the island was uninhabited, there was only the occasional
fisherman from the neighbouring islands, looking for shelter
in a storm or just resting before continuing on his journey.
would appear from old maps and descriptions that
this island was known by European cartographers
and mariners as "Pulo Bardia". The old
maps show a chain of three islands aligned north-south
and lying off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula.
The most northerly and smallest of these islands
is marked P. Bardia - the name sustained until the
early 1900s. The best map example is a map by John
Thornton from "The English Pilot, the Third
Book", dated 1701 but the specific map of the
Gulf of Siam is dated around 1677.
see maps of the East Indies by William Dampier c1697.
By modern standards of accuracy, the islands are pooly
placed on early maps. 17th century marine navigation
and cartography used the 'backstaff' which, in this
area, was accurate to one degree of longitude or around
60 nautical miles.
383 of 'The Edinburgh Gazetteer, or Geographical Dictionary'
(1822) also mentions the island and provides a geographical
position. In his 1852 book titled "Narrative of
a residence at the capital of the Kingdom of Siam"
by Frederick Arthur Neale, he describes the people and
wildlife of Bardia. According to the account there were
farms and even cows in a village on the bay lying to
the west side of the island. The book includes a fanciful
illustration of 'Bardia' showing huts and palm trees.
June 18, 1899 King Chulalongkorn visited Koh Tao and
left as evidence his monogram on a huge boulder at Jor
Por Ror bay next to Sairee Beach. This place is still
1933 the island started to be used as a political prison.
In 1947 Khuang Abhaiwongse, prime minister at that time,
pleaded and received a royal pardon for all prisoners
on the island. Everybody was taken to the shore of Surat
Thani and Koh Tao was abandoned again.
the same year Khun Uaem and his brother Khun Oh
reached Koh Tao from the neighbouring Koh Phangan
by trying out their traditional sail boat, for that
time a quite long and dangerous journey. Even though
the island was still under royal patronage, it did
not stop these pioneers claiming themselves a good
part of the land on today's Sairee beach. Having
brought their families over, they began to cultivate
and harvest the excellent soil, forming the first
generation of the present-day community. They lived
a simple and tough life harvesting coconuts, fishing
and growing vegetables, which were also traded with
Koh Phangan. Despite the difficulties in reaching
the island, the population grew steadily.
the 1980s overseas travellers began to visit Koh Tao
and quickly became a popular destination. As a consequence,
bigger, faster and safer boats were used to allow easier
access to Koh Tao. In the 1990s the island became known
as a diving site.