Wednesday, September 24

Koh Tao, Thailand

(see map) trin: Based on Lonely Planet's description we were expecting a chill little island for scuba divers. We were surprised by the size and number of the resorts on Sairee Beach many of which were built in the last two years.

We stayed at Ban's Dive Resort ,the mega dive operator on the island. Their boat has a sixty person capacity and it was always full. Diving at a sight with that many people took some getting use to.

Back to school. In order to justify our seven day stay on Koh Toa, we decided to get our Advance Open Water Certification. Unlike Open Water, we were not required to watch cheesy instructional videos or perform scuba skills in the pool. The advanced course consists of five dives, two required (deep and navigation) and three electives. We chose: night, peak performance buoyancy control and fish identification.

Some of the lessons were a little obvious. Above is the section on not riding animals. What? You mean I shouldn't grab onto a sea turtle and go for a ride. Duh...

Our night dive was the biggest challenge more because of the conditions than the dark. There was big swell and the visibility was only five meters. I probably looked like a rag doll as I tried to descend along the mooring line. After one failed attempt and several mouthfulls of seawater, I eventually made it to the sea floor where I planted my knee into a head of coral. The best part of the dive was when we turned out our lights and sat on the bottom in complete darkness. It sounds scary but our eyes adjusted and it was really quite peaceful. The most difficult part was getting back on the boat. The swell had picked up while we were below and the boat was now coming up out of the water with each wave. As I treaded water in the dark and watched the huge boat crashing down in front of me I thought, What the hell are we doing this for? That quickly turned to elation once we were safely back onboard where our classmate were enthusiastically congratulating one another. "We didn't die!"

During the course we saw two different whale sharks The first (about five meters long) was during our deep dive. Two days later we had just taken off our gear when someone yelled "whale shark, whale shark!" Everyone started cheering and jumping back into the water. There was a horde of sixty people swimming at the surface and the whale shark kept cruising through the crowd. He'd reach the edge and turn right back into the group. He's like a moving reef with an entourage of fish that swim with him at all times. It was awesome!!

Photo borrowed from National Geographic

School's out. Time for some Fun Dives.

Heading in for a cold Singha.

For our last three days, we moved to the quiet eastern side of the island where we stayed at Black Tip Dive Resort. We welcomed the change from the crowds at Sairee.

The secluded beach cove was a little paradise.

Departing from Koh Toa.

It is hard to believe that we are leaving So. East Asia. I can remember planning the trip and thinking it was so far away. And, now we are already moving on to Hong Kong and then Nepal. We are saddened by the reality that we have just four months left.

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