Hello! It’s Kim, guest blogging.
On Friday morning, we left Surat Thani on the Southern end of Thailand’s Gulf coast on a coach bus bound for the port. At the port, we caught a ferry that took us to Koh Tao via a couple other islands. The ferries were run by a company called Lomprayah; they were packed with people but nice, fast, and air conditioned in the cabin.
We arrived in Koh Tao late Friday afternoon and much to our delight, our dive operator’s site (Crystal Dive) was right next to the port. We got lucky and got a bungalow for three nights in a nice, brand new unit just a few doors down from the dive shop. As a break from our hectic past two three days, we got dinner at an Italian restaurant and then Thai back, shoulder and neck massages. They were great for only 300 baht, but man were they brutal! Our masseuses cracked both of our necks and I thought my head might snap off.
Saturday morning we grabbed breakfast and signed up for the afternoon dives through Crystal. This place is by-the-book to the extreme – they scrutinized our dive logs and certification cards and might have required a refresher course for both of us, but fortunately we were just shy of their 6 month cut-off from a last dive to require that. Whew – we’ve spent enough money on this trip!
After a quick lunch, we headed out on the boat which was full of mostly students either completing their open water or a more advanced certification. The dive master for our group of 3 “fun” (aka not participating in any course) divers was Richard, a young guy from England who only just obtained his open water certification last September and has logged over 200 dives since then. Having not dove since August, I felt a bit rushed by the operation as they were really quick about getting us geared up and off the boat. Both dives were great for seeing aquatic life – we saw two turtles! My ears hurt a lot on the second dive though.
For dinner, we went to a place called Safari and were surprised by how dead the town (called Mae Haad) feels at night. Where is everyone on a Saturday night? After heading to nearby Sairee Beach (the more tourist/party area) for a bucket of a vodka mixer and being the only people in the bar, we reasoned that the diving community must be early to bed and early to rise.
After Sunday’s breakfast, we again signed up for the afternoon’s fun dives and were again grouped with Richard, and two other men – one from Ireland and one from California. I wisely took some cold medicine to help my ears and employed Bryan’s suggestion of continually equalizing my ears on my descent and it helped immensely. Aside from a flooding problem with my mask which caused me to surface momentarily, it was a much better dive for me and I focused on staying horizontal, not using my hands, and enjoying the underwater sights! The second dive was to a drop called Twin Peaks which had some amazing angelfish, coral and stingrays.
All in all, Koh Tao was a great place to visit and is definitely THE place to go in Thailand if you want to scuba dive. Lonely Planet says it is the number one place in the world for issuing scuba certifications. It’s a shame we don’t have one more day to dive. Perhaps Krabi will offer something…