Ko Tao is literally a divers paradise located in the Gulf of Thailand along with Ko Samui (tourist central, as mentioned before) and Ko Pang’an (The infamous Full Moon Party island) working as a triple threat of Thai archipelago. Ko Tao otherwise translated to English as Turtle Island is world renowned for diving. Actually, it is the cheapest with the highest number of certified PADI divers year after year in the world. Of course, on my way back to Bangkok, I couldn’t have let this chance pass up to give it my try in diving. The thing about diving was that no matter your age, or for the most part… physical condition, most people can and with ease dive at their own pace. The only thing that left me worried was how my ears would respond to the water pressure as it is known to be one of the major obstacles in preventing people from diving deep at all. Regardless, it was worth a shot and why not do all or nothing by getting my PADI Open Water Diving Licence.
I knew prior to leaving Canada, that diving was something I really wanted to try to see if it was something for me. With the world being over 70% covered in water, if I really wanted to see the world, this was one way to see an important part of it, the underwater world.
After arriving in Surat Thani and being bombarded with a flurry of touts for ferry and transport services, I finally got it sorted with the company Lomprayah. After some research on pricing, schedules, speed and reliability, Lomprayah seemed to have the best reputation and I decided to go with them. I recommend to book and pay through one of their offices with a confirmation of tickets or else you may be left behind with no seats. They take their reservations quite seriously I found, and will not overbook unlike other Thai companies.
Donsak Pier in Surat Thani.
Pricing and schedule chart. From the airport I remember it being just slightly more pricey (~700 baht). More or less the same.
Their high speed catamarans.
Finally arrived at Ko Tao and DA beach.
Being the furthest of the 3 islands out from the mainland, Ko Tao has the best conditions for diving and snorkeling where the tides are situated so that when seasons change, the dives spots just change to another side of the island. It is what makes Ko Tao special being an island that has good conditions 365 days a year.
The streets are all well developed and paved. Made for easy exploration.
Shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, massage shops, and dive shops were pretty much the only things you see around here in Ko Tao. Oh and 7-Elevens.
Always crave a good burger and fries.
I did my PADI Open Water Course with Davy Jones’ Locker. One of the medium sized dive shops where they limit the class sizes. I had originally wanted to attend the Full Moon Party on Ko Pang’an but that would have left me with too little time to complete my course on Ko Tao, so I rather did my diving. Because the Full Moon Party was scheduled when I took the course, most of the island was super quiet and I was the only open water student at the time. In the end, I had a DM (Divemaster) & a DMT (Divemaster Trainee) both accompany me to teach me.
DJL was also one of the dive shops that included accommodation with their courses as long as you dived with them. DJL was connected to the Koh Tao Backpackers Hostel.
8 person room and it was a constant mess. I remember we always left the AC on full so it was ridiculously cold inside the room but humid and freaking hot outside.
Weak showers and always a bad smell. Not the best facilities, but I’ll take what I can get. It was just enough.
Out on the dive boat.
I couldn’t believe how washed out the colours got from my GoPro. The deeper you descend, the more colours are lost and that’s why you need filters. The first colour to go is red. I feel like I need to invest in some filters if I decide to continue with diving. Because for the most part, I was in the middle of the course and was not able to take many pictures, the DMT was kind enough to help me snap a few on my last dive. So imagine these pictures, but with a whole lot of more colour in it… the first time down to 18 meters, was thrilling. Instantly fell in love with it.
Saw some sea turtles, no pics though.
The PADI acronym stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors and is the world’s leading and largest recreational diving membership and diver training organization since its creation in 1966. The program divides diving levels into several sets of standardized techniques with the inclusion of experience. With a PADI diving licence, you can rent equipment and dive anywhere in the world. Along with PADI, SSI, Naui and several others are internationally recognized and you would be able to dive with no problems whichever school you would like to choose.
I completed my course with an old chap from the UK that lived in Australia named Martin and his Divermaster Trainee assistant was Sophie. Thanks to them both for their attentive and amazing instructions. I had a blast.
Wicked palm tree.
Another day another burger to try.
Crepe and a mango smoothie. God I love fruit smoothies.
I don’t know why the sudden surge of Western food, probably because of the abundance of it found on Ko Tao. It almost felt like Thai food was scarce and hard to find.
This was actually clean… it got really messy later on.
Good group of us playing Kings. Everyone’s a diver or snorkeler here.
Finally, after completing my course successfully and with some good rest, it was time to go home.
Easy to arrange with any travel agent or hostel on the island to get a free pickup with the return ticket to almost anywhere in Thailand. For me… it was a bus all the way back to Bangkok, last time I did this route it was over 13 hours. Fun fun.
Upon leaving, I met a few people that were from Myanmar… how did I know? They spoke Burmese which completely sounds different from Thai and the dead giveaway was some had the Thanaka paste on their faces to protect them from the sun. Typically Burmese. Interesting and quite frankly, took me long enough to discover the minute differences between all of South East Asia’s neighbouring countries. Whether it be language, facial features, or culture, I started getting good at telling people apart. =) Huehuehue.
Peace out Ko Tao, see you next time!
Next update, I conquer Indonesia.