Koh Tao is a beautiful island on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It is only 21 square km (8 square miles) in area and forms part of the Chumphon Archipelago. The island’s economy is, these days, almost exclusively from tourism. It is one of the biggest scuba diving regions in the country. Its name means turtle island due to its shape. Ironically, the island is actually an important breeding ground for two types of turtle. The Hawksbill Turtle and the Green Turtle. The rapid development of tourism negatively impacted on these animals. The condition of the natural breeding ground and in turn the health of the animals. However a breeding programme organised in 2004 has turned things round. The Royal Thai Navy and a coalition of local scuba diving centres, known as KT-DOC, reintroduced hundreds of juvenile turtles to the island’s ecosystem. They now appear to be doing pretty well.
The settlement began here in the form of fisherman using it as a shelter from storms. Ko Tao remains much less developed than Koh Samui and others. This feature has led to a huge increase in backpackers visiting. The scuba diving has also had the same affect; this is one of the least expensive places to get accreditation. With this in mind, today attention is focused on the negative effects of diving in coral reef environments. Divers visiting the island are encouraged to be especially vigilant regarding codes of conduct for diving and snorkelling.
The roads around Koh Tao are not great and the main form of transport is the motorbike. This in turn has caused another problem. Many tourists get injured or worse every year. The mixture of young people, alcohol and a hedonistic lifestyle is not a good one. Koh Tao is though a lovely place to visit, and well worth the effort in getting there.