Monday, October 30, 2017

Diving in Koh Tao or Turtle Island

Eight hours night bus from Bangkok, a short lapse of time for a coffee and a toast in the pier, and a 45 minutes speed boat ride after we were finally stepping on the Turtle Island. Koh Tao is a tropical paradise full of coconut palm trees, jungle hills and marvellous turquoise waters.

The island has different areas, bays and beaches. It’s surrounded by a generally calmed sea with clear, warm water, coral reefs and colourful aquatic fauna. It is a paradise for divers, snorkelers and anybody who enjoys nature and swimming. And unfortunately, also for those having a couple of weeks holiday and wanting to get pissed and party everyday for less money and in a much beautiful surrounding than the one at home. It’s allright but they are always those people who break the silence, the magic and the atmosphere of this kind of places.

The highest point of the island is 379 metres above sea level but there are many uphill and downhill paths that make walking around a little bit tiring. This is why everybody -there are little exceptions like us- opt for hiring a motorbike to move around the island and some of the roads –the few of them which are in good paved condition- tend to be busy at all times.

The main areas in Koh Tao are Mae Had, Sairee and Chalok beaches, which are well developed, with bars, accommodation, diving schools, internet cafes, shops… The rest of the island is connected by poor roads, trails and paths. The result is: the further you go from the main area, the less people will surround you and the less commodities and amenities you will find. It is good though, if you are exactly looking for that!

We started to feel kind of sick of nonstop travelling a couple of weeks ago. It is a pretty confusing feeling because we love to travel and want to go on with our trip. But at the same time we feel tired of visiting new places everyday and never get to know them well. We have the feeling that we need some holidays from our trip again, something like a stop over to settle and rest for a while. For a couple of weeks, for a month. This is why we decided to look for a house for rent in the island.

Surrounded by green and coconut trees, amid the jungle in a quiet valley we found our place that morning, right on the deadline point we had fixed to find a house or leave the island. The house hunting was exhausting due to the strong sun these days. We had checked different houses for rent, but they were not what we were looking for. It was on our way back to the hotel room when we found Gong Valley, a 50 metres detour off an important road, and a 5 minutes walk to the main pier in Koh Tao, so kind of isolated but well communicated.

The house is made of wood and bamboo, it’s pretty basic and has a lot of charm. From the beginning we liked the good vibes of the owner and his place. He showed us around the valley and the 6 different houses he made himself. All of them have a bedroom, a toilet and a basic kitchen (gas fire, small fridge and a wooden bench, that’s all). Exactly what we were looking for! Outside the house, big front terraces where to admire the view over the valley from your hammock, some hundreds of metres from the sea.

We felt in love with the place and decided to rent one of the houses for 15 days. Later we would see if we were staying longer or not. At the moment, that half month is not over yet and we feel so good here, that we are thinking to stay even longer. That would mean to have to extend our visa and change plans again. But, who cares, we are on holidays now and can do whatever we want!

We have found also our way to go to the beaches that are far by hitch-hiking. It worked out well in the north of the country and it seems pretty easy in the south too. You need to stand by the side of the road and stop any car driving in your direction. That’s all. Life here is easy and good. Wake up, have some breakfast and see what you feel like.

Later put some sunscreen on and go to the beach with mask and snorkel to see the amazing underwater world. When you feel tired, get some lunch and have some rest. Late in the afternoon it depends, watching a movie, surfing the internet or going out for a drink. What else could we ask for? We are starting to call Koh Tao home.

We knew from the beginning of our trip that we wanted to do a diving course in the south of Thailand. We had heard that Koh Tao was the cheapest and also one of the best options to spot different fish species in all Southeast Asia. That’s why we decided, without knowing the island yet, that we wanted to have our first ever diving experiencie in Koh Tao.

We booked our 4 day course from Bangkok so we didn’t do any research when we arrived. There are plenty of diving schools here and all them offer more or less the same. The course starts with some classroom time in which you learn basic things about scuba diving, the underwater world and diving techniques.

After having passed your test reviews – they are quite easy - arrives your first contact with the diving gear – mask, wetsuit, air tank in shallow water. The feeling, when you breath from your tank for the first time, is quite relaxing. At least it was to us. We were very excited about how strange it would feel. Once under water you need to continue breathing and be calmed. Easy!

We learned some necessary skills for diving safe and know the do’s and dont’s under water. Each 45 minutes dive appeared very short in time when we were finished. We would have spent hours there, getting used to the bottled air, the “absence” of gravity, our new friends the fishes, etc. But we had to wait until the next day’s dives.

When you have tried it once and know you like it, it is like a kind of drug. I mean, you want more and want it now!! It is tiring to be under water but the excitement gives you strength to continue. When you go out of the water, you realise how tired you are and you start to process all the beautiful things you have seen there. The rest of the dives in the course were deeper up to 18 metres and even better.

We saw many fishes that we had never have pictured in our head before and others like in the film Nemo- that we had always dreamed about. We haven’t learned much since diving is a thing about experience and time. But we know now that we love it and we are certified to do it everywhere! It won’t be the last time!