Warning. This blog contains a lot of sea, sand and sunshine.
We arrived at beautiful Koh Tao at 7pm after buses and a seasickness inducing ferry ride. The island is situated on the right hand side of South Thailand and translates as turtle island as turtles used to use it as a breeding ground. Unfortunately said turtles have now moved on but it’s clear, cold waters make it a great place for encountering all sorts of fish and if your lucky, reef sharks! It was uninhibited until the 1950’s used only as a political prison previously, however since then it has established itself in fishing and farming, and since the 80’s- tourism.
We stayed in Mae head at a little hostel near the pier. This village has plenty of life but still retains the feel of an old fishing village character. We knew we were going to like this place.
Naturally we headed for the beach. Sairee beach is the main beach and although narrow it stretches for nearly 2km along the coast. The waters were crystal clear and shimmering turquoise and with tans to be topped up we enjoyed the heat. We also invested in snorkels to explore the clear waters encountering many schools of colourful fish and rather amusingly, sea cucumbers.
Another day, another beach. We headed left of the port to Mae haad beach which held incredible treasures in its shores. A military boat had been sunk in shallow waters. At a height which meant you could just about stand on the structure, a boat laid intact now covered in coral. You could see the eroded pattern of the rooms still able to see ladders and instruments on board. The boys dived down to get pictures “sunbathing on deck” and “climbing a ladder.” There was a fascinating little black fish in the wreck who was territorial. He would swim right up to eye level and square up to you as if to say “what are you doing here?”
That night we joined the Koh Tao pub crawl. A funny evening of buckets, lady boy caberet (which I skipped out on in favour of a late night manicure) and live music. The night ended up at a beach party complete with fire show where many people took to the flame drenched conga or skipping ropes. Many took on the flames and lost!
Day 146 and 147
We moved hostels to be in the town of Sairee, the walk across town in the heat exhausting us. The days that followed was one of sunbathing and snorkelling on the beach and reef. In the evening we headed to the beach armed with crepes from the street vendors to watch the twinkly lights of the boats in the bay. This island truly is paradise.
With Ricky on the first day of his open water diving course, David and I headed for Nangyuan island, a small island off the coast of Koh Tao made famous for its stunning looks. This island is essentially two jungle covered mountains with a sandbar beach connecting the two. Despite having seen numerous pictures of this island, it didn't disappoint.
We got a longtail boat to the island and quickly established our spot before heading up to the viewpoint on top of the hill. It was a hefty climb, challenging in the sweltering heat but the view from the top was every bit a postcard shot. The water around the island is turquoise blue, parting out into deep blue as the white sands seep away. Snorkelling from this island was the clearest I have seen the water. Floating needle fish swam in groups and colourful fish of all sizes from fingernail size to 30cm long. We gained a pet as a bold little 1inch fish followed us around darting in and out around us.
We got the longtail boat back late afternoon and after washing up decided to take on the all you can eat pizza which we took as a challenge. For £4 I would say we got our money's worth, managing to eat 2 large pizzas each, however it wasn't quite Pizza Hut as some pizzas featured carrot, cucumber and even chocolate and banana. Our achievement backfired somewhat as we went to bed before 9 as we were so full we were unable to walk!
We all took to the water ready to face a separate challenge each. Ricky was on day two of his SSI open water diver course. David was doing a 2 day free diver course in which they teach you to dive to 20metres (stay under for up to 3 minutes) with no equipment, just efficient breathing, and I joined a dive to do some scuba, keen to get back in the water since qualifying.
Ricky and I were on the same boat which left the shores at midday. Our first dive site was Mango Bay at the north point of the island. My little group got down to 12 metres around the coral and saw large grouper fish and a big trigger fish, one that you don't want to annoy as it has human teeth! The dive was great and for the second dive of the day we continued round the corner to a dive site called Twins. Ricky and his instructor Sergio were joined by a new girl, Ria who was quite spooked by the water and needed some 1:1, so he got to join me, Daniel and Caroline on our fun dive. This dive site was beautiful with lots of colourful marine life, one of my favourites being the Christmas tree worms. These are little Christmas trees growing in the coral which suck in as you move past them. This site also had a divers fun park of hoops and sculptures under the water to manouvre in and out of.
We had some delicious Thai curries for dinner before retreating due to our early morning start.
Which the alarm set for 5:20 Ricky and I got up to catch the morning boat which left at 6am. The first dive site was green rock and little after sunrise we plunged into the water rubbing the sleep from our eyes. Ricky was with his instructor to finish his skills whilst my group got down to 18metres below sea level and saw an incredible array of different fish. David bought a go pro camera the day before which we were able to take under the water with us and get some incredible shots.
The second dive site was white rock and Ricky and his instructor were with us. The volume of little tropical fish at this site was incredible, a real wow moment as you appreciate how lucky you are to have interaction with such beautiful creatures, worms, cucumbers and such astonishing stretches of coral.
We returned to land for a big breakfast, Ricky now a qualified diver and hit the beach until David finished day 2 of his free diving course. He managed to reach 12 metres below staying under for 1min 30, so we were pretty chuffed all round.
In the afternoon we set off to find the islands mini golf. 18 holes of frustrating fun which got a bit competitive! In the evening we got a curry, testing and pushing our chilli tolerance and went to watch some live music at the Australian bar. We have loved our Koh Tao adventure and are counting the days until we can dive again!
Next we leave beautiful Koh Tao for Koh Samui.