A Travellerspoint blog

Ko Tao

Our most favourite island yet!

sunny 32 °C

After a sitting upright in a chair on an air con train for 12 hours (it was FREEZING all night) we eventually left Bangkok and arrived early morning (about 5am) to Chumpon on the south eastern coast of Thailand to catch a ferry to Ko Tao. After a very hairy race for the boat in a benched car (imagine a pickup truck with benches in the back) holding on for our lives we arrived at the pier and boarded the boat.

Our arrival on Ko Tao was met with buckets of sunshine. The island seems to radiate colours. From the bright green hillsides (it is quite mountanous in the middle of the island) to the white sand palm fringed beaches and the bright colours of the flowers and even the people emmited an energy here we have not seen elsewhere! It felt very tropical and homely in a very wierd sort of way. We chose Ko Tao so we could complete our PADI/SSI open water scuba diving course. You need to pass a course of five dives with instruction before you can do it anywhere in the world. Ko Tao is the global centre for diving, it issues more dive certificates than anywhere else in the world (even more than places like the great barrier reef. This means that the whole island is run by dive schools (about 50 of them and the island is only about 2km wide and 15km in length) and it is the cheapest place in the world to complete your course. The island is surrounded by beautiful beaches and tropical corals perfect for diving. Out of everywhere we had been in Thailand, Ko Tao was a place we felt we could stay a while and not get bored. It was very centred around health it had a surfer vibe. Lots of young and sporty type people here, with a good bar culture at night.

Our first few nights we spent at a beach called Hin Wong Bay. The bay was spread across great bouldering landscapes with the huts protruding on the rocks jutting out over the sea with amazing views morning and night when the sun sets and rises changing the colours of the landscape. Hin Wong bay was also a great snorkelling spot. We both spent many hours of our 4 day stop here in the water swimming with the fish (and there were a LOT of fish) The best and the worst thing about Hin Wong Bay was the seclusion. With only a few bungalows it felt like it was your own beach. However to get to the other side of the island you had to walk (hike) over a 3km 300m high hill. This hill was a HILL. not for the faint hearted the incline meant you felt you were climbing a wall not walking a path. This trip we did nearly every day to get to the shops or walk around the restaurants and bars of the beaches on the busy side of the island. The staff at Hin Wong Bay served us great Thai foods. Vegetable Shrimp noodle soups, Thai curry, salads and fresh breads and fruits. The last night we spent here we also climbed to a veiwpoint at a pinacle of the island to take in the veiws from the top (take a look at the pictures) This was probably the hardest walk we have ever taken it also seemed to take forever! but the veiw was worth it. We sat breathless on the top of the hill for a good thirty minutes before flopping in the restuarant for the whole evening not moving one muscle.

The next few days were the most exciting for us. We moved over to Sairee beach (Hat Sai Ri) over the hill and into our new home for the next 5 nights at Pheonix dive school so we could start our dive course the next morning. Yippeeee!

The first day of the dive school started with a morning of watching a video and our instructor Claus telling us about the apparatus and how to use it safely. We were given homework and tutorial books and sent away until the afternoon. The afternoon was spent in the swimming pool. Here we learnt basic techniques needed to swim under water. Firstly we put on all the diving equipment (which is a task intself) then swam around in the pool using the regulator to breath (the first time you do this it is really wierd!) It really does take some time to learn to feel comfortable swimming under water and breathing normally. Whislt sitting at the bottom of the pool we learnt how to take the regulator in and out of our mouths and continue breathing, hand signals, taking our mask on and off and importantly how to learn to inflate and deflate the BCD (the air jacket the controls how much you float or sink) so you can stay boyant at the bottom of the pool swim around without touching the bottom. Again this does take some practicing. Once all this was done we had the last 10 minutes to fool around and play. Kit and i spent it doing somersaults and flips. As we were told to come up Kits air supply stopped!!! Underwater whilst mid somersault. So quicklky swam to the surface. Apparently this doesnt happen so often. We concluded the Kit has superhuge lungs or breaths deeply (or was scared to death from the outset), whatever it was Kit was very sure to use his gauge on his tank to check the air supply often when we did the rest of our dives! Not the best first experience for building confidence thats for sure!

The next morning spent in the classroom and afternoon on the boat! We went out to waters 12m deep to do two dives. Diving is wierd at first, really wierd. You jump off the boat into the water (again there is a technique) and floating/swimming towards the guide rope (usually the ankor) once you are there you let all the air out of your jacket and you start to sink using the rope to guide yourself to the bottom of the sea. Along the way you have to keep equalising (holding your nose and pushing air through your ears) as the pressure on your body is much more than above water. Once we were at the bottom it was sooooo cool! A little like finding nemo. Coral everywhere so many fish. You look above and see the sun shining through the water and the bubbles rise to the surface with fish swimming all around you. The wierd thing with diving is that your colour spectrum goes. So the deeper you dive the less colours you see. At the level we were at all the reds and oranges had gone. So most of the coral looks blue and purple (even though its not when you see it on a film or camera) We spent time at the bottom of the ocean carrying out some drills with the equipment and some skills before we followed Claus and he would point out different fish and creatures. The best thing about our first dive was seeing a turtle! We were also warned about trigger fish (they come our and attack you) but our instructor was always there to bat it away first... A 40 min dive was over in what felt like seconds and we were back on the boat having a rest drinking coffee and eating fruit. Our second dive at a different dive site a little deeper and a few more fish. The day seemed to end in a flash. For both of us it seemed a really magical day. Nothing really prepared us for what it was going to be like or how awesome it really was.

Day three the third and final day was 2 more dives (early morning start of 7am) this time we went deeper. We had a camera man with us to take shots so we did some really cheesy stuff like diving off the boat, pretending to be a rock band under water (there was 7 of us on our dive) and we were told we went deeper than we should probably 24m ish (our certifcate is upto 20m only) but the diver sites were incredible. We had swim throughs, and large cliffs of coral with fish swimming in and out. Creatures in the sands large whirlpool formations of Barracuda, tones of angel fish more than your eyes can take in even going super slow! Before we knew it we were on the long tail boat riding to the shore and it was all over. We did our exam (we both got 49 out of 50) :-) then we got our card so we can dive all over the world (hopefully the great barrier reef) To celebrate we had a yummy BBQ on the beachside. Ko Tao was good for BBQs, there were BBQ sticks with fresh vegtables and seafood (red/white snapper, Barracudda, shrimp and squid) salad jacket potato and corn. For us eating Thai food, indian food etc.. this was a real treat! We celebrated our diver certification with a few buckets. We resisted the urge to drink the buckets whilst out here however we decided to give them a go... The buckets were filled with a local whiskey and coke etc. The morning after was greeted with the dirtiest of hangovers.... not the best way to spend the last day on the island.. and probably a good detterant from ever buying one ever again!

With the dive trip over we had to leave, we would have stayed longer but we had to do a visa run. Our visa expired the day after so left the island, the fun times and the good friends we made there to do the 2 hour boat journey with a night in Chumpon in a grotty hotel with a mattress on the floor, from paradise to poverty in a few hours! From there an early morning 5.30am bus to Ranong to start the palava that is a visa extension in Thailand.

You arrive at the port go to an office sign a departure card, take a boat to Myamer (Burma) for 45 minutes which means you have officially left Thailand. There you get off the boat have your passport stamped. Burma was not a nice place. I was asked if i wanted to buy female viagra on the boat jetty (date rape drug) and cheap cigarettes. I think this was a place for most shipping of every illagility you can think of. Once stamped and payment of 500 bhat back on the boat sign an arrival card and voila... 15 more days in Thailand!

What to do now? We have 12 days left before we fly from Krabi to Singapore then onto Melbourne. We decided on the nearby Railay - a place you can only access by boat, however a mainland localtion feels like an island. Miles of cliffsides a perfect climbers retreat? It sounded good to us so off we went!

And here we are... we will keep this blog to a Ko Tao insert and will update our final 10 days before we leave for Melbourne. Hope you are all safe at home and enjoying what we believe is nice cold but sunny weather with nearly spring in the air!

Take care love you all very much


Posted by Kitanddup 19:50 Archived in Thailand Tagged ko tao

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ahhhh what a fantastic island it is! Many years since I've been but that post brought it all back.... Smiling at the memory of struggling over that hill , well you say hill.....

by Leo

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