And some snakes
10.03.2008 34 °C
Liveaboard dive cruises are awesome. There are three things you do for the four days you live on the boat: dive, sleep, eat. The trip involved diving Thailand's best reefs off the west coast - the world-famous Similan's and Surin Islands - the water is warm and the visibility is from another planet. Our first dive I could see the another group dropping into the water from about 35 meters away. That's very far for diving...
Unfortunately, nothing big appeared other than a large leopard shark. The dive sites have the reputation for large animals such as manta rays, and whale sharks. Not this time to all the divers' disappointment. Got a hell of a fright actually as the dive guide motioned shark underwater (place hand like a fin in front of your face!) and all I initially saw was an ominous large sillouette of a shark above the shipwreck we were diving (adding to the eeriness). Luckily it was just a leopard shark, a very beautiful and peaceful shark.
The night dives were the best for me - its completely surreal entering the water with the boat lights illuminating everything beneath it and then searching the reefs with underwater torches. We surfaced in the middle of a torrential downpore the one night - very cool! There was a really sombre mood as the boat headed back to land, we all had a great time out there.
I also snorkeled with a greenback turtle on the second day - that was amazing. It was completely unfased by being close to people in the water. It even pushed me with one of its fins when it got really close at one point.
So I've seen 7 snakes in the last few weeks, a couple of them very close. The first one was at Ko Pha Ngan - I saw some movement in my bungalow as what appeared to be a lizard shot under my mattress. Nope, not a lizard - it was a little snake!... I called the bungalow owner and he sorted it out (brutally smashed it with a broomstick). Didnt sleep too well for my last few days there!
About a week ago, I was walking at night through the campsite at the remote island of Ko Tarutao when I almost stepped on a long green snake crossing my path. The next day, went to a remote beach on the island and there was a python hanging from a tree on the beach.
Then the last few days - I've been diving off the Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea and saw three sea kraits... one of the world's most deadly animals! Apparently you're fine though - their fangs are too small to puncture a person's skin (urban legend??). Would have been good to know before I saw it...
Then yesterday, another snake sneaked past my feet in Khao Lak.
Anyway, enough of this nancy-boy talk...
Ko Tarutao was just the medicine I needed to get away from the resort crowds. Its a beautiful and virtually untouched strip of islands run by the National Marine Parks board. Totally remote - we'll see how long that lasts - one of the islands is already being developed by resorts. Anyway, it was good.
Spending one night in Khao Lak led me to investigate the effects of the Tsunami on the area. Khao Lak was the town that made much of the news from Thailand in December 2004, having suffered more than half the casualties for Thailand. I think about 4,500 people died. There is a significant flatland extending behind the town towards some hills a few kilometers from shore. Evidence of the strength of the tsunami lies in a 25 meter Thai Police cruiser, which lies almost 2 km's inland from the water. It was literally pushed that far by the waves and makes it easy to see how impossible escaping the wave must have been for people staying/wprking close to shore. It was pretty heady stuff. I also went for a walk on the main beach, and came across a completely deserted and destroyed resort. It was also quite heart-breaking walking through the broken bungalows and beach bar, realising that many people never could have escaed in time. It's a huge resort and occupies a large part of prime beach. I didn't hear why it still hasn't been re-developed, most of the other resorts have been rebuilt now.
So... now the real traveling begins. This time tomorrow I'm in Nepal and will be making plans for the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalaya's. Wish me luck, and don't expect news back for at least three weeks - the circuit takes at least 17 days to complete.