Koh Tao 15 November – 24 December

Is it really Christmas tomorrow? The temperature here on Koh Tao remains in the high 20s, the sun continues to warm our bones, and as I type this the sea is lapping gently against the steps of Alvaro diving school. Aside from the modestly bedecked tree in the corner of the school there’s not a piece of tinsel in sight. It’s a far cry from three winters ago when I cycled the wintry streets of Croydon trying to avert my eyes from the garishly over-illuminated house that intruded tackily on my otherwise enjoyable ride to work. We’re not total Grinches though and will be marking the day by feasting with friends at Fishy Burgers’ all-you-can-eat dinner. The menu is a transatlantic smorgasbord of Christmas fare ranging from turkey to pumpkin pie. We’ve already begun to starve ourselves in preparation.

It’s been a time of change here at the dive school. Over the past few week our numbers have been swelled by the arrival of a batch of new Divemaster Trainees (DMTs), eager to expand their underwater horizons, and us ‘old lags’ have enjoyed showing them the ropes, proudly showing off our new skills. But in the last week the merry band of pirates that started DMT life together back in October has been decimated, first by the infamous ‘snorkel test’ (an alcoholic rite of passage which all newly qualified Divemasters must endure…or so we were told) and secondly by the sad departure of half of our number as they return to their former lives.

Whilst the snorkel test was merely a temporary cull (the Sea Cutter was a ghost ship the next day), the return of our friends to their former lives has intruded much more harshly on our happy little world. Goodbye Banana Brothers, Hollywood, the BGs and ‘Lil Miss Sunshine. We’ve shared the most amazing journey with you, from nervous newbies, to fully fledged, confident Divemasters, able to brief and lead qualified divers on underwater adventures, navigate with reasonable accuracy even in the most turbid murk, produce maps of underwater sites, safely manoeuvre a lift bag and its load, and, most importantly, drink an entire litre bucket of whisky, rum and coke through a snorkel. At times it’s been hard – both physically and mentally. Each one of us has faced personal challenges, screwed up, doubted our ability, been bolstered by the support of the other DMTs (and the instructors) and finally overcome our demons to achieve the level of competence required for sign off. There have been tears, but mostly good times and laughter. The Banana Brothers demonstrated how to eat their favourite fruit underwater; Melissa and Pink Bunny danced and capered and took off their fins to wriggle their toes in the soft sand of the seabed; Hollywood kept us guessing about whether Leonardo Di Caprio really is his cousin; Slacky Andy proved his slackline prowess; Braveheart (half of the BGs) impressed with back-to-back equipment exchanges; Bobbity Bob Bob’s good cheer and joy in being underwater never fails to make me glow with shared pleasure; Little Timmy has shown us oldsters how to party; Endika has patiently helped me with my execrable Spanish pronunciation (Vamos a bucear!); Heather (the other half of the BGs) showed as much grit as the granite city she hails from to beat her heavy weight belt into submission and also to beat all the other DMTs in the snorkel test; and ‘Lil Miss Sunshine demonstrated true Divemaster warmth and friendliness by effortlessly charming her numerous ‘husbands’ (on shore, on the boat, and below the water), not to mention her several ‘bits on the side’ and not forgetting that every side has a corner so she could have a ‘bit on the corner’ too! Keith, after his first amusing/infuriating (delete according to your point of view) and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to locate the wreck of the Sattakut, can now navigate to it blindfolded from pretty much any buoy line in the vicinity. Banana Ben and I finally overcame our mutual horror of opening our eyes underwater to complete the ‘no mask swim’, and I have also somehow tricked my cowardly inner self into being quiescent for long enough to allow me to conduct a passable dive briefing without even feeling a little bit like bursting into tears (which was a rather inconvenient hazard at the start of the course). We’ve logged around 100 dives in the last 2 months, completed a Nitrox speciality course and almost finished our Wreck Penetration speciality. It’s been an incredible journey. Whilst we haven’t travelled as far physically as on our pedal-powered odyssey, the distance we’ve travelled in ourselves has been just as profound.

Thanks of course also go to the instructors (Scuba Steve, Judith, Sascha, Luce, Lio, Daniela, Bruno and Cariss), to Pla (who went on numerous dive-shop shopping expeditions on our behalf) and to the boat crew (Cola, Cota, Mo, Mosa, Shop and The Captain).

We only have a couple of weeks left on Koh Tao, which will pass all too quickly. We’re excited about getting back on the bike again, but also dreading our final dive. So much so in fact that we’re putting some serious thought into how we can combine diving and cycling as we continue our travels, most notably how on earth we might fit a further 30kgs of bulky equipment onto our already heavily laden rig – any inspired ideas gratefully received.

Right, that’s enough from us for now. Allons Plonger! Vamos A Bucear! Pai Dam Nam! Let’s Go Diving!

Some suitably festive christmas tree worms.

Some suitably festive christmas tree worms.

Can you spot the moray eel?

Can you spot the moray eel?

Here it is!

Here it is!

Tamar playing around at Buoyancy World.

Tamar playing around at Buoyancy World.

Keith with a blotched porcupine fish.

Keith with a blotched porcupine fish.

Scrubbed up nice for the Alvaro Xmas party and infamous snorkel test.

Scrubbed up nice for the Alvaro Xmas party and infamous snorkel test.

We were accompanied (as ever) by Doggety Dog Dog.

Accompanied (as ever) by Doggety Dog Dog (who we have found out is 9 years old and was called Masha for the first 2 years of her life when she was looked after by a guy called Merlin who we met at the snorkel test and who Dog clearly remembered).

Mind you, Keith didn't leave many leftovers for poor Dog.

True to form, Keith didn’t leave many leftovers for poor Dog.

For Andrew Duckworth who requested one especially - a nudibranch.

For Andrew Duckworth who requested one especially – a (rather blurred) nudibranch.

Blue-spotted ray.

Blue-spotted ray.

Assorted fish above some staghorn coral.

Assorted fish above some staghorn coral.

Little fishy hiding in some soft coral.

Little fishy hiding in some soft coral.

A territorial damselfish taking exception to the camera.

A territorial damselfish taking exception to the camera.

Kieth's favourite - a giant grouper (although this was rather a modest specimen at just 70-80cm).

Keith’s favourite – a giant grouper (although this was rather a modest specimen at just 70-80cm).

Keith leading the way, on what was one of the better visibility days of late.

Keith leading the way, on what was one of the better visibility days of late.




19 responses to “Koh Tao 15 November – 24 December

  1. Splendid, I am sure that you rather be facing the gales and torrents we have here!
    Have a lovely day tomorrow.
    We have a lot of parcels, which have arrived for you Keith

  2. hi, how are you guys? My ex husband and i were on ko tao for a few days. It was so nice. I dont dive but he does. But he thought the waters were murky. His favorite place to snorkel is Cozumel, Mexico. Maybe you’ll go there someday. Sounds like youre having a wonderful time. Happy holidays from sunny California!!!! Lynn

  3. ps. that was probably 15 years ago when we were there!!!

  4. Hi you guys,

    Thanks for bringing some tropical sunshine to my screen. Need it at this time of year. As usual, your blogs make for great reading and love the photos too.. .
    erm… especially the ‘selfie fish’ ? : ))
    Although a day late…Wishing you both a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    Check out bluewaterdivers website in Mauritius… owned by my cousin ‘Hughes’ Vitry (‘ Hugh’ in English) .

  5. Should be bluewaterdivingcenter (not bluewaterdivers)

  6. We just have to make do with TV coverage of the beautiful under water world while you are enjoying the real thing. Pearl was speaking to your Mum on New Year’s Eve.
    Hears wishing you both good health and happiness in 2014.

    • Hi Harry, great to hear from you all, and our very best wishes to you as well for 2014. We’ve now left the tropical waters of Koh Tao behind and have travelled north to meet up with some friends who are out here from the UK for a 4 week holiday, so no more diving for us for quite a while. So now the diving seems like a lifetime ago and instead we have the hills of Laos in front of us.
      Best wishes for now,
      Keith & Tamar.

  7. Herb and Lorna Treacy

    Happy New Year to you both. Hope its a really good one for you both. You have been having a wonderful time by the sounds of your blog. The photos are great and you both look so happy all the time. It must be the good company you keep????? Ina says you are heading down south to Aussie soon. Wow that will be great and we look forward to seeing you.Our weather at the moment is so changeable. Queensland are having a heatwave with temps 40 -49c in places. Birdsville got 49.5 last week, Sydney has been mild 25-32 most days. We are having lots of rain at the moment , temp 19 to low over night of 12. WE have had really warm days but this cool is left overs from cyclone that hit Western Australia. We ar all great here and we all had a lovely Christmas and New Year. Festivities over now and all are back to work. Enjoy the rest of your journey and the people you meet along the way. Please take care. Love to you both Herb and Lorna xxxxx

    • Hi Lorna & Herb, great to hear from you and thanks for keeping up with our stories on our blog. Australia is definitely on our list of places to pedal around and before we discovered the underwater world of Scuba Diving, we would have predicted being somewhere around the south end of the country by the end of this year (2014) but now that we’ve discovered Scuba Diving, we’re really not so sure when we’ll get there. There are so many wonderful places to visit and go diving between here and there and now that we have our DiveMaster qualification, we may stop somewhere and actually do some work for a while as well. So predicting when we’ll get to your neck of the woods is pretty difficult at the moment … but we’re really looking forward to getting there !!! In fact … count us in for Christmas dinner … just not sure what year for !!! We’re now in northern Thailand, about to go back into Laos with an old school-friend of Tamar’s and her husband, then we’ll be back in Thailand and will travel towards Malaysia, Indonesia and then at some point, Australia.
      Lots of love to you all over there in Oz, looking forward to seeing you all,
      Keith & Tamar

  8. Herb and Lorna Treacy

    Ps Talked to Ina and John this morning. They had a lovely day for their 51 years of marriage. They had been out with Clive and family for lunch and were watching Mrs. Browns Boys when I rang. Your Dad is doing much better now too. All good TG. xxxxxxx

  9. Happy New Year Tamar and Keith, loved reading the blog above. We got home yesterday, even though it was 8 deg, it felt like -8 after 3 weeks of sunshine. Are you still in Koh Tao or moved to Chiang Mai. It was great meeting you both, look forward to your next blog. x

    • Hi Parisha. 8 degrees! Brrr. We’re currently in Chiang Mai and the evenings are feeling cold at 22 degrees. It was great meeting you too – especially as you came bearing Marmite 😉 I made it last until just before we left Koh Tao, and stocks have now been replenished courtesy of my friend Sue who brought some to Chiang Mai for me.

      Take care and give ‘Lil Miss Sunshine a big hug from us please.

  10. It is a small world. As we where leaving our loved Koh Tao we met this nice couple on the same way as us, going on a visa run to Burma. We exchanged story´s of diving adventures, and told them about our acquaintance with a Whale Shark on our 10th dive. Lucky bastards 😉
    2 hours later we where reading our Backpacker, South East Asia, which we have had in our backpack the whole time in Koh Tao, we noticed familyar faces in one of the articles…… you guys that we just met a few hours ago.
    We will read your blog as we go. Have fun and we hope you will see a giant Whale Shark really soon.
    Kind regards from the people from Iceland
    Sofia and Haukur

    • Hey Sofia & Haukur! Thanks for getting in touch. It’s really exciting being recognized from the magazine article. We’re still so impressed you saw a whale shark on your 10th dive – what a way to start a diving life! Enjoy the rest of your travels.

      Tamar & Keith

  11. Wow, what a life you 2 are having!!!! Thats so nice that you BOTH love scuba diving. i never wanted to even try it. I love Thailand, but have never been to Laos. Its on my list, tho. Take care and enjoy every moment, which i know you are.

    • Hi Lynn – yeah, we are incredibly lucky…and know it! When we started diving we weren’t sure at all how it would pan out – Keith had a lot of surgery on one of his ears as a kid so wasn’t sure if he’d be able to equalize OK, and I just wasn’t sure how I’d feel being underwater – I’m always a bit apprehensive about new things – so we decided to do a Discover Scuba Dive to see how we got on. Our instructor, Sascha, at Alvaro Diving, was excellent and, as you know, neither of us had any problems and have become completely hooked on it. It’s transformed me – I have so much more confidence now – the sense of achievement still gives me a buzz.

      Let us know next time you’re in SE Asia – it would be great to catch up.
      Hope all’s well with you.

  12. Hi, dont know you remember us,

    I am Herby, i was the guy, who asked my girlfriend to marry me under Water 🙂

    today i Explored your 19 page Webseite, the hole Tour


    Fantastic, you make me feel i have to Go Again Travveling

    did you know this song from Herbert Grönemayer


    its a Song about someone, who have to Travel, its in German,

    this is my song, when i sit at Home in my Real Life, or in my other Life, depens of the sight.. 😉

    enyou your Travel

    and i really think you are in Thai Modus, becaus you dont wrtite so much, like in past..

    ha ha ha Thai Modus geht you, and you are getting lazy, and dont know ist


    Have Fun

    Herby and Isabella

    • Hi Herby & Isabella,
      We certainly remember you, there were not many who proposed underwater while we were with Alvaro Diving … but we’re not sure if we might have remembered your names … sorry! Thanks for reading our blog, hope it encourages you to set off travelling again, we are having great fun so we would recommend it to anybody !!
      All the best – enjoy whatever you do,
      Keith & Tamar

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