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The great thing about running a travel blog is you get to make tons of online friends. People reach out to you to say hi, talk about travel, and sometimes ask for advice. And living in a popular destination like Koh Tao, I got to be hands-on in helping people plan their trips to paradise.  One such person was Kelli Nicole, who came through Thailand on a break-neck solo journey through Southeast Asia. Brave girl!

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Because she was a bit short on time, Kelli had just one night and one day in Koh Tao. I knew exactly the way to make her fall for my little island: take her diving.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

I was official photographer for the day, while Mark earned his keep as our dive guide.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Because Kelli was only in town for one day, we wanted to take her to Koh Tao’s premier dive site, Chumphon. Unfortunately, on the day she arrived NO ONE seemed to be planning a trip to Chumphon. Not any of the schools I filmed for, not the school Mark worked for, not the school our friends run. I started to panic but Mark made some calls and at the last-minute we got on Phoenix Dive School’s bright pink boat.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Kelli is a relatively new diver but had just been in Phuket diving in Thailand’s Adaman side, so I was feeling fairly competitive for her to enjoy diving in the Gulf side more.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Luckily, Chumphon was beautiful that morning. Chumphon is a very deep dive site and as I photograph without a strobe (for now anyway- one day you will be mine, pricey camera add-ons!) it’s nearly impossible to get good color in photos. Hence all the black and white.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

But it’s not color that Chumphon is famous for, anyway- it’s the sheer number of fish coming at you from all angles.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Depending on the day, Chumphon can feature schooling barracuda, human-sized groupers, families of batfish, and moody stonefish. Normally, mini-groupers like the ones pictured below and skittish and slink off the moment they spot you coming. But on this day this defiant little fish stared me straight down- allowing me to get my favorite shot of the day.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

I was also pleased to see a file fish (below right) darting around near the buoy line. I don’t usually find them at this dive site.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

It was a relaxing, glorious dive.

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

Chumphon Dive Site, Koh Tao

During the surface interval we enjoyed the moody skies and I babbled on about life on Koh Tao.

Diving on Koh Tao

Really, there are just not words to describe the impact this little mass of land has made on my life. It is a special place with a strong hold on my heart.

Diving on Koh Tao

Unfortunately, I had to sit out the next dive, so I handed the camera over to Mark. We were moored at Twins Dive Site, and Mark was convinced that one his last dive there he had seen a Moorish Idol. The only reason I know what that even is is due to our diving in Vietnam, where we spotted several, and they were my favorite fish! But they’ve been unheard of in Koh Tao for quite some time, so when Mark told everyone of his find they were skeptical. He was dying to go back with a camera and find proof.

Twins Dive Site, Koh Tao

While on the Moorish Idol spotting expedition, he also found time to shoot these amazing pictures of a crown of thorns sea star. It is really amazing how Mark’s photography grew over the years. I wish I could claim credit as his mentor but considering his brother is a famous Scottish photographer I think it might be in their genes.

Twins Dive Site, Koh Tao

I also love these semi-abstract shots he took of a nudibranch.

Twins Dive Site, Koh Tao

Twins Dive Site, Koh Tao

And their beautiful shallow dive was rounded out by a school of baby barracuda passing through.

Twins Dive Site, Koh Tao

Twins Dive Site, Koh Tao

Then came the real shocker: they actually found the Moorish Idol! It was north of Twins, almost at Green Rock. I admit I had been one of the skeptics so I was overjoyed that this gorgeous species still exists in Koh Tao, that Mark was able to prove his fish tale, and that he was able to get a photo.

Moorish Idol Koh Tao

Thank you Kelli for coming to visit and for giving us an excuse to spend a fun morning out on the boat! The following picture is via Kelli but stolen from Facebook, because I’m a great blogger like that.

Diving in Koh Tao

Oh, and in case you were wondering: Kelli’s conclusion on her preferred side of Thailand for diving? The Gulf! Oh yes, Koh Tao wins again.

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Planning a scuba diving trip to Koh Tao in Thailand?  North Travel Insurance provides travel insurance for Australians travelling to Thailand, including travel insurance for Australian travellers already overseas. Visit their website for more information.

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27 Comments...
  • Katie McDonald
    April 21 2012

    Hey, Ms. A,
    Just catching up on all your adventures and fab photos. We’re all thinking of you and send our love.

    • Alex
      April 22 2012

      Hi Katie,

      Thanks for reading, and for the love 🙂

  • Grandma Burr
    April 21 2012

    Just enjoyed my morning trip to places far and away! Thank you again. If possible, stop in Florida on your way north. We’d love to see you, Can’t keep you, or your parents would detest us. Love, Gram E

    • Alex
      April 22 2012

      I’m definitely going to try to find a way to fit Florida into all my plans…

  • Mike Goodfield
    April 21 2012

    Those polka dot bikini tops are killer. Put a shirt on, you’re killing me! I’m coming to Thailand. Don’t leave.

  • Gram
    April 21 2012

    I loved today’s beautiful underwater, fishy photos—a part of the world I’d never see otherwise. Thank you !!!!!!!

    • Alex
      April 22 2012

      You’re welcome… and luckily I managed to get a few more dives in before leaving, so there are more to come!

  • Olivia
    April 21 2012

    Wow love these pictures!!!!

  • Caty
    April 21 2012

    Great pictures! The moorish idol is also one of my favorite fishes. There are so many in Sri Lanka and we would probably see at least 10 on each dive. I was always so enchanted by them that I would just swim of and follow them which is not really the smartest thing to do but oh well what can I say they are too cute and I just couldn’t resist.

    • Alex
      April 22 2012

      Wow, 10 on one dive! We were amazed to find the one! 🙂 I will definitely have to make it to Sri Lanka one of these days.

      • Caty
        April 22 2012

        It is a beautiful country. I would have loved to show you around but sadly I think I will never visit there again! But if you ever decide to go let me know and I will give you some tips!

        • Alex
          April 22 2012

          I’m so sorry for your situation Caty… I owe you a message back. However you will still be the first person I write if I’m ever headed to that part of the world.

  • Darling, these photos are absolutely amaaaaazing!

    • Alex
      May 4 2012

      Thank you! (Another un-spammed comment, ha!)

  • Andrea
    April 22 2012

    GORGEOUS photos! You can really tell you are passionate about diving and photography, you are so talented. Thanks for sharing, I love your blog 🙂 Chin up, things will get better, and in the meantime, you have readers all over the world rooting for ya.

    • Alex
      April 22 2012

      Thank you Andrea, your comment is so very much appreciated…

  • Kelli Nicole
    April 22 2012

    I LOVE these pictures! You did such an amazing job, thank you so much. It really was one of my top three favorite days of my entire trip. Thank you so much for making it special and being so fun and friendly! I was unsure of whether or not I loved scuba after my experience in Phuket, but I can say after this day that I LOVE IT. You’re amazing!

    • Alex
      April 22 2012

      I can’t wait to read YOUR trip recaps! It was my pleasure showing you around, I’m so glad you enjoyed diving and Koh Tao. And I want to hear about the other two days…

  • Kathryn
    April 22 2012

    Your photographs continue to dazzle me…the textures, the composition and the colors are extraordinary. Great work.

    • Alex
      April 22 2012

      Thank you! I was thinking maybe its time to redecorate my bedroom this summer…. get some of these canvas wrapped. What do you think?

  • Audrey | That Backpacker
    April 24 2012

    I love checking out your dive photos! So many wonderful creatures – it never gets old! 😀
    Audrey | That Backpacker recently posted..London Through Arielle’s Eyes

    • Alex
      April 25 2012

      Thanks so much Audrey! I have a few more diving posts coming up soon that I’m really excited about.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    April 29 2012

    Oooh love the composition of the jumping-in shots. You’re so talented!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Photo Friday: Washington D.C.

    • Alex
      April 30 2012

      Thank you! That’s a shot I take every time I do video so its fun to translate it into photography!

  • Steve
    September 9 2012

    Wanted to let you know that your blog actually made me go to Koh Tao and try scuba diving. I’m finishing up my open water today and going to Chumphon – can’t wait!

    Thanks! 🙂
    Steve recently posted..Goals Before Moving to Thailand – How I did

    • Alex
      September 10 2012

      Steve that’s one of the greatest comments I’ve ever gotten! Who did you go diving with? I hope Chumphon was beautiful — I’ve heard the sharks are finally returning!

      • Steve
        September 12 2012

        It was great at Chumporn. No sharks though… But honestly probably for the best for me. :p

        I went with Easy Divers in Mae Haad and I’m finishing up my advanced tonight with a night dive… I hear it’s pretty awesome!

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