We had yet another uncomfortable overnight journey, this time to the Thai island of Koh Tao but we made it safe and sound and arrived to the sight of palm tree covered mountains, azur blue water and the coral below. We checked into a Bungalow on the beach which was very basic but great to be able to see the sand and sea from our balcony and hear the ocean at night. After a late breakfast on the beach, I made my mind up and signed up for my PADI Open Water Diving course to start the next day. Our first day on the islands was spent lazying on the beach not really believing where we were, followed by a dinner overlooking the sea and a drink at the famous-among-travellers Lotus Bar. They have fire throwers which was cool to watch and impressive at times but they weren't all that tight with there moves and when they attempted to throw one over the crowd, the throw was short and landed next to a woman setting her dress alight! It was a true show of Thai health and safety!
I was up early the next morning and straight into my first morning of diving theory. It took a while to adjust to the fact that I had to learn and actually use a text book cause its been so long since I've had to but to be honest it was pretty damn easy, although the strange mexican guy next to me seemed to be struggling with it! After lunch, our group of four and instructor jumped in the clear water at a nearby island and started our diving techniques. The first breath underwater was very strange but you soon get used to it and breathe as normal. We had to complete a series of task which involved breathing techniques, sharing oxygen, buoyancy and the worst one, filling our masks with sea water and blowing it out again. I soon found that eyes and sea water aren't a good combination! Back on dry land, I went pretty much straight to bed as I was exhausted from the days events.
The following day started with the second half of the theory followed by two 45min dives to 12m deep, the first of which was at a dive site called Twins. It was such a strange sensation and experience to be down so deep in the water as well as feeling weightless, but I absolutely loved it, one of the best things I've done in my life! The water was so clear and we saw such fantastic coral and creatures including hermit crabs, moray eels, stingrays and hundreds of different types of fish. I can't really describe on here how good it was! The second dive was very similar and equally as good and we sighted all sorts of fish. Our final day involved two more 45min dives but this time down to 18metres. We took an hour boat ride to the middle of the ocean and dived at a sight called Chumpon Pinnacles. This was fantastic as you would swim along and all of a sudden the coral would fall away and you would be floating over a drop of another 30m! Everything here went around in huge schools and we managed to catch a glimpse of some barracudas too! Our final dive involved some tunnels and caves which were amazing and some of the fish we found lurking at the bottom were awesome. The diving really began to feel natural and I soon forgot I was breather through a mouth piece and just enjoyed the view instead. Was a shame we didn't get to see any sharks which are a possible sighting on Koh Tao, but to be honest I dunno whether I would have panicked at seeing one or not. Seb our intructor left us impressed as he blew bubble rings to the surface of the water! After sniffing in salt water to help my ears equalise (it actually works!) and having my eyes burnt by the salt, we were back ashore and ready for the final exam. However Seb wasn't well so left us to our own devises to do the exam on the beach with a beer in hand! The way exams should be done! Needless to say I passed and became a qualified diver the next day.
Our final three days on Koh Tao were spent doing not a lot. We lazed on the beach, sometimes venturing as far as the beach bar for a drink before resuming the lazing around again. Our second to last day however, we hired a long boat to take us to the north of the island to a place called Mango Bay, only accessable by boat. It was great here, a tiny beach with crystal clear water, great snorkelling and at some points, we were the only three there! Kat and I also managed to catch the nightly Cabaret show called 'Queens'. Yep, you guessed it...ladyboys! It was definately something very different but actually quite good at points with some good miming to Whitney Houston songs and I was lucky enough to escape a kiss on the lips as some members of the audience had to endure!
We ended up staying 6 days on the islands, a shame I didnt have more time to explore some of the others, but it was a stunning place to relax for a while and a diving heaven. Will update with photos soon, the computer won't let me do it.
Hope you're all well. Gareth.