The speed boat ride to Koh Tao was fairly pleasant…. It took 1.5 hours, my first part of this SE Asia adventure on my own!!! On the boat ride I decided to brave it and make the first move at conversation with a random…. Yes yes I know most of u are probably thinking that normally I have no problem with this but normally when I talk to strangers I’m a little intoxicated. Anyway braved it and spoke to the girl next to me….girl from Sidney who came here for a yoga retreat. Then i saw the guy on my other side take out what looked like a Go Pro (its a type of camera in case you don’t know) which i want…perfect cue for convo!! Anyway i was pretty shy initiating both those conversations but it was ok in the end and i’m sure it will get easier as my trip goes along.
Anyway so about Koh Tao, (which means turtle island) is an island in Thailand located near the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand. Its a small island that specialises in diving.
When you arrive at the Koh Tao Ferry dock, you are unloaded onto a dock of a hundred plus locals trying to sell you scuba diving classes, hotels, taxis, and other tourist things (this is pretty standard for any ferry dock you arrive at in Thailand). In Koh Tao, if you pay for a diving course to get certified in scuba diving then almost every dive school will put you up in their hotel accommodations free. Knowing i would be coming here just after New Years i pre-booked my diving with Sairee Beach Cottages. They fetched me from the dock and i was blown away when I saw my accommodation. Its just their basic fan room with a cold shower but i absolutely LOVE it!!!! I even have my own little balcony!!!
So originally they told me i would be starting my theory on the 4th which was my check-in day but after rushing to get here it turns out i was only starting on the 5th. This suited me as it gave me a chance to settle in and check the island out. Originally when we drove up to the resort it felt like we drove away from town (where the dock was) and drove for about 20min up into the mountains. i was stressing a bit as i hadn’t got any supplies from the shop. But when i went to inquire at reception about hiring a scooter she told me to walk down the path either side as we are situated in the middle of the “beach promenade”. As i turned right and started making my way down the path (which motorbikes also use) i walked into shops, restaurants, clubs, hotels, dive shops etc etc on either side of the pathway…..i have fallen in love with this island!!!!!
Right so is everyone ready to have a good giggle at my stupidity… when i had gone to ask reception about hiring a scooter, i had a seat on the couch while i put the wifi code into my phone and computer. And in doing this i put the key to my bungalow down as well. Anyway after exploring the island and having a few cocktails at my resort bar/restaurant i realized i did not have my key. I immediately rushed back to reception as they were closing at 8pm and they gave me the key in the lost key basket. Ever so grateful to have found it i didn’t even check if it was mine….i mean who else would be stupid enough to lose their key!!!!! Happy at finding it i went back to the bar and only at 9pm when i was heading back to my bungalow i looked at the key and it said A8….mmmm almost sure mine was A10 but maybe i was wrong so i walked to A8 and there were no table and chairs on that balcony so that definitely was not mine!!! I started to stress, reception had closed at 8pm….i had visions of me having to spend my first night in Koh Tao sleeping on the hard wooden bench on my balcony.!!! I went back to the hotel bar/restaurant i had been at most of the night and explained my situation to the best i could to a non english speaking person. Anyway thank goodness Thai people are so kind as he went to the house of the lady who works in reception to fetch the office door key and there lying on the couch was my key!!!!!! Thank you i would not have to spend the night outside with the mosquitoes!!!!! But A8 would have to…shame!!!!
Ok so i came to this island to get my diving license….first step was the Open water license which means i can dive up to 18m… This consisted of 3.5 days. First day is theory in the classroom, second day theory again in the classroom and then you get in shallow sea water and practice using your equipment, day three classroom theory again and we were supposed to write our exam but ran out of time before our first dive out at sea so we figured we would do it later. First proper dive was amazing….its a little overwhelming at first but actually its really easy!! The only thing that annoyed me was that you are assigned a “buddy” that you have to stay with the whole dive in case something happens. I got assigned the worst buddy!!! First of all when we got out to sea our dive instructor told us we had to swim twice around the boat…not gonna lie boat was massive…water was choppy = NOT EASY!!! Anyway back to my dive buddy, when we had to do this task we all realized he cant freaking swim!!!! how do you sign up to a dive class and not know how to swim!!!! anyway i know what you are thinking, he has air, flippers, a jacket that will not let him sink and die…. correct he could get by but he didn’t know how to kick properly…so my prob with him being my dive buddy is that he takes forever to get anywhere in the water and its frustrating cause i need to keep turning around and looking for him!!! Anyway i would just yank him by his jacket underwater to keep him by my side haha. Anyway Fourth and final day of Open Water we had to be at the dive school bright and early (6:30am!!!) for 2 dives!!!! After those dives we wrote our exam which I’m not going to lie was pretty intense…..but i qualified and passed and am officially a scuba diver who can dive up to 18m anywhere in the world… this was not enough for me though and i wanted to do the advanced diving license as well so that i can dive to 30m!!!
The advanced course which took 2 days to complete was just phenomenal!!! Now that I learnt the basics of diving through Open Water it was time to have a bit of fun with it. I got to choose 5 dives to complete…i chose Buoyancy, Underwater Navigation, Deep Dive, Wreck and Night Dive.
Buoyancy – this was a good dive to do although it really just involved games under water of going through rings and doing an obstacle course underwater. It really taught me how to become a better diver, how to rise and fall underwater by controlling the breathing. This helps when you are doing dive’s, like Wreck dives, and going through small spaces and you need to move up and down in a smooth controlled way so as not to upset anything underwater.
Underwater Navigation – I thought i would hate this but figured it would be worth learning so i don’t get lost underwater haha….I’m not the greatest with directions on dry land as it is but i ended up loving it, am really good at it and managed to find my original location every time using the different methods of navigation which includes using a compass, different methods of using a compass, natural recognition underwater like plants, fish, surroundings etc. When i first learnt that you can use fish as a natural way to navigate back to the same spot i didn’t believe it was possible but honestly i saw the same fish sitting in the same area when i was navigating my way back so it is possible!!!
Deep dive – for this one we went down to 30 meters and tested to see if we got Nitrogen Narcosis. Nitrogen Narcosis is caused by the increased levels of nitrogen in your blood at deeper depths and everyone gets it at different depths. The effects of it are it gives you a euphoric feeling, impairs your coordination and makes you giggle. It sounds funny but can be quite dangerous given the circumstances you’re in. Unfortunately i didn’t get Narc so i didn’t get to experience this feeling but if i had i would have just started a little ascent and the feeling would have gone away.
Wreck dive was also incredible. Silly but i was just imagining i was diving around the Titanic haha…very cool!!!!
Night Dive – the final dive to compete my advanced diving license!!!!! We were each given a flashlight and descended down into the darkness. When you get down to the bottom its pitch black other than your little flash light and it had a real creepy feeling to it. Diving at night was a completely different experience than diving in the day, all the wildlife changes. I wasn’t afraid at all but the only time i panicked was when you take your eyes off your instructor for a second and look around at the sea life and when you look again and you see so many other divers then how do you know which one is the one you are supposed to stick to. Its not like in day light where u can recognise your partner from far.
All in all though the diving went well and I now have an advanced divers license and can dive anywhere in the world up to 30m. i cant wait to get back to Durban and go for my first dive!!!! Completing both the courses gave me a sense of achievement and i completed what i set out to do on this little paradise island. I have hardly had any time to do anything else since I’ve been here….diving has been full on and i completed 9 dives in 4 days which is pretty impressive.
So in between diving I’ve just been chilling on the beach, having quiet dinners, watching sunsets, watching fire shows, live bands etc. Its been amazing. I’m so relaxed and so happy and this whole experience feels like a dream.
I booked an extra day on Koh Tao after my diving just so that i can have a chilled non diving day. Thought i’d start my day with a Thai massage and get all that stress from diving out. I know I’ve mentioned the Thai massages before but seriously these little Thai women (and they are TINY) have huge amounts of strength!!!! The massage drifts in and out of pleasure and pain. I have never been bent and twisted and clicked as much as this massage. At one point i think she was trying to click my head or break my skull, I’m really not sure but it was definitely painful, i was imagining myself being admitted to hospital with many broken bones!!! i am not sure if your body is supposed to be moved into the positions they force you into and i say force because you basically are a rag doll. But when you walk out after that hour its as if you have been healed of every pain you have ever had in your back. This is definitely going to be my little treat, especially at the price of 300 thb (6 pounds \ R86).
Its another scorcher of a day in Koh Tao on my last day, took a while for the sun to come out and i was stressing a bit that i wouldn’t get to enjoy one last beach day before i head North but thank you SUN for coming out. Just thought i’d share my “office” view while i write my blog. And its my first time having a fresh coconut….for years and years i have been watching the American series Survivor and finally i know what the bloody coconuts taste like that they are always surviving on. Mixed feelings…not sure if i’m a fan of it!!!
Last night was spent with friends i had made on my last island and the also new friends made on this island. Zac is an American i met the other night and we are going the same travelling route. He had bought his train ticket to Chiang Mai already but decided he wanted to spend a few more days here so i bought his travel ticket from him as it was exactly the date i wanted to leave Koh Tao and hopefully we will meet up in a few days 😉
I have loved Koh Tao but it is time to move on and explore the rest of this amazing country. The next part of my journey takes 30 hours….yip you heard it 30 hours and involves ferry’s, buses and trains….destination is Chiang Mai which is in the North of Thailand.
Here are a few random pictures from my time in Koh Tao….
Hope everyone is well and thanks for the lovely messages about my blog…love that you guys are enjoying it!!