Health-wise it seems we have a case of the old out of the frying pan and into the fire. Well, perhaps not as dramatic as that, as I’d always rather have the sniffles than a debilitating stomach bug. It seems that we’re all partaking on a five day course of Amoxycillin to fend off the germs that keep making us ill. Despite regularly washing the shop regulators in dettol after each dive, us girls all seem to have contracted a rattling cough and relentless sinus issues. But nothing eases the pain like a classic fry up from our local favourite cafe spot, Zest!
After a couple of weeks of settling in and getting to know the island, we’ve come up with a nice sort of routine. Early on, we cottoned onto the fact that waking up early to catch the morning boat at 7.30am is absolutely the way to go. The boat is far less busy than the hectic afternoon slot, with the water as flat as a pancake, a beautifully calm and peaceful way to start the day. Now that we’re almost responsible DMTs, we don’t need chaperoning underwater anymore, just as long as one of our group has a dive computer and an SMB (surface marker buoy). Even though I’m yet to complete my kit, instead purchasing items in dribs and drabs, this has made diving all the more fun. We can explore the coral and frolick around as much as we please, mastering our water rings and never quite knowing whether we’ll bob up anywhere near the boat! Abi bravely led a dive one morning, and it was honestly one of my most fun underwater experiences so far. She expertly found a blue spotted stingray hiding under a rock, monitored our air with expert attention and navigated a perfect route, resulting in a super short surface swim back to the boat. What more can you ask for! Poor Sam had slightly less luck leading our wreck dive, but he had a top act to follow. My anklet got stuck on Erik’s snorkel when we were thirty metres under, but we wangled our way out of it without having to brandish a knife. Our leader of the pack had some buoyancy issues when we ascended so ended up abandoning us during our safety stop, but all in all it was great, as I got to explore the boat that the Thai people sunk especially for us divers. Next time, Abi will remember to bring her go pro and we’ll get the classic shot of us wielding the gun at the bow of the ship. Tourists, who, us?!
Upon returning to shore around 11am, you then have the entire day ahead of you to enjoy. These days we’re all pretty committed to getting the Koh Tao glow, so we’ve been whiling away the afternoons on the beach. I break up the day by bringing my mask and practising front crawl along the buoy line, taking care to avoid the snorklers. Swimming through shoals of tropical fish with the warmth of the sun on your back really puts lengths in the local 25m pool to shame. We also love to laugh at Joe’s peculiar habit of sitting half emerged in the surf, letting the water wash over him for hours! Weird habits, hey?
The best parts of our day is when the local samosa man does his rounds, keeping us hungry sunbathers nice and full. Crispy pastry stuffed with spiced potato, all yours for 20 baht a pop. That’s 40p – it’s no wonder we’re developing a bit of an addiction.
Being the uber organised gal that she is, we were fully prepared with all her Aussie paraphernalia from home. After showering the sea water out of our hair, we plastered ourselves in patriotic tattoos (a heart on the face, flag on the shoulder and letters across the back – go big or go home), we brandished our flag/sarong and set off to Maya beach club to revel in the festivities.
Mojitos and strawberry daiquiris were in full flow, all day. Most probably annoying all the bar girls who wished we’d just drink easy bottles of beer, I threw caution to the wind and sampled the Bahama Mama (a coconut milk, rum and grenadine concoction) and a Mudslide (kahlua, baileys, Oreos and ice cream – heaven in a glass). Much to our dismay, there was absolutely no point in taking care over our appearances that day as Baden and Nick, two simple life instructors, decided to take it upon themselves to dunk any girl they saw with dry hair. Water up the nose and everything, we were well and truly soaked, several times.
We spent the entire day balancing our drinks on paddle boards that people had rented, often swimming up to other groups to share in the fun. One particular successful hour was spent drinking a jug of delicious passion fruit sangria, generously donated by a group of Welsh guys who were interested in diving on the island. The job has its perks!
Watching the sun set over the water, we started to feel a bit peckish, so a couple of us hot footed it over to Fishbowl, where there were rumours of a free BBQ. Sadly, everything remotely good had already gone so we drunkenly made do with bread rolls filled with coleslaw and mustard, and a couple of buttery corn on the cobs. Our appetites not quite satisfied, we trekked inland to the glorious Duck 995, where everything on the menu is super cheap, super tasty and duck-orientated. Number 9 is fast becoming my regular order – egg noodles in a soy bean sauce for 70 baht, you simply can’t go wrong!
Left with full tums, mild to severe sunburn and tattoos that won’t come off no matter how hard you scrub, Australia day was an absolute cracker of a day that I shall never forget. Simply put, we had heaps and heaps of fun!