Saturday, December 27, 2014

12/10/14 Day 328 PADI Open Water Certification on Ko Tao

Relaxing by the crystal clear waters and watching the dozens of dragonflies and butterflies glide among the tropical flowers of Koh Tao, what a paradise! A tiny island compared to Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan and only 47 kilometers Northwest of the party island. We arrived yesterday on a Songserm ferry after 2 hours and 350 baht, they are the cheapest service, but widely known for lacking timeliness, not surprisingly we were roughly 3 hours later than expected. We got to the island, picked out a dive school (Easy Divers) and got settled into our bungalow on the South side of the island between Chalok Baan Kao and Shark Bay, away from the main tourist drag. Easy Divers arranged three nights of accommodation along with daily pickup and delivery all inclusive with our dive package and for only 8,900 baht! When we weren't being personally delivered by the dive shop we either walked or hitchhiked across the small island, the three of us even hitched separately on three motorbikes, Thailand is fantastic! Our accommodation at Ok Bungalows II is gorgeous, with a wraparound deck private bathroom and the all important fan and mosquito net combo to keep the pests at bay. Luckily for us the accommodation is included because the cost of the place is upwards of 1,500 baht a night (45$) and out of our backpacker budget. Ko Tao is known as the second cheapest place to dive in the world and with 80+ dive schools on the small island everybody is on the same page, dives in the morning beach for the rest of the day. The next three days are spent exhausted as we are up by 7:00 each morning to get to our scuba classes on time. Videos and theory in the mornings accompanied by two dives in the afternoon at Twins and Japanese Gardens surrounding Ko Naang Yuan island for the first two days. On the third day we say goodbye to our beautiful sunrise Bungalow view and head for the dive shop where we suit up for an 8:00 departure for our final two dives at Southwest Pinnacle and Shark Island before we are certified PADI Open Water Divers by the afternoon. With this training completed Julie, Kevin, Lewis and I are officially allowed to dive up to 18 meters deep anywhere in the world! Easy Divers was great for us, we completed our training with our Parisian Divemaster Val and had a really good time all four of us were on the same page and at a similar speed. Easy Divers doesn't use a pool for their confined dives which is beneficial because otherwise the buoyancy can be different from freshwater to saltwater. They do train up to 6 people at a time but we got lucky with only 4 of us. The visibility was a lot better the first day than the second two, but we saw some really cool critters regardless: blue spotted stingrays, huge groupers, angelfish, batfish, the aggressive triggerfish, we got nibbled on by cleanerfish, saw some deflated pufferfish, anemone fish hiding in their anemone homes and lots of beatiful colorful corals. After our diving was complete we spent two more nights in Chalok Baan, to relax and enjoy the island a bit, we found a beachfront resort that offered us two nights for 900 baht for the three of us, and spent the rest of the week hiking around and lounging on the beaches. There is a lot to do for outdoor enthusiasts, lots of hiking trails that you can't get to by road, kayaking, and snorkeling galore. Ko Tao is one of my favorites places so far with the stunning scenery, secluded beaches and a very laid back atmosphere. 

Our first dive sites: Twins and Japanese Gardens

Our dive team: Julie, myself, Kevin and Lewis

In between dives, pineapple break

Chicken cashew nut and coconut curry soup, yum!
For dessert a corn (maize) ice cream?!
Palm fronds
Thai iced tea: plastic bag, full of ice, add concentrated tea and condensed milk and stick it in a paper bag with a straw in it only 30 baht (1$)!
full up with tea we began our hike from Mae Head Bay to Sai Nuan Bay 1 & 2, and around the peninsula to sunset at sunset bay before continuing home to Chalok Baan Kao. 
Beautiful secluded beachfront bungalows

Julie taking advantage of an abandoned hammock at Sai Nuan beach

Our wraparound deck at Ok II Bungalows 

Our last dive site at Shark Island, the current was so strong
Kevin got to ignite the sign while we partied at Sairee beach after our dive certification completion

Just having a swing at our second home in Ko Tao at Sunshine Bungalows in Chalok Baan Kao Bay

This poor turtle is caught in the power lines, an analogy to the garbage in the sea?

Well if that is not persuasion enough...

Chalok Baan Kao Bay
The hike up to John Suwan viewpoint, you can see practically the whole island from up here

Chalok Baan Kao Bay on the left and Thian Og (Shark Bay) on the right

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