Koh Tao, Thailand

March 18, 2009 - Ko Tao, Thailand

 As you may have guessed from the name "koh" it's another island in the Gulf of Thailand. It's two islands north of Koh Samui and we went there to do some scuba diving.

We stayed in a bungalow in a resort along a small beach in the northwest. The room wasn't all that fancy but there was a huge gecko living in our bathroom, behind the mirror during the day and above the toilet at night ;-). They make the funkiest noise when you are sleeping. It's a really loud sort of repetitive quaking followed by a purring (we only found out in Vietnam that it was the gecko making that noise, until then we thought it was a large bird or something).

Anyhow, on the second day we signed up to get our open water diving certificate and from then on we spent 3 full days in a classroom, the pool and the ocean learning how to scuba dive. The classroom session was alright and everything sounded pretty simple and straight forward. But once we went into the pool and they asked us to breathe under water (with an oxygen tank of course) things got a bit more tricky. Your first reflex is to hold your breath or just expell the air and then go back to the surface and you have to keep reminding yourself that the respirator is feeding you air (a mix of nitrogen and oxygen). It got really tricky though, when we had to take out the respirator and then put it back in, clear it of water and start breathing again. What an odd feeling, good thing we started in the pool with only 1 m of water above us! It's also neat to communicate under water, because everything is in sign language, which apparently is universal, which comes in handy when trying to dive elsewhere.

The next day they took us to 2 real (ie. ocean) dive sites. It was absolutely stunning. We saw many different kinds of corral, soft and hard ones and thousands of fish. They are not as colourful as they appear in movies or on photographs, but they are beautiful nonetheless. On our first dive we even got to see a hornbill turtle. Both dives took about 50 minutes each and time flies when you are down there enjoying yourself. Unfortunately they also made us do some exercises such as taking out the respirator, breathing from the alternate airsource of our buddy etc. Thank goodness everything went well and nobody choked on any salt water.

On the last day we did two more dives and saw pretty much the same things. Too bad we didn't get to take any pictures though, but we don't have an underwater camera. Maybe we can find some pictures online to show you what we saw.

Other than the diving there isn't much to do on Koh Tao, but we were lucky because the island festival was happening while we were there. They had a huge stage set up and performed dances and songs all night long. Food stalls were everywhere and we had some good deserts and drinks. The neatest thing however were the stalls that provided information on the coral reefs. Apparently because of the warming of the ocean particularly the slow growing corals are dying off and are replaced by the faster growing ones. So to help balance the reef several agencies have set up artificial reefs. That means that they build  metal cages under water. The run a minimal current through the wire to create a basic/alkaline environment within the cage. Then they collect pieces of coral that have broken off the original reefs and that are still alive and attach them to the cage. With time the basic environment helps them grow faster than they would on their own.

That was our very first scuba diving adventure and hopefully there will be many more to follow. Now it's off to Bangkok, our last stop in Thailand.


David on St. Patrick's Day
Fresh sea food
Patty the Turtle
Our first night on the beach
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