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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I'm a New York native who left my home to explore the world slowly and thoroughly. I love photography, scuba diving, and reading guidebooks to countries I have no immediate plans to visit. Read more on my About Me page.