We’re still here…

My my my, has December (and the beginning of January) flown by! Sorry that we haven’t blogged recently. December started as a pretty slow month, but quickly sped up as our families came to visit. We have lots to fill you in on, so stay tuned for more updates in the next few days.

We spent the end of November and first few weeks of December on Koh Tao, or “Turtle Island”–named for its shape, not its turtle population. A small, rocky island about 65 km off the east coast of Thailand, Koh Tao hosts one of the densest SCUBA diving communities in the world. The island is surrounded by shallow reefs in relatively calm water, making for not the most interesting diving in the world, but a perfect location for dive education. After taking several years off from teaching diving, I needed to take a instructor update course to be able to teach diving along our travels. After a bit of research on diving schools in Thailand, we decided on Koh Tao, because it hosts monthly instructor courses and its dense dive community keeps prices competitive. After emailing nearly every dive school on the island, we decided on Buddha View because they seemed to be one of the most experienced IDC programs on the island and we like the location on the quiet southern tip of the island. An added bonus was that we were able to book our travel from Bangkok to Koh Tao through Buddha View’s travel agency.

20140113-221012.jpg

20140113-221128.jpg(View from Buddha View’s beach. Can you make out the Buddha Rock?)

After our week in Kanchanaburi, we returned to Bangkok for a day where we stocked up on some much needed supplies–contact lenses and some swim gear. From Bangkok, we hopped a night bus to the seaside town of Chumpon, arriving in time to make Skype calls wishing a happy Thanksgiving to our families, before hopping on a ferry to Koh Tao. We had heard the high speed ferry could be rough, but didn’t realize the treat we were in for until the crew started passing out barf bags to 70% of our fellow passengers before we even left the harbor. We spend the next few hours periodically changing seats to get away from our sick seatmates. If only we had known then that there was a sun deck above us where we could sprawl out with the wind in our hair and actually enjoy the ride (we didn’t find the sun deck until our visa run–more on that later).

With me stuck in the classroom for a couple of weeks, Lee signed up for his open water and advanced open water dive courses through Buddha View. In addition to our training dives, we squeezed a few fun dives in together as well. Despite poor visibility from the recently ended rainy season and barely missing the whale shark migration period, we were able to see some really interesting marine life, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. On almost every dive, we saw Blue Spotted Stingrays sleeping under rocky shelves with the iridescent blue spots shining bright–Lee even saw one swimming on a night dive! During skills workshops, my class was regularly joined by three very friendly and curious Giant Pufferfish nearly a foot long. We saw several Titan Triggerfish, though fortunately neither of us accidentally intruded in their “zone of terror” as they’re very territorial and dangerous fish willing to take a bite off you if they think you’re threatening their nest. On our deep dive, we saw mountains of pink and purple anemones and huge schools of everything from Barracuda to Butterfly Fish. We even dove a (purposefully) sunken WWII landing craft.

We stayed a bit longer on Koh Tao than we had originally expected–fun diving and great company will do that. Since leaving Koh Tao, we’ve travelled to Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. More on these adventures to come!

Some shots of the terrestrial fauna on Koh Tao (sorry no underwater casing for our camera):

20140113-221832.jpg(weird spotted lizard hanging out by our room)

20140113-221925.jpg(friendly Buddha View dog)

20140113-222039.jpg(soft shell turtles living in a pond)

20140113-222003.jpg(soft shell turtles)

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