In this article our guest author, Laura Howells takes us snorkelling in Thailand, a fun alternative to diving if you’re on a budget where you can swim with the fishes and pretend you’re starring in The Beach.
When I told people that I was going out to Thailand for a spot of travelling, I think the single piece of advice which I most often received was that I absolutely had to see the marine life. Now my Dad is an avid diver, so he recommended we don some scuba gear and hit the wrecks, but when we got there it soon became apparent that if you’re really travelling on a budget and you’ve got a pretty packed schedule, scuba diving just isn’t an option. Even if you’ve got the 9000 baht (£200) that the scuba training costs, a lot of people , like ourselves, just can’t spare the 3 days of swimming pool training that the courses requires. So we settled for some cheap and cheerful snorkelling, and what a great decision it was!
We went on quite a few snorkelling excursions in Thailand, but my two favourite places were Koh Tao and Ko Phi Phi. The former was booked through our hotel, Asia Diving Resort and cost us only 850 baht (£18). We had transport from the hotel down to the boat, which was very handy and all we had to bring was our sun cream, shades and lovely selves.
We were taken to 5 different snorkelling destinations during the day, the final of which was Nangyuah Island, a gorgeous spot where, if you like, you can climb to the peak of the island and enjoy the incredible views it afforded. As you can imagine, the snorkels we were given weren’t exactly state of the art, but they certainly did the job and other than one of our group accidentally throwing his into the sea and losing it, we had no problems with them at all. If, like our lot, you haven’t really grown up yet, a big boat with a top deck can be quite a lot of fun, as you get the opportunity to test out your diving skills whenever the boat stops.
Once we got into the water we distanced ourselves from the other groups, which was no problem as we were given at least 45 minutes at each destination and lots of room to wander off. The sea life was spectacular in all of the destinations in Koh Tao. We were constantly surrounded by all sorts of brightly coloured, beautiful fish, who were obviously quite used to being around people, as they had no problem swimming up to our outstretched hands.
For those a little anxious about the fish getting too close, you get the added thrill of the staff throwing fish food at you, which results in a good 30 or so fish firing themselves at your body in hope of some grub. I recommend trying to stay at least slightly calm here, as gulping down sea water in a panic really doesn’t make you feel your best. My top tip if you’re going snorkelling on a big boat is to always sit downstairs in the shade. You’re never going to be fully sun creamed when you’re jumping in and out of the water and we learnt, it is far too easy to burn up there.
Our snorkelling trip in Ko Phi Phi was a beautiful sunset tour and was booked through one of the many excursion shops on the island. We paid 400 baht (£10) for a half day trip, which started at midday and finished at sunset. What made this particular tour so great was all of the extras. We were taken to see the monkeys at Monkey Island, to Maya Bay where The Beach was filmed, and to these massive caves inhabited by some pretty hardy Thai people. Because there were only 10 of us on the boat, the trip was really relaxed and the driver let us stop where and when we wanted. Although we saw less marine life in Ko Phi Phi compared to some of our other excursions, what we did see was much bigger, brighter or scarier (lots of razorfish) and the quiet spots we visited meant that we were often on our own with a lot of time to explore.
The best piece of advice that I can give anyone thinking of going on a snorkelling trip is to buy one of the waterproof phone cases. If you’ve got a phone with a good camera then bung it in, seal it up and you can take some incredible pictures and videos of your underwater experiences. We brought two and put our iPhones in them and the results were incredible!
Laura Howells is part of the Melted Stories travel blog team where she regularly writes about her travel adventures. Aside from exploring the world, Laura has a passion for teaching, reading and music. You can get in touch with Laura on Twitter or Google+.
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