Snorkeling at Ko Tao

On a whim, Arin and I decided to join an adventure tour group to go on a snorkeling trip to island called Ko Tao. We joined our would be shipmates at a dock not far from The Big Buddha, and one visible across the bay from our little resort/hotel. The trip to Ko Tao was fun. We zipped across calm water in a motor boat, for a lot longer than Arin and I had expected. Which is not surprising due to the fact that neither Arin and I actually had any idea where Ko Tao actually was, but we figured it wouldn't be that far. Anyway, a little over one hour after we left, we began our approach to Ko Tao. The approach was almost as amazing as the snorkeling would be later - if not better. For unlike Ko Samui, the island juts out of the water quite dramatically in some places. Houses are not situated on the beach, the are perched on the cliffs high on stilts.

We arrived at a small cove and through a masterful job of steering, guided the large motor boat among a number of other boats anchored to the shore, in what must have been the last available "parking spot" in the cove.

Now, Arin has only been snorkeling in Cancun, and from what she tells me it was about as exciting as the fish tank at her dentist's office. Like Cancun, the water was incredibly clear, and the visibility perfect. But unlike Cancun, when she got off the boat she had schools of fish swimming around and between her legs and eating bread right out of her hand. She was elated.

For me, that, I am afraid, was probably the best part - to see Arin so happy. Because after years of shuttling boat load after boat load of tourists to this cove, the coral reefs have all been massacred by the boats waying anchor. Don't get me wrong, there were some beautiful things to see and it was great snorkeling, but it was a tragic site to see so much bleached white, flattened and dead coral beds.

After everyone had gotten "snorkeled-out," we proceeded to another part of the island for lunch, where a vegetarian feast had been prepared specially for Arin and I. It remains to this day one of the best lunches Arin and I have had so far on this trip. After lunch we explored the small village a bit until the what is th now daily down pour began. When the rain finally slowed, we made our way back to the boat so that we could visit our last stop of the day: Ko Nangyuan.

It is an idyllic place if I have ever seen one: two islands adjoined by a sand bar, with water as blue as the sky, and clear as glass. After seeing that one could actually stay at the island in small bungalows, Arin and I were disappointed we didn't think ahead. We could think of nothing better than staying here for a night or two, reading, snorkeling, eating, reading some more, sleeping, swimming, sunning. Just doin' a whole lot of nothing. What bliss.

But alas, our time on Ko Nangyuan had to end. We loaded the boat one last time to head home to Ko Samui. The cove was isolated and calm so we had no idea what the rains earlier had stirred up. As soon as we hit the open water, the boat began to pitch and roll as the waves tossed it around, and us in it for that matter. Over the course of the next two hours, we held onto the boat and our stomachs for dear life, which was made only more difficult when combined with the fact that we were constantly being sprayed in the face with salt water. Arin was in a constant state of meditation; she told me later that it took every ounce of will power not to get sick. Without a doubt, it was the longest two hours of this trip so far.

Dry land never felt so good. Arin compared it to "a POW returning home from years of captivity." I am not sure if I like her analogy, but it certainly gets the point across.

Despite the weather, Ko Tao was beautiful, and would recommend it to anyone. And if you are a scuba diver, it supposed to be one of the top 5 places in the world to visit.