Koh Tau, east coast
13.02.2008 - 20.02.2008 28 °C
Thank goodness for Mom's 'Fabric care: Travel wash!' Sweating is what foreigners do best in Thailand, and locals reckon its a little chilly cos its still winter. As a result, I'm washing my shirts a lot! At midday, I generally find myself lazing about a beach bar in the shade, with a strong fan above me! Honestly, I thought Africa was hot, but in reality it's refreshingly cool.
So the last week was spent in Koh Tau, and what a place. As a Kiwi commented to me last night, while we soaked up the sunset, cold beer in hand - "It's easy to fall in love with the island". It truely is remarkably beautiful. Its not big - perhaps 2 km's from north to south, but houses a lot of people and over 50 dive operations. Dive courses are cheap. So lots of people do introductory courses, where they learn to dive. To get an idea - the place I stayed at is one of the bigger operations and has at any one time, probably 8 groups of open water divers. They have eleven instructors and churn through almost 300 Open Water qualifications each month. My dive school back home does perhaps 12-20 qualifications a month! So it's scuba on steroids here!
So the first few days I dived, and what a pleasure this place is for divers. There are plenty of dive sites all around the island. Unfortunately, the visibility is not that great here - I was expecting at least 15 meters, but on all 6 dives it was below 10 meters I think. Its very comparable to Sodwana Bay, South Africa - in terms of underwater viewing, except with less vis but much warmer waters.
The highlight undoubtledly - was a 5-6 meter whale shark sighting at a dive site called White Rock. A radio call came through to all the boats in the island's area that a whale shark had been spotted there, and so all boats headed to White Rock really fast, in the hope of catching sight of it. We got to the site and there were dozens of anchored big boats already emptied of divers. Thinking it must have been hounded off by now, I went down thinking our chances of seeing it were minimal. I was wrong! 3 minutes in, and a big shape emerges above us, glides slowly over, and not a diver in site. The big guy didnt need to offer twice - so I swam up and joined him, swimming alongside him for a few minutes. He even eyed me out, his big eye swivelling around to look me over, and wonder what this little thing was trying to do next to it and why the hell there so many bubbles coming out of it!! I was absolutely elated! The rest of the divers caught up and I drifted off, its legion of remoras clinging to it, and a dozen divers a few meters behind. Whale sharks are so popular - they have plenty of friends!
Another highlight happened yesterday, and involved sharks of another kind. Believe it or not, Shark Bay has sharks. Little ones though - perhaps just 2 meters...! You snorkel out into the bay, the reef system starts really close to the shore. It gets deeper gradually, and soon you're far out. You're not too sure what to do in case you do see a shark, so the guys with me were sticking really close together! Then you see something - a reflection, and its much bigger than the rest of the fish - black tip reef shark!! Cruising along the reef only six meters away! It was about a meter long - small-ish I think. I saw plenty of others yesterday, and they take no notice of you. In fact, you feel quite safe. What a day!
Other highlights were the visit to the Nang Yuan islands - also stunningly beautiful and seems to come straight from a post card; and hiring a scooter for the day to explore the little island. Discovered some beautiful spots...
I'm in Koh Pha Ngan (pronounced Ko Pan yang by the sounds of things) for the next five days. Full moon party here we come. Adios