Blue the magic dragon
After much research based on our inherent unsociability *grin* we picked the Koh Samui Boat Charter company for a tour of the Ang Thong Marine Park with snorkelling and kayaking. We chose them primarily as they had a maximum of 14 people per tour and were only slightly more expensive than those taking 40. But as we learnt, the boat was way nicer, the staff wonderful and the food outstanding, so very worth a little extra.
However the day started off a bit grey, we were collected at 7.20am by not the happiest of drivers and found a family of three small kids and two unsmiling parents already ensconced in the minivan. Our Good Mornings went ignored and we pretty much prepared for a day of hell. Three under sixes! Gross!
After a hair raising thirty minute drive we arrived at the not so salubrious looking dock set in a quarry to board our VIP boat. We were having serious doubts by now, the weather was gloomy, we were with a bunch of kids, it was not looking good.
After loading down a ridiculous sloping ramp we boarded the Blue Dragon and were greeted by the lovely crew where it all started to look up as we headed upstairs to find two rows of towel covered beanbags. Having boarded first we grabbed the first three and plonked ourselves down, a rookie mistake it later turned out. Fifteen minutes or so later another van pulled up and six more people made their way upstairs and much friendlier hellos were exchanged and they plonked themselves down on two of the three remaining beanbags, wooden seat and two went to the bow to sit behind the currently empty jacuzzi.
Balances paid it was at this point Captain Ron told us it was going to be a rough ride and to take sea sickness tablets if we thought we would need them, ha! A couple of people visibly paled and reached for them and the rest of us sat stoically waiting to start moving. We seemed to be caught on a rope and about ten minutes of toing and froing later were finally on our way.
It actually wasn’t that rough but within minutes we were soaked as it was just rough enough to spray the first few rows of us every few waves, note to s of, sit at the back next time! The two who went down to the bow quickly reappeared and perched on the one remaining bean bag before the poor girl had to go and lay down inside. I tucked myself under my towel, put my head in JHubz’s lap and took a nap. Two hours, yes really, two hours of bumping, laughing every time we got soaked and napping later we were arriving in the marine park with the sun peeking in and out from behind the clouds.
Breakfast had been offered about an hour into the journey but no one partook until we were safe in the relative tranquillity of the marine park. After a yummy breakfast of tea, buns and hot dogs (there were croissants too) we life jacketed up and transferred by dinghy to the island where the movie the beach was filmed. It used to be a mountain that collapsed and formed a fully enclosed Lake, called the Emerald Lake, which is totally stunning. What no one mentioned is that the steps up are not solid, so it is like walking up a ladder. And they were designed for giants, the gaps in between are large enough for a leg. And I hate heights. Up we went, and up and up this ridiculously steep climb. Ma in front, JHubz behind, Ron our exuberant Captain telling us interesting facts all the way. I’d known it was a mistake from the fifth step. The remarkably goat like oldest kid was nimbly vaulting from step to step, his parents carrying his brother and sister.
At the top we got to look down onto the beautiful lake pictured above (although that photo is taken from halfway down because at this point all I could do was hold on). And then it came to going down and the sheer stupidity of climbing up hit me. What was steep going up seemed impossible going down. I was shaking, crying, ugh!! So shaking and crying and laughing at myself I went, backwards, one step at a time, holding on with both hands. I stopped crying pretty quick and started going sideways but kept both hands on. We stopped at one point to take pictures then instead of going down further went back up (oh the joy!) and had to crawl through a hole in the mountain (there really is no such thing as health and safety) so that we emerged close to the first flight of stairs. There was a mahoosive spiders web but thankfully not its maker. More sideways climbing, one more shaky panic and cry and we were on the ground and I was running to get my life jacket and get off this terrifying island ahahaha.
At this point, and despite other kayakers, we were told it was too rough to kayak or snorkel *bah humbug* and that we would be heading a bit around the islands and stopping for lunch before heading to an island closer to Koh Samui to Snorkel. I had seen the Chef preparing lunch earlier, hugely sharp knife in hand as the boat roiled from side to side, it was an impressive sight.
The islands are so beautiful, little jewels in the ocean. A number of them are guarded by armed men as they have the nesting birds that make the nests for bird nest soup with their salvia. Which despite sounding gross is a Chinese delicacy and sells for huge amounts of money. If you get too close to the islands they will shoot you. So keeping a safe distance we passed by. When we stopped in a sheltered cove it was super calm and most of us had all jumped in within minutes. It was pretty deep and not very clear but we snorkelled for a bit seeing lots of urchins before returning to eat. Lunch was fabulous, the tastiest fish covered in a sweet sauce, chicken satay and curried rice, noodles and vegetables. The jacuzzi had been filled by the time we came back from the emerald lake but by the time we stopped for lunch it had either all sloshed over or drained away, but it wasn’t terribly sunny so no one seemed particularly bothered.
After lunch we started heading to Koh Tan for more snorkelling. Bedded down in my bean bag we were joined by Mimi, Ron’s super bright fearless daughter, who had joined us for the day. She, JHubz and Ma chatted happily the whole ride while I snoozed and listened in.
When we reached Koh Tan, Mimi convinced us to jump from the top deck into the sea as the crew had been doing at the earlier stop. Did I mention I am afraid of heights? Ha! If a ten year old can do it I pretty much have to. So over we went. Fins and mask retrieved we swam over to the reef. Ron had bread to feed the fish so we were pretty soon surrounded by all manner of fish greedily snatching the bread. I’m not totally comfortable with feeding fish in the ocean. I’ve heard you should never do it, that it promotes a frenzy which bigger fish (read sharks) pick up on and are interested by but everyone seems to do it here. If anyone knows any facts about it i’d love to hear them. We saw a tonne of lovely fish though, a grouper, angel fish, parrot fish, a crab and a beautiful ray.
JHubz swam with me back to the boat before he continued snorkelling. Ma had been sitting aloneaŵ not wanting to snorkel and a little afraid of swimming in the sea but you could see she wanted to get in. So in she came and had a little swim at the back of the boat just with me in the middle of the ocean which was really nice.
JHubz emerged a bit later and immediately noticed he was minus his wedding ring, ugh! We’re offering a reward for it’s safe return, you never know, it is a well snorkelled reef but for now his ring is living with the fish and crabs and rays. (He picked up a brass skull ring as a temp replacement the next day and I’m wondering if this was his plan all along. He’s always wanted a skull ring).
By the end of day there was a lovely camaraderie with the 13 guests and crew and despite not being able to kayak or snorkel in the marine park and getting covered in spray every five minutes it was a blooming marvellous day Xx