sea. Don’t be shy when you get here. We’ve got plenty of maps of the island and our advice is friendly honest and always free.

Koh Tao's History

Prior to 1943 the island was uninhabited. There was only wild jungle with passing fishermen bewildered by the sheer number of turtles. At times the beaches were black with them, hence the name Koh Tao, which in Thai means ‘Turtle Island”.

For two years the island was used as a political prison with prisoners of the Borawadesh Uprising transferred here from Koh Tarutao. There were 104 prisoners kept in Mae Haad, where the main port can now be found. 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.

One of the prisoners wrote :

“The only joy each day is watching the sun set to the sea.  It is a spectacular scene.  The waves are light purple with an indigo sky.”

In 1944, the prisoners were released to leave the island deserted once more.

In 1947 the first pioneers sailed here in a traditional thai boats with hand made sails.  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 more locals from the surrounding islands arrived. They led a simple life cultivating the land to make coconut plantations.

In the middle of 1977, the first travellers came to dive and explore the underwater world.  They hitched lifts with their tanks and gear on the coconut transportation boats.  In 1984, the first resort was built on Koh Tao, back then it was a mere $1 a night to stay here!  Since then, the island has continually evolved to become a place renowned for easy and affordable diving with modern infrastructure to serve around about 350,000 travellers each year.