Sunday, July 27, 2008

With a Tropical Paradise Comes Tropical Storms!

I have arrived in PARADISE! After my quick pitstop in Bangkok I had a smooth, almost luxurious overnight bus ride and early morning ferry and arrived in Koh Tao. I am stayng in a tiny little beach bungalow here and the island looks beautiful!!!! Crystal clear water and white sand beaches. Sairee Beach is lined with restaurants, cafes and and lounges and all the seating areas extend down to the beach with pillows on the ground, low tables, and torches blazing after the sun goes down.

Koh Tao is known as a diving mecca and thank god I have had that to fall back on the last few days, because since i boarded the ferry the weather has been attrocious....literally!!!! I have never experienced storms like this. Luckily, at the bottom of the sea, it doesnt matter what the weather is like up above! On my first dive in years, we hopped on a huge boat and had to go to a small sheltered cove on the other side of the island but the seas were so rough! The swells were maybe about 25 ft and the boat was crashing all over the place. Things were flying left and right and water was coming over the side in massive rushes. The only comforting factor was the dive masters and thai guys were having a field laughing all the way (mostly at the domino effect of sea sickness going around!) Although i have never really experienced sea sickness, it gave me a reality for my 'year on boat' is gonna take alot before i would feel comfortable commandeering conditions like that! Anywho, we made it, and as soon as we were submerged a foot under water all the turmoil disappeared and it was as peaceful as can be!

The dives were fabulous. The first dive, my dive master was a highly amusing British guy and because i did a refresher coarse I had to go through all the skills with him before I got to "fun dive". Once the boring stuff was out of the way though...diving in Koh Tao definately deserves its reputation! I have done 4 dives so far and seen the most incredible stuff. The coral here is, in my opinion way more interesting than that in the Great Barrier Reef, and even though due to the storms the visibilty was a bit low, we still saw tons!

There are blue spotted sting rays which i have seen lots of and they are soooo magical. Their blue spots are irridescent and their massive eyes stick out like googley eyes! I saw a Harlequin sweetlips, which is a fun little fish with lots of fins and dangly bits; when it is a baby it almost just flops and dances about because it is not sure what to do with all it's parts yet to seamlessly glide through the water. I saw a few puffer fish and emoray eels, trigger fish, angel fish.... and schools of hundreds of brightly coloured fish that seemed just as curious of all the divers, as we of them. The most amazing fish I saw, which i cant really recall ever seeing before, or even hearing of...was a box fish. And we spotted 3 of them, which is apparently quite rare. A box fish is just that- it is shaped as a damn box (like the picture up top)! On my last 2 dives our dive master was a wickedly cool german girl and she explained that the poor box fish were cursed because they were not ergonomically made to swim. They are super tiny, maybe just 2 or 3 inches long and are a vibrant yellow with black spots. So strange and beautiful, and hilarious to watch clumsily go through the water!
So I have been on the island for almost 4 days of grey weather and some mad storms. In fact on the first dive day, there was a spanish couple who had been on the beach when the first storm hit (they come out of nowhere FAST!) and they were trying to refund their dives because they had been scared off thinking the storm was a tsunami because the waves coming in were getting bigger and bigger. I was walking when the first big storm came and it is sooooo dangerous to be unsheltered. A thai man pulled me into his shop lecturing me not to be out. Stuff flies every which way. The coconuts drop (which can be a fatal blow to your head) and leaves and trees are shaking and blowing everywhere. Needless to say it was a great show for a tropical storm, and even more entertaining that no one saw a problem with hopping on a boat and going out diving in the torrential rain and lightening and thunder!
So I leave Koh Tao tomorrow and am headed to Koh Phangan, yet another island, in search of sunshine! I figure the weather will break soon enough and when it does i will be sure to be beach-ready! Saying that though, although it is not sunny out right now, it is still boiling hot with a nice hot breeze, i am reading a great book on Myanmar and so I am headed to the beach to sit with a malibu and pineapple and watch the day go by!

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