Koh Tao History
Divers have been coming to Koh Tao from the 1980s onwards. From a best-kept backpackers secret to the tourist masses of today. The diving in Koh Tao has been something of a mecca to some folk. With many dive sites and even greater hype surrounding them its time to see what the real story is on Koh Tao.
The Early Years of Koh Tao
Historically it is speculated that the island was only visited by fishing boats for shelter and foraging.
The Backpackers Descend
About fifteen to twenty years ago, the first backpackers arrived from Koh Phangan and Chumpon. Rumours spread quickly about the islands unspoiled beauty, especially it's marine life and coral reefs . It soon became one of the major dive sites in Thailand and SE-Asia, attracting beginners and professionals alike.
Rise of the Divers
In the early diving days of Koh Tao the diving was done using quite basic equipment (some of it home made). Locating the dive sites was often hit and miss using land references and underwater scouts. The Dive Boats were small coastal fishing skiffs and it was certainly for the more adventurous divers. There was no dedicated power source (local generators were all that provided the power) and no police station.
Changing times for Koh Tao
By 2003 the rising star of the diving world was starting to loose its lustre, tourist numbers were down, immigration clamp-downs (under the Thaksin government) were dampening morale and deportations were on the increase. Also the war on terror, SARS, el nino (coral killer) combined with increased competition by the now 44 dive schools was taking its toll. The smaller, independent dive schools who once could survive by offering budget priced courses were being forced (via the thai owners) to raise prices in-line with the dive resorts.
The rough and ready free-spirited diving that was a hallmark of the 90s and early 00s on the island practically disappeared by 2007. Almost all the dive resorts are established and form part Koh Tao Dive Operators Club (KTDOC) monopoly and the tourist masses and construction operations are overrunning the island. Indeed the buildings and increased capacity now strains the infrastructure. The island is now a burgeoning mass of consumer offerings, from opulent accommodation and food to high-class massage resorts and decadent dive resorts. The party atmosphere continues but with the emphasis on tourist divers rather than the expats, adventurers and travelers of old.
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