Diving in Koh Tao Island
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My first trip to Thailand was in November 2002. One of the things I planned back then was to dive in Koh Tao. With a big tour all over the country I was in a time schedule which didn’t give me much time to do it in a proper way. So it was only one dive. I took it from Koh Samui with a speedboat. It was a cloudy and rainy day. Not a lucky day to my dive plans. The dive was also not something amazing. Water visibility was not clear and a bit green at the end of the day it was disappointing.
A year later I made my second visit to the LOS. This time it was longer and the whole picture was different. Time was on my side. No timetable to go back and no working. A lot of free time which I can use to anything I want.
One of the main subjects I do with travelling to countries near Thailand is to include a visa run as a part of my travel tour.
It's not a big effort and anyway I am on the road for travel plans and the MUST part (Thai immigration) need to be done whether I like it or not. This is a the reality which most foreigners need to adopt while living in Thailand
April 2004, few days after Songkran finished I took a combined ticket to Koh Tao island.
It cost 350 baht for a bus from Bangkok to Chumphon and from there a ferryboat to the island, quite a good deal for such a long destination.
The time table for this drive starts at 8 pm and ended up 12 hour later in the island.
The bus was new and comfortable and the ride took about 8-9 hours. Later on the ferry it took about 2.5 – 3 hours.
Early morning in Chumphon was very interesting. There are many fishing boats in this area and early morning is about the time to finish load the fishes to the trucks and send it to the markets all over the country.
We landed on the island on a nice sunny day, palm trees all over the west cost line of the island. It's only a small platform for all the ferry boats connection to the island wide enough for land cars there.
On the island they are many dive clubs and this is a big industry which moves the economy of the island.
Marketing is a key to the success of this dive site. In general every site in Thailand is an attraction the first time you visit there. The second time it's different.
Many dive clubs around and it's hard to choose which one to join. So I chose one and it was a good choice. The club is run by British dive instructors and I enjoyed being there.
Prices for advance open water diver were 7000 baht for 10 dives include all gear and daily boat to the dive sites. A nice bungalow costs 200 baht to the divers which are going to dive with the club. All in all it was a reasonable deal and affordable.
The diving was from the boat. Usually there were 2 dives. The first one goes deep to 20-30 meters and the second one goes to 15-10 meters.
One of the sites we explored there was a reef called "Chumphon pinnacle" which is located west of the island and you must get there by the boat. What I liked there is that it’s a deep dive and it's possible to see there many grey reef sharks. I believe I saw there about 6-8 sharks. It's a bit strange to see the sharks from that close of few meters around us. It's a very unique experience, scary but also exciting.
A few more experiences are worth to mention.
The first one was about a friendly fish (it’s a Thai fish after all) which joined our dive for a few hundred meters. All of our group of divers were able to touch and play with our curious new friend.
The second experience was with a "blue triggerfish". We probably invaded to the living territory of this fish. And the result was that we got fast and dangerous attacks. This fish bit and we stopped those attacks by hitting the triggerfish with the fins. The attacks didn't stop so we left the area and that was annoying.
The third experience took place on the southern side of the island. It was my 11th dive. And I seriously was thinking to stop after the 10th dive. But since it’s the one more dive I will do it. I don’t know when I will be back there so I joined. I had one of the strangest experiences I ever got in diving. We dived to 10-15 meters and there was nothing special there. We passed by a metal memorial monument of a diver. It's very strange since the water is not deep there and it's easy to get to the sea surface. It's hard to know what had happened there but its important to know that water is a completely different environment. Accidents can happen even in shallow water.
We passed that area and continued with our dive. And there on the sea ground was a LEOPARD SHARK 2 – 2.5 meters long. Carefully and slowly we got closer to this shark. It a real impressive sight to see a shark in nature. Around a powerful creature in the bottom of the sea, we 4 divers watched closely (from 2-3 meters) without movement. We stayed like that for about 15 minutes which is a long time during a dive. Total time in a dive was about 50-55 minutes. At a certain point the shark showed signs of movement before disappearing to the endless sea I was thinking of doing something. Let's see if I can touch the shark. The shark was starting to move so I couldn’t touch him but I was able to block his course. The shark had to change course and at that stage I was so close and face to face with the shark at just one meter. What a sight.
Seconds later the shark moved slowly to the deep water and we watched him disappear. Our time was to end underwater and we started to make our way back to the boat. We were told by the instructor that it’s a rare sight even for them. Once in a while they were able to meet a leopard shark in that area. Luck is very important and for me it was an excellent time to end my diving in Koh Tao Island. I got much more than I expected from this tour. Maybe it is also connected to the fact that I arrived to the island with less expectations. It worked for me and the trip was a big success.
To leave the island, the average fee is about 600 baht in all the agencies which sell boat tickets. There is no competition in the prices and basically you have no choice. It's not expensive to arrive to the island but it's expensive to leave it. That is Thai logic and probably this island like the islands around is controlled by a local family /Thai mafia. All prices are much higher on everything and there are "fixed prices "anywhere.
That same night I left the island. Now it was the second part of the journey, the visa run. I took the night ferry to Chumphon. It takes 5 hours by boat – a slow boat and costs 250 baht. It fit very well to make my journey to Ranong and from there do the visa run in Myanmar. After an hour all passengers were sleeping on the boat floor with an open sea breeze as the boat sailed west to the mainland in Chumphon.
From a small bay we got transportation to Chumphon bus station. The next destination was Ranong bus station and the cost just 70 baht.
After returning to Ranong bus station. It was the time to catch a bus back to Bangkok and end a successful journey.
Sounds like you had a nice trip.