I had high ambitions of getting my dive on on a regular basis throughout my three months back in Thailand. Unfortunately, bad conditions and a very low low season resulted in less boats going out, and lots of distractions meant I wasn’t always on them when they did. But when I saw my friends at Roctopus were doing a special locals’ edition of their crazy popular Sail Rock Sunday trips, I cleared my calendar immediately. A day out to the premier dive site in the Gulf of Thailand with my favorite dive school and a bunch of my BFF divemaster buddies on board? Um yes, I think I can make some space in my busy schedule of doing far less awesome things for that one.
And so we set off at an hour that I usually only see at the other end of a long night out, to make the hundred minute journey to a certain special pinnacle in the middle of the ocean.
On a bad day, Sail Rock can be grueling. But on a beautiful day like the one we lucked into, the long ride to this deep ocean dive site has a killer payoff. And this was my favorite kind of diving, a kind I’m lucky to do often — diving with instructors and divemasters on their days off.
I buddied up with Anna, who patiently explored while I snapped away. I hate feeling rushed when I’m behind the lens, and reveled in taking my time to let my fishy friends get comfortable before I came at them with my camera.
Such life! Such color! It’s no mystery why Sail Rock is on the scuba bucket list of so many divers who make their way to Thailand. The coral is abundant, the tropical fish are varied, the topography inspired. This is why people learn to dive.
While the macro stuff is fun (and easier) to photograph, it’s the big schools that Sail Rock is really known for. There is something almost spiritual about the moment you kick out into an endless school of barracuda, and get swept away for a moment in the bigness of it all. There’s really nothing quite like it.
Even in the low season, this is a popular dive site you’ll rarely have to yourself. But it’s also vast, and there’s always a little moment of solitude you can find somewhere.
While I don’t get out there often, I have posted about Sail Rock twice before, and — wow! — it is crazy to see how my underwater photography and my editing skills have improved since I first picked up an underwater housing. Granted, conditions like visibility and brightness play a huge roll, and I really lucked out here with a light-filled day, but it is fun to see how far I’ve progressed over the years.
And I can’t wait to see where I go.
Two long dives later, we surfaced with a cheer. Time for a delicious Thai curry — and a drink! While the ride out on Sail Rock Sundays is usually somewhat sleepy (I mean like literally, I napped) the ride back to Koh Tao is basically a floating warm up party for Sunday Fundays on the beach upon return. It doesn’t hurt that Roctopus has somewhat of a reputation for hiring tanned and toned instructors that are not hard to look at.
Some might find this practice vaguely questionable, but guys…. I’M NOT OFFENDED.
Yes, I love me some Roctopus, and I’m not shy about sending everyone who writes me asking for Thailand dive shop recommendations their way. I was on Koh Tao when these guys were hanging their first shop shingle, and now they’re one of the top shops on the island and just had a glowing write up in the latest edition of Lonely Planet Thailand. I couldn’t be happier for them — and they truly do deserve every accolade.
And you certainly don’t have to be a divemaster or a local to enjoy Sail Rock Sunday. For 2,600 baht (about $80) you get two guided dives, all equipment, two meals… and a whole crew to head to Maya Bar for a drink with afterwards.
Happy Sail Rock Sunday!
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Many thanks to my longtime friends at Roctopus for hosting me. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill. Tell them I sent ya and give them a big hug from me if you go!
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Curious about my underwater photography setup? Check out my Obsessions page for information on my camera gear, editing programs and more.