After feeding and bathing elephants, watching muay thai, tasting the magnificent street food and sampling the other delights of Chiang Mai we decided to head for the beach, in need of sun and sand. After a monstrous 38 hour journey, made so long by a train accident ahead of us, we stepped off the ferry at Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, a.k.a. Turtle Island. World renowned for its scuba diving and snorkeling this small island was exactly what we were looking for. Long sandy beaches, blueish-green sea and, most importantly, lots of sun. However, after our first day on the beach the sun wasn’t quite as welcome, pale English bodies under tropical sun meant a fair amount of sunburn. Thankfully we had brought some aftersun!
Deciding that it would be a shame to come all the way here and not explore the sea I booked to go on some fun dives with a company called Scuba Junction, a well regarded company that I liked the look of because it also promoted small dive groups. I already had my Advanced Open Water Certification, but it had been a year since I last dived so I decided that I should sign up for a quick refresher dive to go through the key skills, just so I felt more comfortable in the water. This was definitely a good idea. After just 15 minutes going through the movements with French dive master Jan he said I was back up to scratch and so we went off exploring the reefs. Over the next two days I went on four dives, though all were at different sites. The first day was spent exploring Three Rocks (a highly imaginative name deriving from the three large rocks at the water’s surface!) and Junkyard. Junkyard was a very unusual dive site and the name certainly fitted. In the water here had been dropped a huge variety of different things, to act as a base for the coral to grow on and help the reefs to grow. These included a pick-up truck, lots of ropes and netting and around 20 toilets! It was pretty surreal seeing fish where a driver should have sat, but the advantage of this dive site was that lots of fish were based here that could not be found elsewhere on the island. These included bearded filefish, blotched porcupinefish and longfin batfish. We also saw a few saddleback anenomefish, a.k.a. Nemo.
The next day we dived at the sites Nang Yuan Cave and Twins (rather fitting!). The first of these was not so much a cave as an underwater swim-through that was around 10-12 metres long. It got a bit tight at one point but luckily we all fit through! The second dive site was slightly deeper and offered a few of the rarer fish species including a very well camouflaged scorpion fish and a couple of crocodile fish that look very similar to eels.
Whilst we were here we also both took advantage of the snorkelling, exploring the Japanese Gardens dive site where the coral reef is very close to the surface and so offers a lot to see. Annika was very lucky and saw a turtle whilst we were out there. I was gutted, it would have been nice to see a turtle on Turtle Island!