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Entries about snorkeling

Koh Lanta Yai

Island hop 2!

overcast 28 °C

After waiting in the middle of the sea for about twenty minutes, the ferry boat appeared on the horizon and the party amongst the long tail boat men dispersed quickly as we did the final few hundred metres over to where the boat stops. In the boat next to ours was the owner of our accommodation who clearly cannot swim, and looked hilarious in his life jacket and checkered boxer shorts.

We arrived on Ko Lanta 90 minutes later and managed to get a room at the first place we went past outside the port for only 400 baht/£8. So what if it appeared to be the former kitchen with worktops and sink? Unfortunately it turned out to have a major problem with its drains and stunk more than our first one in Bangkok and Bangkok is bad for smells anyway. Thankfully it would only be for 2 nights.

The following day, we took a boat trip to Koh Mook, which we had planned to stay at, but probably couldn't have picked a worse time of year to go island hopping without prebooking accommodation. The attraction on Koh Mook is its hidden Emerald Cave set amongst the mountainous karsts in beautiful green seas.

Our long tail boat was driven by what looked like two Thai popstars from the 80s, both with thin moustaches and one with a short mullet and pink shell suit style jacket. It took a good hour and a half bouncing around in the spray from the boat to get to Koh Mook. We were drenched and annoyed that we had picked the coldest overcast day to do this trip. In the wind and waves, it was a little chilly. We stopped on the way for some snorkeling and saw plenty of black and yellow striped fish and a few other larger fish.

After lunch on the beach, we headed round to the Emerald Cave, which was unfortunately heaving with boats. It was suggested we wore lifejackets to make the swim through the cave, with the guides choosing to wear theirs upside down round their legs like nappies. Despite our boat supposedly being capable of taking 18 people on this trip, we were still a couple of lifejackets short on the 12 we needed. Chris had a ridiculously small child's vest on and I went without. The swim was only about 100m and most people found the ill fitting lifejackets to be more of a hinderance. There were a few entertaining chains of people, clinging onto each other evidently unable to swim, with their guide pulling from the front. I don't think I would have wanted to go through a pitch black cave if I couldn't swim!

Chris and I, perhaps rather sadistically, were highly amused by the number of people who were scared and freaking out from the darkness. We were in the dark for less than a minute, with a rope to follow should you wish and various guides waving torches. Karma got me though as I tripped over a submerged rock while walking out the other end of the cave onto the hidden beach. The darkness had helped build up the suspense of the lagoon, and we were not disappointed; it was beautiful with the karsts rising high, a gorgeous golden powdered sand beach, with the sea looking quite haunting as it flowed out of the dark cave.

We enjoyed the reward at the end of this cave; however preferred visiting the tourist free caves in Vang Vieng, Laos. This cave was also similar to the one we visited in Krabi on Christmas day, but with the added excitment of the darkness opening out on to the secret beach. I think we're beginning to get to the point on our trip where we have done most things, and a lot of what do now is 'same same, but different!'

The following day we have a 5 hour ferry booked to Ko Lipe, an island off the coast of Thailand near the Malaysian border.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 06:27 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea islands beach island cave snorkeling Comments (0)

Koh Jum, Thailand

Island hopping 1: A remote and undeveloped Thai beach island

sunny 30 °C

Koh Jum is a small island about an hour off the coast from Krabi with little else to do than enjoy the beaches. Our transfer to the port was from 10.30am, with the boat leaving at 11.30am. Knowing the port was only 3km, we were not too worried when it still had not arrived by five past as this is Thai time after all. The receptionist rang to double check and said it was on its way, they just had a lot of pick-ups around town first. By half past, we were getting anxious, even though she explained the boat left at 12. She called again, and 10 minutes later a pick up truck arrived and we were hastily packed into the cab in the back. The driver was shouting in Thai down the phone and driving pretty quickly. We were unloaded at the port and told to run the final couple of hundred metres, in the midday heat, with our backpacks.

On the boat we booked some accommodation, which was a bamboo bungalow sat a few metres up the hill just back from the beach. The ferry does not dock for Koh Jum; long tail boats come out to meet you and you make the transfer across the water. The boat takes you the final 5 minutes to the beach where it stops a couple of metres back from the shore. We trudged up the beach to our accommodation dumped our bags and headed for a swim.

Our accommodation seems as though it would remain open until it fell apart. The owner had long given up with his restaurant or even getting dressed for that matter, spending his days in his checkered boxer shorts. We didn't have any bedding and when we asked, he returned with some sheets which truly reeked of antiseptic. When we visited the restaurant next door, they asked where were staying and offered us sheets! There was another guy there who was leaving that day and had also stayed at old lamp, there to return his bedding.

The next 48 hours were spent eating, drinking, swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing (in the shade of course) and reading on the beach.

The beach was empty and had a rustic charm to it with broken tree branches and several large rocks,

By night, the wet sand by the water's edge was covered in crabs, with loads of different hermit crabs. The normal crabs would scurry off quickly but the hermits would give it a while before retracting into their shells. Some of them had a pretty jazzy shell on their backs and they came in various different shapes and sizes.

After two days rest and relaxation, it was time to move on and so we booked a boat on to Koh Lanta. As the boat didn't dock on the island, half an hour before it was due, we headed back out on the long tail boat and waited for it to appear.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 07:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea islands beach island snorkeling Comments (0)

Khao Lak, Thailand

Finally made it to the Thai beaches!

sunny 35 °C

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And finally we have made it to the Thai beaches after travelling for four and a half months. Khao Lak is situated to the north of Phuket and was completely devastated by the tsunami on Boxing day 2004. Other than the place looking very new, you would not know the destruction seen from that awful day as the whole place was completely rebuilt within about 2-3 years.

Unfortunately, our accommodation, set about a kilometre back from the coast, appears to have survived the tsunami and had not received any attention since much before. The staff, probably in their early twenties at most really could not have cared less even if they tried. The whole place had a rundown feel and almost a joke between management, assuming there was any, of how long can we leave it before people stop booking their holidays with us? When we asked if there was breakfast, the guy laughed as he said no. Later we noticed a new looking sign advertising breakfast but there clearly was not.

In our bungalow, the bathroom had a decent tiled floor and the lower section of the walls were painted a deep midnight blue. At some point though, someone apparently colour blind must have been asked to give it a touch up, and instead of blue, picked up some watery yellow paint and slapped it all over the blue creating a snot green smeared layer on the walls. I would dread to think when the off-white room last had a lick of paint. To finish the room off were some pretty ghastly frosted coloured small windows.

On our room at least they might need to replace the amber glass as there was quite a hole in it by the time we left. Let's just say my washing line could have got caught in the roof during a failed installation. It might have then pinged out of the roof into the window. (Much to my surprise.) I allowed Chris to deal with that one. We would have informed reception; however if they weren't asleep in their hammock, they were glued to their laptop screen. And even then they didn't speak English. I'm sure they will notice it soon....

Khao Lak town is one straight through road with a few lanes and alleys off of it, solely existing due to the coast. If I were writing a holiday brochure, I would describe the beach as 'a long stretch of palm trees overlooking golden sand beaches containing elements of mystery.' On arriving, you would quickly realise 'mystery' was the not so picturesque unlikely to feature in the brochure black sand. Fortunately for those seeking that image, the blank sand is well contained, creating a stopping point for interested tourists. Not for us though, for we are partial to the odd black sand fight, on more secluded beaches. (Paraty, Brazil.)

The remainder of the day was a challenge, spent lying on the beach reading our books and going for a quick dip when it got too hot. I'm sure there was probably the odd power nap as well for good measure.

Although the beaches here are very pretty and the sea is marginally warmer here than on Phu Quoc island in Vietnam, we preferred Phu Quoc as the beaches were completely empty and slightly more picturesque, particularly when there were locals fishing just off the coast. We shall have to see how the other Thai beaches compare over the next week. It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it.

Khao Lak is mainly used as a base to go snokeling to Ko Similan and its surrounding islands. The following day we embarked on one of the many speedboat trips to these islands, located 70km off the coast of Thailand. The journey took an hour and a half, and would not have been complete without a bit of sea sickness from some of our new found travel companions. Some people can be so antisocial! With my stomach made of metal, I was absolutely fine and quite enjoyed it on the way back as we bounced through the air. Chris was OK, but clearly pleased when it was over.

The snorkeling was brilliant! The coral was better when we snorkeled off of Phu Quoc, but the fish here were so colourful and varied and some of them were a good foot long and really colourful. There were your usual smaller striped fish, but some of the larger fish were turquoise with lilac scales, another was an aquamarine colour with dark blue and gold. A couple of our best finds were the 6ft long barracuda, which slithered off and tried to hide under a rock with its black dog like face sticking out. The other best find was also hiding under a rock and was about 6 inches long with a black and white striped body and yellow fins with black dots.

Our trip on Phu Quoc was more of a relaxing boat ride, whereas the boat was a means to an end on this trip. There must have been about 10-15 boats carrying 30 people out that day, and on the first stop, everyone snorkeled yet by the third stop, Chris and I were the only ones who snorkeled any distance from the beach and as we got back, there were only about 10 other people snorkeling by the water's edge. Not really sure why you would bother with this trip if you weren't going to snorkel? At least it meant the water was empty for us!

We returned that evening feeling incredibly tired, as we had spent over 2 hours swimming without even really realising.

Next stop, Krabi town!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 04:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged sea islands beach snorkeling Comments (0)

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