Koh Tao, Diving Mecca

13th November, Koh Tao, Thailand

Ian writes:

"Basically, just find an island and veg out." - words of advice given to me before getting to the Thai islands. This all seems pretty good in theory, and many people will do just that. The problem is that now we are on the final stretch of our trip, time doesn't allow us the luxury of 'vegging out' indefinitely. This is a shame, because Koh Tao seems to be just about the most perfect spot to forget about time and laze around the beach.

Our resort, like many others along the beach, was a dedicated dive resort - Big Blue. It had some pretty reasonable rates for the cheap bungalows (no air-con, no hot water), rates that were reduced by half if you did a couple of dives. Many of the resorts offered something similar - these places are there for people to dive, it's where the locals make their living, so there's little incentive to offer cheap accommodation for people who only want to laze on the beach. Even if you did decide not to dive though, and pay the higher rate for the room, there's every good chance that you'd still help the local economy by eating in the resort restaurant.

I decided I liked Koh Tao on the first day. Everything about the place seemed to be just right at the resort (except, perhaps, for the somewhat flaky electricity supply - we would notice that the bulbs would progressively dim at night to the point that candle light would be brighter, and then the lights would brighten to full luminosity once more, only to repeat the cycle all over again). Still, we shouldn't complain - up until recently many resorts didn't have 24 hour electricity. The diving was pretty good, too!

I booked up for 4 dives - 2 dives over two separate afternoons. I had a moment's doubt about whether I'd done the right thing as I set out on the boat from the resort for this afternoon's diving. Looking back at Koh Tao, I could see a very dark grey sky, and out to sea was evidence of approaching bad weather. Within a few minutes, the island was obscured from my view by the torrents of rain that had suddenly descended upon it, and moments after that it had caught up with our little dive boat. With such poor weather, the dive didn't promise to be all that good but ended up being quite enjoyable. Once under the water, all thoughts about the weather up there were forgotten and replaced with views of the South East Asian marine life.

Anemone fish frolic in their underwater playground.

By the time I surfaced 40 minutes later, the rain had stopped and the skies were looking much less moody. We made our way from 'No-name Pinnacle' to the next dive spot, Hin Pee Wee (which everyone resorted to calling Pee Wee Herman). It was another enjoyable dive with no specific high points, and by high point I mean the sighting of something larger than a grouper fish - it's amazing how you can quickly become blasé about seeing such pretty and colourful fish such as the blue ringed angelfish or parrot fish. Perhaps I should have reminded myself, once again, what it would be like in Stoney Cove: "Oh, another dull, indeterminate, murky-coloured fish."

The earlier clouds gave way to another spectacular sunset. We sat on the decking of the beach-front restaurant for an evening meal of pad Thai noodles as the last of the sun's rays disappeared on the horizon.

Another view over the Gulf of Thailand as the sun sets on Koh Tao.