3rd April 2012
As I couldn’t do a PADI diving course due to my cochlear implant, you may be forgiven for asking me:
‘Why the hell have you come to an island famed for diving?’
I beg to differ. You can plenty of more things on the island of Ko Tao and there’s one that can be just related to diving. Snorkelling. Yes I will be rocking the mask and breather look and what’s more? I have photographic evidence. You can use them against me if you wish but I should warn you, I’m sexy in them.
Due to rain stopping play and my plans to do some snorkelling the day before, I was very right to be praying to all gods as I opened my dorm door to see if it was now sunny rather than thundering down. Curse you Chinese Tropical Storm! But as I opened my eyes, blinking in the sun and then having a lion king moment, I did the snoopy dance. We have sun!
Running down to the dive shop to confirm the snorkelling tour would go ahead, i continued dancing in front of the lady who’s been dealing with me tiresomely about snorkelling trips the last 2 days, is the snorkelling trip going ahead? Surely it was a no brainier. She grimaced. Uh-oh.
Turns out 2 people dropped out. There needs to be a minimum of 6 people in order for it to go ahead. Damn them! So the snorkelling trip was over before it began?! Feeling my rage building up inside me, she quickly added that I could pop over to reception who will get in touch with the other operator to see if there were any more spaces available. I quickly dashed there and glared at the receptionist. She will have spaces available!
Luckily, there was 1 more space! Result. I got myself booked on it and I could breathe a sigh of relief. Running back to my dorm, clearing away the cobwebs from drinking that bucket last night, I stuffed my bag and waited for the taxi driver to come pick me up.
He arrived and I loaded onto the back holding on for dear life as he speeded round the corner. It was pretty fun and picking up some Germans, Portuguese and Norwegians and also a guy from Japan called Hu who was also travelling solo. We decided to buddy up. The Portuguese looked evil we decided.
Arriving at the pier, we signed in, grabbed our mask and breather and made way onto the rickety boat, in which we had to access by jumping over 3 boats in a row and settled down as the guide explained what we would be doing. I was so excited. Here I am, in the clear waters surrounding ko Tao and it was sunny and hot! For me, this is travelling! I smiled.
As the boat jetted off, I quickly explained to the guide that I’m deaf so when I’m in the water, I wouldn’t be able to hear any calls. She told me the time limits for each snorkelling stop and I said I would pop up my head every now and again to see what’s happening. She seemed pleased.
Arriving at the first snorkelling stop and after getting to know Hu, I couldn’t believe it when everyone pulled on life jackets to go snorkelling. I was the only one without one and they stared back at me incredulously for not having one. I’m a strong swimmer I guess.
Jumping in, I peered my mask down and gobsmacked to see reams and reams of fish surrounding me. Most of them were zebra fish and liked to play about. The water was quite deep and we had 30 mins to snork. Woo woo! I had an utmost blast. Seeing fish behaviour was extremely enthralling and I could be giggling inanely or ahhhing through my breather. I kept wanting to dive down a bit deeper but if I did that then the water would rush into the breather and I would have to expel it out with the air in my lungs.
Moving swiftly on, we clambered back on the boat, which roared to its 3rd point. I was very impressed with the guide and the captain who kept a constant level of communication to find out where the best spot is. Throughout the journey, Hu and I took advantage of the free biscuits and tea to our delight. Once the guide said we were ready to get in for a further 30 mins, I had a biscuit left and absentmindedly pocketed it in my swimwear pocket. Oh the fool I am!
As we splashed in, I swam away from most people as they get splashing around, panicking in the water in their lifeguards and did some snork. I was not wrong. I was checking out the different types of coral until I felt a nip on my bum. You know that chilling tingling feeling that runs down your back and you freeze freeze?!
I slowly turned round to find a whole school of fish with varying different types of fishes swirling round behind me. At first, I smiled (if you can with the breather) and became alarmed when they kept rushing towards me. I slowly swam away. They followed. Why?
They seemed to want to go behind me. I know I’ve got a nice bum but I don’t need fish to tell me that unless a mermaid comes along. I turned again. Still followed behind me. I look at my bum and I could see very minute particles coming from my pocket that the fish seemed to be gobbling up. Oh! The biscuit! It was slowly disintegrating so I whipped open my pocket and threw most of the contents in the water. The fish went absolutely crazy and a big ass mama fish, the size of my forearm nipped my bum as to see if there was anymore. I must confess, I slightly freaked. Now, I know why some people have a phobia of fish…
But I swam again slowly to the boat after the allocated 30 mins in the company of the school and other people kept asking me how I was just a fish charmer. I said I had a magical affinity with fish. The guide snorted and glanced down seeing a trail of biscuit slime from my pocket.
Now it was time for lunch, sticky rice with a beef red curry. It came in a tupperware box and it was totally delish. I’ll never forget that feeling just eating over the side of the boat, feet dangling in the water that was being kissed by the fish, the sun rays beating on me and slowly eating the food. Also, a nice cup of tea by my side. The Yorkshireman in me was truly satisfied.
But suddenly! DRAMA!
Amongst the boat there were varying different nationalities and throughout the trip there were 2 south Koreans. Now, only one of them was panicking and cried at Hu in Japanese and Hu turned grimfaced to me and the guide and told us that her friend wasn’t on the boat…I asked if she was sure as we’ve been on the boat for 15 minutes already and she’s just realised…
The 4 of us rushed to the side to scan for her in her life jacket in the sea. Nada. Rushed to the other side and still nada. I had visions of dragging a dead body on board and I was horrified this could be the case. We scanned again and getting other people involved. Nothing.
I was about to offer to scan the sea bed when the captain said that he moved the boat while we were in the water and that she could have got on the wrong boat. The guide whipped out her phone and started ringing the other boats who were in the same area as us. We knew she wasn’t in the sea around us otherwise she would be floating from her life jacket. The captain cranked up the boat and speeded towards another boat further down the Ko Tao coastline when we saw a very small orange speck in the sea where we were going to. It was her!
It was pure hell for the south Korean on the boat with us for the last half hour and she was sobbing. Finding her, the sea stranded South Korean prayed as she swam to the boat many times and blessing her god. Everyone was so relieved. Apparently, she got confused which boat was ours and when she saw a boat leaving, she thought she was being left behind and thus swam after it. All that way. When she reached the boat, they wouldn’t let her on and she had to swim back, which she was doing when we found her. How stupid! She could have been swept out into the Gulf of Thailand. The guide weren’t too angry, I think she was just too relieved to care.
Finally having everyone on board, the guide decided to do a count on the spot. Then we speeded to the third snorkelling spot in which the guide told us that there was a possibility of spotting one of Ko Tao’s famous turtles.
After all, Ko Tao in Thai means ‘turtle island’.
I was pretty eager, and ensuring I had no biscuits in my pocket, I jumped in and rooted around for the fabled turtle. But even if I didn’t see the turtle, I was enraptured by the marine life. Sea cucumbers slithered across the floor, unique fish darted around the coral outcroppings and I saw symbiotic relationships when a fish was having its teeth cleaned by much smaller fish. It had its mouth open wide and the smaller fish was happy enough to swim in the jaws and suck, I guess barnacles, off the teeth.
But sadly, no turtle. I really tried. I was swimming over shallow coral as well to look into openings to see if it was having a nap. You had to be beware of the coral. Whatever you do, do not stand or touch it. If you do, it will splice open your skin with a burning ferocity.
The 30 minutes was up. We clambered back on board, this time the guide counting as we got on, haha.
You may have noticed that my pictures seemed to be underwater. Well, the guide was very kind enough to lend me a clear waterproof bag designed for cameras. As you can see, I need to master the art! The fish are far too quick for me!
As we swung round the southern point of the stunning island, the guide pointed out to the point that it looks like a face that was natural formed. She was right!
As we reached our 4th snorkelling spot, the guide said we would spend only 20 mins due to ‘events earlier in the day‘ as she glared at the south Koreans who sweetly smiled. I love this guide. The Thai lady was obviously ruler of the boat and she could turn from being really friendly one minute to being cross the next. She also added that if we wanted to spend more time at the next point, let her know immediately when in the water as we may not see much. I quickly did a scan, and she was right. Nothing much and I had a shake of a head at her. It seemed that Hu and I was only interested in snorkelling as the other people seemed more interested in jumping off the top of the boat into the water. She summoned everyone back on the boat. I was disappointed as I wanted to see lots more at this point but little did I know that paradise was waiting for me next…
If you want to know more about the Snorkelling Tour Group of Ko Tao, then I highly recommend Oxygen Snorkel Tours. You will be impressed.