Diving around Turtle Island

Before buying our night bus tickets we had read some upsetting and bad reviews about Lomprayah but it was the best connection for us and so we went for it. In the end everything went smoothly. The journey was smooth, the driver good and the seats spacious. We were not very impressed with the lack of coordination during the three hours wait before boarding the ferry but we arrived on the turtle island (Koh Tao) just before 9am.





After purchasing tickets for the return trip, we walked first along the road and then along the promenade to our hostel. The manager gave us a good price for the upgrade from the booked fan to an AC room, because for some reason it was not available. It was Songkran (Thai new year) which meant over half the businesses were closed either most or at least half the day. Instead everybody was out in the streets throwing water around. Thankfully we were too early when we walked to our hostel and kept our backpacks dry. The second time round we went out in swimming suits. It was actually really nice getting soaked since the temperatures were somewhere between 35 and 40 degrees. The only thing we did not enjoy was people throwing powder at us and smearing creams. Zoë got some cream on her cheeks which felt like it was burning her skin so we had to run and wash it off in the sea. Dive school staff roamed the streets in gangs fighting others with huge water guns, while other stood on restaurant terraces with barrels and hoses. Cars, taxis and scooters were prime targets. It was all great fun and very welcome on such a hot day.

After purchasing tickets for the return trip, we walked first along the road and then along the promenade to our hostel. The manager gave us a good price for the upgrade from the booked fan to an AC room, because for some reason it was not available. It was Songkran (Thai new year) which meant over half the businesses were closed either most or at least half the day. Instead everybody was out in the streets throwing water around. Thankfully we were too early when we walked to our hostel and kept our backpacks dry. The second time round we went out in swimming suits. It was actually really nice getting soaked since the temperatures were somewhere between 35 and 40 degrees. The only thing we did not enjoy was people throwing powder at us and smearing creams. Zoë got some cream on her cheeks which felt like it was burning her skin so we had to run and wash it off in the sea. Dive school staff roamed the streets in gangs fighting others with huge water guns, while other stood on restaurant terraces with barrels and hoses. Cars, taxis and scooters were prime targets. It was all great fun and very welcome on such a hot day.

A well-deserved end-of-day reward

Another slight downside aside from the dive schools being closed. We wanted to go diving but had not booked anything in advance. We found it easy to book courses, but nothing about fun dives. That day we found only one dive school that offered a morning dive the next day. One school tried to get us into a refresher course, but we felt comfortable enough not to do one. On Koh Tao there are around 50 dive schools and resorts and some of them specialise in certain languages. We booked our first two fun dives with Koh Tao Divers, a Finnish school.

The next morning we had to get up super early as we had to be at the dive school by 7am. We had found bananas and instant oats in a shop next so our breakfast was quick and easy. After we had our gear fitted we had some time getting to know our dive buddies before heading out to sea. It was our first time diving from a boat but we managed alright by watching the others. Our dive master was not a morning person and not the most helpful person but he checked everything twice and gave us a good brief about the site before we went into the water. We struggled a bit going down. Since we could not remember our weights from the last time, Matthias did not have enough and needed an extra weight from our divemaster to get below the waves. Equalising the pressure in our ears also took some time but eventually we were all down and ready to go. It took us some time to get our feeling for the whole breathing and buoyancy back but we still enjoyed it a lot. It felt great to be back under water. We had been looking forward to diving again for months and looking around us we knew we had made the right choice: we saw so many brightly coloured fish.

Back up on the boat we swapped our tanks before grabbing a coffee and biscuits and gathering on the sun deck. There we identified some of the fish we had seen and relaxed while the captain drove the boat to our next dive site. This time our entry depth was deeper (9m) than the first one so it took us longer to get down and equalise our ear pressure.

Diving is a harder workout than most people think and we learned on this trip that on average a diver burns 600 calories per dive. No wonder we were hungry and heartily tucked into tea and biscuits on our way back to the village. In order to improve our future diving we logged as many details as possible with our dives and ended up chatting quite a bit with the other divers in the office. After all this hard work it was definitely time to relax and so we finally hit the beach which was beautiful and sandy.

It was not until the late afternoon that we could be bothered to leave and only did so because we needed dinner and wanted to book some dives for the following day. This time we went to Mojo Divers near our hostel. Luckily for us the were going to different dive sites so we would get a different experience. We were not motivated enough for super early 6am start of the morning trip and decided to lie in and join the late trip at 11am. This time there was only the two of us and one other girl on the fun dive, but we shared the boat with three different courses.. Our dive master James was great and super fun and helpful and it turned out that we came from the same town as Zoë. The practice of diving the previous day came in very handy since we were the first to be dropped off and therefore had little time to prepare. Having learned from experience we also managed our weights and equalisation better that day.

Our first dive was at Red Rock; a roughly 8m high boulder covered in all sorts of plants and corals and home to many different types of fish. Most of them were rather small, but we also spotted two huge emperor fish. After circling and exploring the red rock we turned away and towards the Japanese garden. The rocks in this area house an even more impressive selection of corals, sponges and life. There were thousands of little fish swarming around us and the corals which was impressive to watch. We saw many parrot fish, wrasses and butterfly fish. At one point James even found a banded sea snake which was really exciting. He told us later that this is the most venomous snake on earth, but also very drowsy and no risk for divers because their fangs are at the back of her throat which means they are only capable of biting thin skin like earlobes or between fingers.

Our second dive was at a site called The Twins because of two vaguely matching rock formations. It is located not far from Red Rock and right next to Buoyancy World which makes it very popular. By the time we got there, there were already 5 other boats and many divers in the water. We had quite a deep descent down to about 10m before we started swimming somewhere. Despite all the people there was still an impressive amount of marine life around. We swam around some of the big rocks while watching all the small fish swarms around us. James then found a blue spotted ray lying in the sand under an overhang. It was too dark to see the colours properly but it was still exciting. Some time later Matthias found a white-eyed moray eel swimming/hunting together with a grouper shortly before we stopped to watch a two clown fish swimming around their home anemone. We did not see any snakes this time, but James spotted a second moray shortly after. As we were getting to the end of our air supply and dive time we found two titan trigger fish. They both swam towards us but thankfully decided not to attack us. Back on the boat we spent the remaining time chatting to our fellow divers and refuelling with tea and biscuits.

A titan triggerfish (Source: Wikipedia)

On our last day we decided to walk up the hill in the centre of Koh Tao to see a bit more of the island than just the small strip along the beach. The paths were mostly good but steep until to get near the top where gradients level out a bit. It was a hot and sweaty affair and we were disappointed to find most of the views blocked by trees. None of the paths had any sign posts but with the help of trusted Maps.me it was no problem. The few views we had near the top were great and worth the effort. As we had to leave the island that day and considering the hot temperatures we would not have done this walk had we not had the opportunity to shower in our hostel before walking to the ferry.

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