Koh Tao

11 Jan

One of the great things about working at RIS is the number of vacation days we have. This is not something I even took into account when looking at schools, but now that we’re here, it’s pretty darn awesome. For winter break this year we had 24 days off, which is to me just a crazy long time to have off for vacation. Orestes and I took advantage by planning our honeymoon to 2 islands in the southern Gulf of Thailand. We spent 19 days doing amazing, beach-related activities, which is the longest I have ever spent on vacation and/or in a beach environment. I now have more freckles than I thought was humanly possible, and am ridiculously relaxed.

Koh Tao was the first of the islands we spent time on. It’s the smallest of a group of 3 lovely islands off the lower gulf coast. It is also the least developed of the 3, and has a definite hippy vibe. Koh Tao is best known for its dive sites – the water around the island is amazingly clear, and there are tons of reefs surrounding it. When we decided to go, Orestes campaigned to do an Open Water course and learn how to scuba dive. I felt pretty neutral about it, but since I like snorkeling, and water in general, I figured it could be entertaining. Turns out diving is one of the coolest things I have ever done. We ended up spending most of the week on Koh Tao diving with a company called Big Blue Diving. We did the pool practice, passed the exam, and did the 4 dives for our Open Water certification (I got 100% on my exam – yes, I’m a nerd haha). We ended up liking diving so much that we decided to do our Advanced Open Water certification too. We learned how to navigate underwater and use a dive computer (see photo below of the ginormous computer and compass on my wrist). We got to dive deeper (down to 30 m, which is the deepest you can go without specialized gas mixtures) and also did some specialty dives, including a night dive, and a wreck dive. Orestes was a big fan of the night dive, while I thought the wreck was extraordinary. There was something quite eerie about swimming through a ship underwater, even a ship that had been sunk on purpose to provide habitat for marine life. In total, we did 9 dives on Koh Tao and had a fabulous time (I also ended up with an ear infection, but thanks to Thailand’s lack of regulations, you can buy everything you need to treat one over the counter, sans doctor visit).

We are now both huge fans of the sport, and plan to do other dives in the future. Quite simply, diving is amazing. It was a little freaky right at first learning to breathe through your mouth, but once you get used to it, diving is extremely relaxing. After you’ve gotten your bouyancy sorted out, diving takes very little physical effort, and small movements of your fins are enough to keep you going. It is very zen floating along, looking at fish and coral, with only the sound of your own breathing in your ears. Our instructor was this tiny British girl named Jen, who was good at explaining things. She was also studying to be a marine biologist, so she was very enthused and knowledgeable about the marine life we saw. The cool underwater animals we saw include:

* multiple stingrays

* a hawksbill sea turtle – extremely cool!!

* a white-eyed moray eel, which was super creepy looking

* jellyfish, including one that was quite large – they are very graceful-looking as they swim along

* several schools of barracuda and a giant grouper

* bioilluminescence (algae that glows in the dark when agitated – on our night dive, we turned out our flashlights and played with it – Orestes said he felt like a wizard throwing fire bolts)

Other than diving, we basically just hung around on the beach. The beach we were on in Koh Tao, Hat Sairee, was beautiful. The sand was soft and you could walk out into the water for yards and yards and still see the bottom. We celebrated Christmas while on Koh Tao, making this the first time in 30 years I have not been in Vermont and chilly for Christmas. It was a little sad not to be with family, but hard to be depressed when one spends the day lying on a gorgeous beach, sipping tropical cocktails. The thing that most amused me was the number of people wearing bathing suits and Santa hats in honor of the holiday. I snapped a few photos (see below). Overall, Koh Tao was awesome, and we would both go back in a heartbeat.

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3 Responses to “Koh Tao”

  1. Colleen January 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Oh my, how cool is it that you learned to scuba dive!!!! Love it. Sounds like an amazing honeymoon! Yay for you guys! 🙂

  2. Elaine McCormick January 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    This is awesome! It warms my heart that the two of you are having such wonderful adventures during your time in Thailand. These are memories that you will carry with you for a lifetime. Keep it going! Love, Mom.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Koh Pha-Ngan | The Jacksons Take Thailand - June 21, 2016

    […] bus, ferry, and songtao (oh my!). Koh Pha-Ngan is located in the Gulf of Thailand, tucked between Koh Tao and Koh Samui ~ it’s a bit of a trek to get to. Still, by 1:00 pm we were poolside. Our […]

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