Bucket loads of Paradise
21.04.2012 - 28.04.2012 33 °C
The Gulf of Thailand has sheltered water, constantly heated to a warm 31degrees by the equatorial sun meaning that there are fewer places in the world which can offer the quality of diving that you get here. The only sensible thing to do is go back to school and get our PADI dive certificate to enjoy this paradise.
The starting point was the amazing little island of Koh Tao. When we arrived after the ferry crossing from the mainland, we were immediately in love with the island. It is super chilled with very little development of big resorts or anything. Most of the bungalows are right off the beach and have simple amenities but you don’t need anything more.
Leaving the mainland
Jeff and I got sorted for our 3 day dive course. Tanya couldn’t do the dive course thanks to her asthma, but she was more than happy to enjoy the beach while we were in a classroom and out diving.
We went with a nice little dive school called New Way which we picked from the hundreds of establishments because they said that they leave early in the morning to be the first out to the dive spots. Classes started on the first afternoon we were on the island so we checked out the beach and the town while we had some time before the classes.
Over the next few days Jeff and I woke up early, got some breakfast, headed to the dive shop, watched some DVD’s and then headed out to get into the water. Usually you do your first few hours in a pool for what they call the confined water lessons. This is where you do all emergency things, like changing to your buddy’s air supply if yours runs out. However the cool thing about New Way, was that they said there are lots of great shallow water beaches to do this stuff, you don’t need a pool. And it was so much more interesting being in the sea rather than a pool for 3 hours. New Way only have 4 person groups too, so while one of us was doing the particular activity, the other three would just be sat on the bottom of the sea with tons of fish swimming around us.
Meanwhile Tanya quite happily reading books under the shade of palm trees interspersed with a dip in the warm water until the sun set on the day.
After a couple of deep water dives up to 18m, we had passed our PADI with flying colours and were blown away by how awesome the diving was around here. We got 4 dives in on our course including the final two which were on the early morning dive. It’s definitely worth the 5.30am wakeup as our boat was the first out of port, and we had an empty dive spot when we got out there. By the time our tanks were running low and we were coming to the surface, the dive factories were arriving with their boat loads of people and we were happy to be getting out of there.
After our final dive we had the afternoon free so the three of us headed over to the three little islands just off the north of Koh Tao. They are owned by a Japanese business man and is actually a private resort, but you can pay a 200 bhat fee when you land at the island to swim and walk around them.
We started off walking around the larger of the 3 islands which had a pretty sketchy looking boardwalk.
There is a cool lookout from the top of the island and its crazy to see these 3 small islands all connected by a sand bar! Definitely a paradise setting that will be hard to beat.
To round out the day we finished with a snorkel in the bay (same bay that we did our confined water dives) seeing so many fish who really don’t seem bothered by us swimming around with them.
To celebrate not having an early wake up the following morning we watched another amazing sunset and then went pretty hard on the buckets of cocktails at one of the local bars. The sunset, well this place really is paradise, nothing more to say about it! The buckets on the other hand, potent and a sure fire way to some serious hangover territory (along with countless unpublishable photos).
Before things turned ugly
We had grand plans for our final day on Koh Tao – hire scooters to get around the island and use our hired snorkel gear to find plenty of marine life. Courtesy of the boozy night, we instead spend the whole day passed out and recovering. Oh well, gives us a reason to return to this island paradise anyway! We did manage some redemption with a morning fun dive as ‘experienced divers’ before getting the afternoon ferry.
Koh Pha Ngan
A short ferry ride and we were at the bigger island of Koh Pha Ngan, famous for its massive full moon parties. As we were here between moon cycles, we happily had reduced accommodation prices and a much quieter island for a few days. We also made a good choice in booking into a cheap resort right on the beach with a pool and everything we needed for a few days relaxing watching the thunder storms passing in the distance
To make up for our wasted day on Koh Tao, we decided to hire some scooters from our resort to head round the island to some of the nicer beaches. Armed with some beasty scooters (which had done 40 odd thousand kms each) we hit the road in search of fuel. Fuel comes in three ways on a tropical island. Out of a plastic coke bottle, dodgy homemade roadside pump or one of the couple of larger garages. To avoid any quality control issues with the fuel supply, we opted for the larger operator.
We found a good few beaches with more clear warm water on the north coast before setting out to find the lookout that was shown on our very rough maps that we had. Our search turned off road, and in the end had deteriorated into steep, rain gulley tracks that got beyond the possibilities of our scooters. We walked the final 200 meters to the lookout and replaced the bucket load of sweat we lost with an ice cold water before heading back down for the bikes
The eventual viewpoint
Jeffro – hard as nails on a scooter
We finished off the day at the sunrise beach where the Full Moon parties end up at for a quick swim before hitting the road before it got dark. It ended up being a good move as shortly after getting back to the resort, a massive thunder storm came through. Swimming in the pool was a much better way to see it through than driving though it on the scooters.
The view over to Koh Samui
We had an early morning ferry the following day which took us back to the mainland for some jungle time.
Daniel – Koh Tao, well I think we spoilt ourselves going there first, everywhere else has just been more resorts, built up and just not as relaxed. It was a super cheap place to do the PADI when comparing it to the other islands too. I was really surprised at just how easy the PADI was, I did have thoughts before doing it that it was going to be a lot to think about, but once you get underwater it actually feels incredibly normal and second nature. The scootering on Koh Phangan was pretty awesome, I don’t think there is a better way to see these islands than on a scooter searching out a secluded little beach.
Jeff – Absolutely loved Koh Tao. The chilled out atmosphere, abundance of beach bars and excellent diving or snorkelling make this place as close to paradise as you can get. Koh Tao will always be remembered as the first island where I discovered the glorious coconut milkshake. It was great to tick off the dive certification off my long list of “to do´s” and it was nice to be in a small group of four as opposed to some of the larger dive schools who roll in groups of ten. Loved the diving and can´t wait for next dive holiday!
Tanya – Possibly the first time in 8 months that I’ve felt like I’m on a traditional holiday. It was hard work lazing about on the beach, reading multiple novels, eating yummy food. Just before I started to get tired of total relaxation we were off exploring on scooters. Batteries fully recharged!