Just over 15 years ago buffalo carts and tiny boats were used as the main form of transportation. The first diving operations came from Samui with the divers staying the night in primitive huts.
Only 2 years later a couple of very basic dive centers started operating on Koh Tao. Equipment was limited, wetsuits were not available for customers and only small local fishing boats were used to take divers to the sites.
Finding popular sites was a combination of lining up fix points on the horizon and dragging dive masters on ropes behind the boat, hoping they would recognize the sites from the surface.
Since this time Koh Tao has exploded on the diving circuit and it now has the reputation of being the main training center for dive students in South East Asia.
Many international diving agencies are represented on this small island, including PADI, SSI, IANTD, BSAC & NAUI. (So intense has the market growth been in the past decade that PADI and SSI now send their representatives to the island to monitor the quality and to help keeping all their members informed about changes with the industry)
All course levels are available from beginner to professional, including special courses like UW- photography and technical diving (nitrox) for the more adventurous, so if you just fancy a few days of fun diving or wish to go on with your underwater career, it's all here.
Actually Koh Tao has become the leading area in Thailand for Instructor Develop-ment Centers (IDC). IDC's are held at the larger dive resorts or shops with courses running every two months .
Equipment quality has also improved with shops using the latest models including Scubapro, Suunto, US Divers, Technisub and Seac Sub. There are repair shops for divers traveling with their own equipment and who may need a service. There is also a selection of retail centers for those who wish to purchase some scuba gear. Safety is now at a very high level with a mono recompression chamber and a DMT O2 & evacuation station located on Koh Tao and a bigger chamber on Samui only 90 minutes away by speedboat. Most of the reputable shops have staff that are fully trained first aiders and oxygen providers with oxygen on the boats and in their facilities. Some shops even offer full diving insurances to have that extra peace of mind.
If you don't fancy diving don't forget that snorkeling is available through most dive centers, if you prefer it more private try a longtail trip around the island or just swim or kayak along Koh Tao's beautiful coast line. Sunlovers, remember our beaches are nearly always empty as the divers are either in the classroom, on the diveboat or underwater, wherever they are, they are not on the beaches.