Last November in Cairns I gained my first scuba diving experience by getting the Open Water Diver certification, together with 5 wonderful dives at the Great Barrier Reef. Then in New Zealand I extended my diving experience by two more dives at Milford Sound. With only seven dives, I did not feel confident enough and I wanted to build up some more experience. Therefore I signed up for the Advanced Open Water Course in Koh Tao, an Island not far away from Koh Samui where Ilinca signed up for a yoga retreat at the same time.
About Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a very small tropical island with lots of hills, forest, rocky cliffs and isolated beaches on its eastern side and two large beaches on its western side. While there are just a few hotels on the east coast, the west of Koh Tao is very touristic. Compared to Koh Samui however, it’s not high end resorts and spas that dominate the island, but it’s much more laidback and you meet thousands of backpackers in their early twenties enjoying their time at the small villages, the beach bars and the nightlife. Even though it’s been a while since my twenties, this is still my preferred travel style and reminded me a lot of my time as a backpacker in Brazil around a decade ago. If there is some downside to Koh Tao, it’s that most of the remote beaches are private and hence you have to pay to access them.
Our Stay in Koh Tao
The original plan was to stay in one of the hostels, at least for the time that Ilinca was on Koh Samui in her Yoga retreat. But then I discovered some wonderful small villas build on top of one of the hills with a magnificent view over the eastern beaches of Koh Tao. The only problem with these villas was the steep price. But as I really wanted to stay there during the nine days in total, I saw it as a challenge to negotiate the price. And it seems I am still in possession of some of my skills that I gained during my time in my startup. In the end I got the villa for half the price, and not much more expensive than a nice private room down in the village. Wonderful!
And the villa was no disappointment at all. From the terrace we could observe wonderful sunsets, observe the movements of all the boats in the bay, and sometimes even spot the mainland that is about 70 km away. And in addition, it was very quiet at night. If there is one thing I could complain about (although it is rather funny than a complaint): They advertise the villa as a luxury villa, but almost all the furniture and the kitchen were bought from IKEA. While I don’t mind IKEA in general, some things I would never buy in IKEA, such as the ugly and very uncomfortable couch or the uncomfortable dining chairs made out of plastic. But having rented the villa for half the prize, this was no big deal at all and I enjoyed every single night in the villa.
Diving Adventures on Koh Tao
In order to get some more routine and experience in diving, I was mainly busy with diving during my days alone on Koh Tao. I first got my Advanced Open Water Certification, and then added four more days of diving on the various sites around Koh Tao. In total I did 18 dives in 7 days, leaving me now with an experience of 25 dives. In addition, I am now also allowed to dive to a depth of max. 30 meters instead of only 18 meters. It might not sound like a big difference, but at many sites, the really interesting parts are below 18 meters and are now accessible to me.
Koh Tao turned out to be a perfect place for getting more diving experience. Most of the dive sites can easily be reached with a 30 min or less boat ride (and the boat was not very fast), giving me the possibility to go on three dives every day. And the variety of sea life is just amazing. Here a short list of animals that I remember: Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray, the much larger Jenkins Whipray with an estimated diameter of 1 m, an eel, scorpionfish, huge groupers and titan triggerfish, enormous schools of up to 1m long barracudas, and much more. The most fascinating moments were when I was basically surrounded with fish and integrated into the school. Wherever I looked, there were colorful fish floating gently next to me.
Unfortunately I did not have an underwater camera equipment, so I can only share a few pictures from the dive boat.
If you want to get an idea what it looks like underwater, I can recommend this movie:
Next Stop Cambodia
As our Thai entry stamp expires after 30 days, we decided to move on to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, one of the largest temples in the world and then start to explore more of Cambodia. As we have not seen the west coast of Thailand yet, we might however visit Thailand again in March.