The tiny island of Koh Tao (meaning Turtle Island) welcomed us with the now-familiar overwhelming stream of touts trying to push their services upon us. We proved a disappointment to them though as we already booked (and paid for) our diving course as well as for accommodation. We also knew that our dive shop was but a short stroll away from the jetty.
Exhaustion was taking its toll and after a most welcome shower, we made ourselves comfortable at Pranee’s Kitchen (our soon to be favourite eatery for the duration of our stay on Tao). It was meters away from our bungalow and even closer to the lapping ocean. The rest of the day was spent resting and walking the few streets of Sairee Beach village.
IT'S SCUBA TIME!
Warren Power is a friendly Irish bloke whose face oddly resembles the images of the skulls tattooed on his upper arm. He was to be our dive instructor and the course kicked off with an afternoon of theory. Fortunately, Warren had a good way of imparting his rather considerable experience and was a superb tutor.
The reality of diving was staring us in the face when on the second day of the course we had a confined water training session. Growing accustomed to the awkward gear and practising some basic skill needed for the course, filled the afternoon. Lisa had a testing experience when she accidentally snorted some salty water! She was really worried whether this would be something she could cope with once the actual diving began.
The following day we nervously had our usual Pranee’s breakfast before we headed for the dive boat. “Omelette with cheese and bacons” for me and “Banana Pancake” for Lisa. The weather was ominous but fortunately, rain does not affect diving! The first leap off the boat into the warm water was filled with trepidation.
For Lisa, the leap into the water was a challenge in itself! I was starting to feel the effect of motion sickness approaching but once in the water, it became a little more bearable. That first descent was memorable for more than one reason! I suffered from a major “squeeze” at around 8 meters and really struggled to equalize. A squeeze is when the pressure inside your nasal and ear cavities is lower than the pressure of the surrounding water. This causes immense pain and can seriously damage your ears if not treated with considerable caution. Warren helped me to slowly recover and suddenly the magic of the underwater world open up below us.
Incredible sights. Everything was new and it was hard work to take it all in. It was an extraordinary experience and that first 45 minutes just flew by. Surfacing was almost like emerging from a dream – being plucked from your sleep back into reality. My euphoria, however, was short-lived as seasickness struck with a vengeance. As we sped off towards the next dive site, I tried my best to keep my breakfast down all the while everyone else was enjoying lunch.
Practising some basics in shallow water
The thought of doing another dive turned my stomach but oddly the water provided a soothing space once descended. The second dive was even more amazing than the first; if that was possible. Both Lisa and I were having a great time and her original fears proved totally unfounded.
Another day of diving flew past and we were sorely tempted to take Warren up on the offer of an adventure dive to 30 meters the following day. The experience is very addictive and we were extremely sad to bid it a farewell. However, we only had one more day left on the island and we wanted to explore it a bit further while also wanting to rest some before leaving for the mainland.
On our final day on the island, we approached Leatherhosen Bikes and rented a Suzuki DR250 Raid to ride around with. The roads around the island proved to be in a sorry state after the recent rains. Trying to reach some remote areas we encountered extremely slippery tracks and rutted hills. It was becoming less fun by the minute and Lisa was not feeling very comfortable thus we abandoned the idea and headed for Buddha Rock. A wonderful beach welcomed us there and surprisingly it was virtually deserted. We happily spent some time there soaking in the lukewarm water feeling like holidaymakers for the first time! However, as usual, we became bored eventually and just before being caught in a massive thunderstorm we managed to see some more of Turtle Island. It’s really amazing that there were no commercial buildings or houses there as little as 15 years ago! Almost everything was ‘new’.
There seem to be little proper infrastructure planning and it’s clear that basic services like refuse removal and sewerage was horribly lacking. It’s sad to think that in all likelihood there are only two ways that it could end. Either the island will be taken over by resorts and the whole scene will change or it will completely collapse into a state of disrepair.