Tanote Bay Ko Tao

The last two days of our Thai holiday have been at a dive resort on “Turtle Island”. While we haven’t seen any turtles yet, the marine life on the reef in front of the hotel is fantastic.

This island is quite remote – almost two hours travel in a fast catamaran. This means the water is much clearer than near the mainland and there are far more uneaten fish to see.

Underwater visibility is over 10 metres, which means that even with only a snorkel there is lots to see. The coral is fairly bleached, as it is most places in the world it seems, but the brightly coloured fish make each dive like being in an aquarium. It is often the combinations of colour that are impressive – lime green and pink, orange and turquoise, purple and red, etc. Some fish even seem to change colour as you see them on a different angle, like those expensive custom paint jobs you can get on a car.

I’ve seen one big fish, possibly a grouper, which was almost a metre long. There are dozens of species ranging from whitebait size up to the size you might eat for dinner. Every crevice seems to have a giant clam living in it.

On our first dive a smallish fish swam up and nibbled gently on my arm, a bit like when you put your feet in a pool for fish to clean off all the dead skin. I remembered to bring my rash suit which is fortunate because my back got a bit sunburned from staying so long in the water at midday when we were at the national park.

After breakfast this morning we walked up the very steep hill to the top of the island. We missed the turn-off to the reservoir we were headed to, but realised our mistake before getting too far down the other side. We set off up a track heading in the right direction, but it was so rugged we were starting to think about heading back again when we met a Thai couple on a motorbike who pointed out the right track. While we were deep in the jungle we saw a giant tree-squirrel with a large bushy tail.

At the top of the ridge we could see both sides of the island, from a spot imaginatively named “Two Views”. The map showed a herbal tea shop which we were intending to patronise, but there was no sign of it. We did find the Love Hotel restaurant but it was deserted, so we had to wait until we hit the main road again before consoling ourselves with a brain freezing mango shake.

It’s late afternoon now and lunch has been digested, so we are about to have a late then head to the beach for another dive before dinner.

Later: just as we were organising our gear it started to rain. This isn’t a show-stopper when the temperature is 30º C, so we continued down to the beach anyway. It was rather a surreal experience; cold rain beating down heavily on the back of my head and shoulders while the rest of my body was bathed in warm water. When I looked up out of the water things looked awful – dark grey clouds scudding across the sky, with gusts of wind whipping up white-capped waves on the surface. Looking down onto the reef on the other hand all was serene and peaceful, with countless fish going about their business.

We passed over a huge shoal of silver sardine-sized fish that must have numbered hundreds of thousands. When I swam through them a hole just a bit wider than my body opened up, then closed behind me as I passed. I saw one big fellow a bit over half a metre swimming along the bottom far below. This spot is probably the best snorkelling I’ve done since visiting the Great Barrier Reef in the 1970s.

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