After a long day of travelling we made it to the island of Ko Tao! On first impressions, much more lively than our previous destination of Koh Lanta which we had expected. What we hadn't expected was that we would hate it! We had booked to stay in a pretty nice resort on the "quieter" north end of Sairee beach (it was not in fact quiet at all...very developed, litter, boats everywhere in the water etc...). On checking in, the resort (supposedly) upgraded us to a superior room. What this actually meant was instead of getting a triple room with a cold shower we got a double room with a hot shower and what can only be described as plank for an extra bed with a mouldy pillow. Yuck! Needless to say, we checked out the following morning and managed to get the majority of our money back after Jo and I complained profusely and refused to move from reception (we think they were concerned that we were going to make a scene!).
With nowhere to stay that night we took our chances and got a taxi over to Tanote Bay on the other side of the island (thanks to the plank bed I couldn't sleep much last night so researched all the beaches on the island to find one we might actually like). Our luck was in! Tanote Bay looked idyllic and a lovely bungalow resort right on the bay had a family room with a seaview balcony available that was in our budget. And so that is where we spent our remaining five nights on the island.
First item on my agenda on our first afternoon in Tanote Bay; sign up for a PADI Open Water Diver course. We've met so many people on our travels who have raved about how amazing diving is (you know who you all are!), that I decided to set aside my fear of sharks and claustrophobia and just do it!! And in fact I didn't just sign up for the course, I completed my first chapter of theory there and then. Keen or what!?
When Jo found out that it was just me on the course she decided she couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn with just two people in the class. Sadly Sarah was still too poorly to join us so instead spent the time we were on the course by the lovely pool at the dive resort.
The three day course consisted of some self study, tests, a final exam, a contained water dive in the pool and four dives in the sea.
Day one was our contained water dive in the swimming pool so Sarah got to watch us doing all the exercises. I'm sure at times it was quite amusing; Jo and I both had trouble with the buoyancy control...I kept floating to the top and Jo kept hitting the bottom. Oops! But otherwise, we managed just fine. Beforehand, Jo was very anxious about the mask clearing exercise (where you let your mask flood and have to clear it) as this was something she wasn't able to do last time she attempted to get her Open Water certification. But she managed it on the first attempt! A huge credit to our amazing instructor who was so patient and calm with us the whole time.
On day two we did our first two open water dives which were both directly off the beach in the bay. The first dive was obviously the scariest for us but as soon as we were underwater, we both relaxed and just enjoyed the underwater world! On these first two dives we saw scorpion fish, moray eels, yellowtails, barracuda, triggerfish (which can give you a nasty bite if you invade their territory and don't get out quick...luckily the one we saw paid us no attention!), a school of rabbit fish and juvenile sweetlips.
We had an early start on day three (7.45am!) to go out on the boat for our last two open water dives of the course in Hin Wong Pinnacle and Hin Wong Bay. Thankfully we both slept amazingly well, no longer anxious about donning our scuba gear and going underwater. Just extremelly excited! During the dive at Hin Wong Pinnacle (where we were underwater for an impressive 55 minutes!) we saw trevally, coral groupers and a hawksbill turtle. Seeing the turtle was incredible! The first time we saw it, it was swimming above us on the surface, a silhouette silently moving above us. As it descended we lost sight of it but saw it again later feeding on a rock. We were able to get so close...amazing! The next dive at Hin Wong Bay was just as incredible where we saw a sea snake, seal putterfish and malabar groupers. At one point a giant shoal of fusiliers was right above us practically blocking out all the sunlight. We also went through a cave system that, whilst a little scary at times, was beautiful.
I'm very happy to report that at the end of our course,we passed! And had the most amazing time doing so! I think it's safe to say we are both now hooked on diving and are already planning some weekend trips away to get our dive fix!
Thanks again Montalay Diving!
Whilst not on our dive course, we spent our time lazing by the pool, reading, snorkeling in the bay, lying in the hammock on our breezy balcony and eating tasty food at the dive resort's restaurant. Jo and Sarah also found the time to fashion Patch a snorkel so he could join us on our last excursion around the bay (see the photo!). I'm not exaggerating when I say it took them hours. But I think you'll agree it's a work of art!
We were all very sad to leave our lovely little bay on Ko Tao but ready for our final (sad face) destination of Koh Samui!