Finding Nemo in the Andaman Sea

We’re back in Thailand, this time to see the south and its famous islands!
There are thousands of islands and countless travel options in the south. Every traveler’s dream is to find an island where you’ll be alone, but this is close to impossible in Thailand. Almost every person we met recommended us “the one island you should absolutely go to”, so it didn’t help much. In the end, we settled for the Andaman Sea, meaning the Western coast. We thus flew to Krabi and got to Koh Lanta the next morning.

KOH LANTA

Lanta is a rather peaceful island offering long stretches of beaches, a national park, and is a good base to explore the neighbouring islands and go snorkeling/scuba diving. We loved its laid-back atmosphere and the fact that you can just grab a motorbike and drive around the island looking for hiking spots or tiny hidden beaches (okay, not “hidden”, and rather easy to find, but we were almost alone!). Sunset cocktails on the beach are also a common activity 😉

We also loved our little hotel on top of the hill, a bit away from the beach but quiet and easy to reach on foot.

As Koh Lanta is the base for one of Thailand’s two best scubadiving spots, Hin Daeng & Hin Mueang, I (Quentin) went on a full day trip while Rebekka relaxed on the beach and enjoyed a little massage (this time not by a bodybuilder). The two dives were around reefs in the open sea, over 3 hours away from the island, and were worth every single penny! Well-alive and colorful corals carpeted the seabed and millions of fish swam in tight squadrons. The area is notably famous for its red and purple coral trees, and for sightings of Manta rays… Guess what? On the second dive, we jumped in the water, sank a bit deeper and there it was: a huge, majestic Manta ray! Even the instructor diving with me was as excited as a little child that meets batman for real (and he dives here 300 times a year – the instructor, not batman). I could spend an hour describing how fascinating those animals are. This manta was about 4m wide (some said bigger, but it’s most likely due to excitement), and a very curious one! She circled around us for half an hour, playing with our bubbles and sometimes passing just 1m above our heads! In a way, it was very touching to share this moment with this incredible animal that seems to levitate in slow motion, with the grace of a ballet dancer.

Although the Manta was clearly the highlight of my dives, I still got to see some other interesting things, such as a giant puff-fish, a peacock mantis shrimp (look them up on YouTube, they are the most badass creatures on earth!), a massive moray, etc., etc..

As the GoPro cannot go that deep without a special case, I could not take pictures nor videos myself, so the above pictures are courtesy of Iryna Bodnaruk!

KOH ROK and KOH HA

Another day, we took a boat excursion to a neighbouring island, Koh Rok, and a reef, Koh Ha, both uninhabited and famous for the abundant marine life that surrounds them. We snorkeled at three different spots and got to see many different fish, notably some cute clown fish hiding in their corals, hundreds of young barracudas hanging around in big groups, crabs, sea stars, a sea snake (!) and many others. We had lunch on the beach of Koh Rok, surrounded by hermit crabs, and even a 2m-long monitor lizard.

KOH MUK

After almost a week it was time for us to head south to another island: Koh Muk/Mook. To get there, we organised a cheapo’s boat trip that was supposed to get us straight to that small island. Of course it didn’t go as planned and we found ourselves on a boat with tourists going on a snorkeling day trip. This meant three stops before we would reach our destination. Well, why not? We put on our swimsuits and jumped in the water with the others. We also got to visit the famous “Emerald cave”: a tiny beach surrounded by walls that can be reached only through an 80m-long dark tunnel giving out on the open sea. It feels like you are at the center of a volcano crater… if it wasn’t for the hordes of tourist that don’t know how to swim and have to get pulled into the cave while floating in their life jackets like Leonardo on a wooden door.

Finally, we made it to our island! The boat dropped us 10m from the beach though, so we had to jump in the water until our knees with our big backpacks. Koh Muk is a tiny island, and we spent 3 nights there before flying to Bangkok. We got ourselves a tiny bungalow with all of the available luxury: mosquito net for the looks, bucket of water for the shower and toads for the company!

We first took a boat to Koh Kradan, famous for its long beautiful beach (sometimes making it to some newspaper’s rankings about the world’s most beautiful beaches), snorkeled around and enjoyed the beautiful views.

The next day we decided that doing a trek through the island’s jungle to reach an isolated beach would be a good idea… The first hour was fine, even when we got lost and ended up jumping in the sea and climbing on slippery rocks while trying to avoid the hundreds of crabs chilling out on the stones.
When we got lost a second time, climbing up a rough path zigzagging between wild rubber trees and where bushes were so dense we couldn’t see our legs, we almost gave up. But we ended up finding the right way and made it in one piece to a beautiful tiny beach surrounded by mountains and jungle.

30122601_10156124329870132_783171438_o.jpgAfter enjoying the beach for a bit, we met two nice German couples that had come here by kayak. Hating the idea of having to go back the same way, we decided with the Germans that we would try “adding a third passenger” to each kayak. It worked for the first 100m, but one kayak started filling up with water and eventually flipped, throwing its passengers as well as all bags & backpacks in the water. Nothing got lost, but the couple hadn’t brought a dry-bag with them so it killed a cellphone and didn’t improve the design of their passports… As the kayak obviously wouldn’t support this mistreatment a second time, Rebekka ended up swimming behind the second kayak (or pushing it, considering that this poor piece of plastic had to drag 4 people now) for about 1km until we found a long-tail boat that accepted to bring us back to the island’s nearest beach (hitch-hiking on the sea: check!). A crazy adventure that we will certainly remember!

Foodwise, our ten days in southern Thailand let us experiment quite a few dishes, from curries to grilled or fried fish through fancy pad Thai. One night, we allowed ourselves a bit of a fancier dinner, and went to a restaurant that even had bread and salty butter! We also had wine for the first time since that traumatising tasting in Myanmar (we didn’t dare try the local Thai wine though…).

Off to Bangkok before finally going to Japan!
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