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As soon as I arrived in Koh Tao, I couldn’t wait to go diving. This is the place where I first breathed underwater, so it will always be a special scuba destination for me. Unfortunately, when I breathlessly asked my friends about the current conditions, they gave me some not so nice faces in response. The currents were strong, the visibility was murky, and the water was choppy.

I got on the first boat I could.

Diving in Koh Tao

Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I’m more of a fair weather diver, myself. But one of my best friends and favorite instructors, Kat, was leaving for good in about a week, and I wanted to be sure to get underwater with her one last time, in spite of the conditions.

I was rewarded with the most spectacular sunrise I have ever set eyes on in Koh Tao.

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

It was a rocky ride out to the first dive site, Southwest Pinnacle — bad enough that we lost one diver to sea sickness. The rest of us fought nausea while we geared up and flung ourselves into the water as quickly as possible.

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Unfortunately, the rumors were true and the visibility was pretty poor. I was distracted from my disappointment by a feisty family of Cobias. They were so large that I initially mistook them for spastic sharks. I was too far to get a good photo, so I mostly just enjoyed the show.

Diving in Koh Tao

I had a real moment of diving bliss when I looked up and saw the teeming schools of fish moving above me on an invisible underwater superhighway. This, this absolute surge of life, is what makes diving in Thailand so spectacular.

KohTao11

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

I was meant to be taking tons of photos for Kat’s friends but forgot to coach them on synchronized breathing. It’s quite hard to take photos of a group — unless you plan in advance, there are always bubbles in someone’s face!

Diving in Koh Tao

Our next dive site is my absolute favorite on Koh Tao — Shark Island. I knew the current would be ripping but I couldn’t have been more thrilled to dive this site! It’s so colorful and bright and filled with happy fish and coral.

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

The artist in me is always attracted to the amazing patterns that exist in coral. I’m convinced that Keith Haring must have been a scuba diver.

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Thirty minutes or so into our dive, we came across my favorite feature of Shark Island, the little bonus that put it over the edge to being crowned as my favorite — the beautiful band of yellow butterflyfish that is always hiding somewhere.

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

I could swim with them all day.

They weren’t the only favorite fishy friends I spotted — I also spied nudibranches, a blue spotted ribbon tail ray, and a pufferfish and remora pair.

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

I came up from that second dive smiling — until one of the other divers on the boat came up and told me they saw a whale shark.

I didn’t need to know that.

I was able to do some underwater video work while I was on the island, but my next fun dive was when I took my sister underwater for the first time. Stay tuned!

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24 comments… add one

  • Shaun
    February 18 2013

    Too much awesome in one post!

    The first of many dives I hope to read about!

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      When I do my Divemaster course in April, you will all be begging me to stop posting underwater photos I’m sure :)

  • Deise de Oliveira
    February 18 2013

    I simply loved your photos. It made me wanna dive right now.
    Deise de Oliveira recently posted..Onde ficar em Cartagena: Hotel Capilla del Mar

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      Thanks Deise! What a compliment :)

  • Kathryn Allen
    February 18 2013

    Amazing images, especially for diving in soup! Love the spirals….

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      You wouldn’t believe how many more went to the virtual trash bin :)

  • Meagan
    February 18 2013

    So incredible! Im heading to SE Asia in 3 weeks, spending 4 months in Thailand and 2 in Cambodia. Going to volunteer at the Marine conservation of Cambodia on Koh Rong Samloem, and was planning to do my open water diving course there. But when I read this, I might just change my mind and do it on Koh Tao! any suggestions? Have you maybe been diving in Koh Rong?

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      Meagan, I’ve been to both Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem and went diving with the Marine Conservation group you’re going to volunteer at :) Use the search function in the sidebar or the destination tab above — you’ll find all my Cambodia posts there! You’re going to love it, those islands are bliss…

  • Stephen S.
    February 18 2013

    The sunrise is on fire! Amazing. It is such a different world beneath the waves.
    Stephen S. recently posted..Giveaway: $100 off the “I Love Istanbul Tour.”

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      I’ve seen a fair share of sunrises on Koh Tao thanks to early morning dive boats and as I said, this was by far the best! I’ve never seen anything like it.

  • O.M.G!!!!!!!!!!!!! These pictures are so insanely gorgeous! WOW!!!!!!!!!!! I’m going to stop commenting so that I can look at them again.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Casa Rosada

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      Thanks Andi :) We’ve got to dive together someday soon!

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    February 18 2013

    Ahhhh….whale shark! Damn! Looks beautiful though, nudibranchs are my fave.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Going home.

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      Ugh, and I was perfectly happy with that dive before that moment! Went down and looked for it for a while but no luck :(

  • Sam
    February 18 2013

    I am so with you on the ‘fair-weather’ diving bandwagon. I try to be hardcore, I really do. So jealous that you are back on Tao!
    Sam recently posted..le beginning

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      You know where to find it when you need a visit :)

  • Ashley Hufford
    February 18 2013

    I love these!! absolutely stunning!!!
    Ashley Hufford recently posted..The Historic Ford Theater

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      Thank you so much Ashley!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    February 18 2013

    Shark Island? OMG, my worst nightmare! ;-)
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: That time I was attacked by vampire bats

    • Alex
      February 19 2013

      I should have clarified: It’s named that way for the dorsal-reminiscent shape of the rock that juts out of the water, not for anything below the surface :)

  • Diane
    February 19 2013

    I really love your pics of Asia. I love all your pics but since I’ve never been to Asia, they all really stand out to me. And the diving ones of course since I’ve never done that either. Gorgeous sunsets. Wow!
    Diane recently posted..Pics of the month: February Pierre Herme macarons

    • Alex
      February 21 2013

      Thank you so much Diane! I’ve got a A TON more coming up as well!

  • Noreen
    February 19 2013

    Alex,
    How long were you out there diving and how far below the surface must you go to get those great pics?
    Noreen

    • Alex
      February 21 2013

      Hi Noreen! These were probably about 40 minute dives, about 30 meters deep on the first and just around 10 on the second!

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