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!
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.
I was official photographer for the day, while Mark earned his keep as our dive guide.
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.
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.
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.
But it’s not color that Chumphon is famous for, anyway- it’s the sheer number of fish coming at you from all angles.
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.
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.
It was a relaxing, glorious dive.
During the surface interval we enjoyed the moody skies and I babbled on about life 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.
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.
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.
I also love these semi-abstract shots he took of a nudibranch.
And their beautiful shallow dive was rounded out by a school of baby barracuda passing through.
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.
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.
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.