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Location 7,8: Koh Tao & Koh Samui, Thailand

THAILAND | Thursday, 21 April 2016 | Views [374]

Koh Tao & Koh Samui- Thailand

In January I was certified for open water scuba diving and after hearing from multiple people I knew I needed to make my way to Koh Tao.  Koh Tao (located in the Gulf of Thailand) is known for its diving because it is surrounded by an extensive sequence of reefs that are inhabited by a wide variety of sea life.  The first morning we were there I got up early and walked to Sairee Beach, which is the main part of the island, to find a dive shop with reasonable prices.  I landed on the dive shop "Pura Vida", which is a Spanish run dive shop on the island and I have to say I loved it.  The folks that work there are all Spanish transplants, who moved to Koh Tao to dive.  They literally live and breath scuba, so their energy definitely got me excited.  I managed to secure a day with two dives for roughly $48 total….if you are a diver, I am sure your jaw is on the ground.  I also was really impressed by how cheap it was, because it included all the gear, a dive group of no more than 4, and two different reefs.  I booked the dive and headed out.

Our first full day on the island was the Thai New Year, it is called Songkran. The whole country celebrates and each city has its own style/vibe on how they go about it.  In short- the whole country participates in a water fight (metaphorically cleansing oneself of sins and bad luck) and they do not hold back.  Alexa and I put on our bathing suits, waterproof cellphone bags and headed to Sairee Beach.  It was only about 10:30am, so the day hadn't really begun, we walked passed a few people with water guns, but they let us slide by.  Once we got to the main strip we were screwed, we saw a big group of people with buckets and guns full of water, the first thing I hear is "they look dry" and then it all kicked off.  We were soaked from head to toe, so we looked at each other and knew we needed a new strategy for the day.  We went back to the hostel, grabbed more cash, dropped off our beach gear and went to buy water guns.  We bit the bullet and spent the $10-15 on the guns, which ended up being the smartest purchase of the day.  We participated in a water fight on the beach for 6 straight hours.  The beach was filled with 19-65 year olds just dosing people with sea water, hose water, beer, you name it.  I was hesitant, but ended up having a really fun time.  I am glad to say we did Songkran on the islands, because the pictures of Bangkok and Chiang Mai made we think I would have walked away with some type of illness. The water in Thailand is not filtered, so it was important to try and remember to keep your mouth closed when being bombarded by hundreds super soakers.  

The second day we took a ferry to Ko Nang Yuan island, which was only about 15 minutes by boat.  It is a really beautiful, small island that is created by three pieces of land, connected by a large sandbar, that splits it into three different beaches.  It is something that looks like it was man made because of how unique it is, I have never seen something like it.  We snorkeled off the beach for a couple hours that morning and then we headed back to Koh Tao.  You can only reach it by ferry or long tail boat and we ended up spending close to an hour just trying to find a way back.  It is was one of those times where speaking Thai would have been invaluable, because it started to feel like no one gave a shit about helping us; however, we ended up getting back…eventually.  We then spent the rest of the day at a beach about 5 minutes from our hostel where you could walk out 100 yards and still only have water up to your knees, it was very cool.

The third day i woke up at 6:15am and headed down to the main pier to meet up with my dive group.  We loaded the boat with all the gear and headed to the first reef, "Green Rock".  The instructions were all given in Spanish, so with the anxiety I was feeling I may have only picked up on 75% of what was said.  We attached our BCDs to the tank, put on wetsuits/fins/mask and jumped right in.  The morning we were out there ended up having a really strong current, so we had to free swim out to a tow line with waves bobbing us up and down.  One of the divers in my group was having a hell of a time traversing the current, so it actually took us close to 15 minutes before we could deflate and start descending.  Luckily the the tow line was anchored to the sea floor, which helps guide the descent down.  Since it was my first dive in a large body of water I was very nervous (which doesn't help the air conservation process!), but I was able to equalize pretty quickly and we started the swim at around 16 meters (~52 feet).  Green Rock has these coral formations that make these tunnels, so we literally swam under ledges, which freaked me out a bit, but ended up being really awesome.  I was too nervous to bring my camera down on the first dive, as I felt it would have been too much to juggle, I was bummed because in the first tunnel there was a grouper that was about 4.5 feet long and a circumference equally as big.  It was intimidating seeing it in a confined space because there was really only one way out.  We moved around viewing different schools of fish and really beautiful corals for the next 35-40 minutes and then we headed back up.   The second dive was at "White Rock", which ended up being my favorite of the two. White Rock was more expansive and actually allowed us to get deeper, down to 20 meters (65 feet).  In the first 3 minutes we turned around the reef and saw a 5 foot eel scaling the reef wall and then we looked to our right and saw a blue spotted sting ray just hanging on the bottom (saw 3 more).   I was far more comfortable this time around and it got me really excited for my dive trips in Indonesia and the Philippines!  I am really glad I took the opportunity to do this because it is a very calming experience down below and you really get the chance to see what life is like below the surface.  All in all Koh Tao was wonderful, despite the shit wifi, and smelly hostel.

We bought ferry tickets and headed to Koh Samui (largest island in the Gulf of Thailand- about 2 hours from Koh Tao).  Koh Samui is absolutely beautiful and to be really honest all we did there was hang by the water.  The beaches are perfect, with clear blue water and soft sand.  One of the days we did buy a day pass for a beach club/resort where we were able to hang by the pool and relax.  We got lucky and met some really fun people while there, who we will most likely end up seeing again on Koh Phi Phi.  I would go into more details, but they would get pretty monotonous as I said it was very much a "lay on your ass" enivornment. One thing that we did do was we went to our hostel owner's friend's Greek restaurant (2x) and I have to say it was one of the best meals I've had in Thailand. The owner of the restaurant moved from Greece to Koh Samui and his food reflected just how Greek he was.  We had some of the freshest produce and meats that we have seen and it did not disappoint.  If you ever find yourself on Koh Samui I highly recommend you go to Olive Tree near the Mercure hotel.

We just arrived in Phuket and will be heading to Koh Phi Phi on sunday (+ 2 more friends & my brother).

Neill

See pictures here.

Tags: beaches, scuba, thailand

 

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