Bali Part 3 – Broken Roads, Manta Rays and Surfer Pros

Spending the past week in one place was a really welcome break but with so much to see and do in Bali we started to get itchy feet to explore some more. We were enjoying island life and had heard good things about the Nusa islands so we hopped back on the ferry and left the gorgeous Gili islands behind.

Day 12 – To pick up where I left off we arrived in Nusa Lembongan and had booked a stay at Taos House. While checking in our host told us it was her birthday and invited us to join in the celebrations later that night. We were immediatly made to feel welcome with home cooked food and ice cold Bintang beers, which mysteriously kept replenishing every time one was finished. Once the Bintang ran low we were offered vodka in a small martini glass and from there graduated to a strong Balinese liquor that came from a plastic water bottle. Apart from the fact it tasted like nail polisher remover, it didn’t seem all that strong but that being said we only had a bottle cap full. It was a fun and unexpected experience – the party as a whole, not just the alcohol!

Day 13 – Our main reason for coming to the Nusa islands was because we had heard we were basically guaranteed to see manta rays there, something which had become a bucket list item for us after hearing it was a possibility in Bali. So first on the agenda was to find a dive centre and book in a manta dive. We asked around at a few places before settling on Two Fish divers and booking in for two dives the next day.

With this underway we stopped for lunch by the sea and then continued on our way the Mangrove forests. You can book boat trips, snorkel trips or kayaking through the forest. When a guy we were chatting to knocked the price down to 100,000 IDR we were tempted but having lots of cameras and bits with us we didn’t trust leaving them behind or potentially getting them wet. I had also read up that there wasn’t a huge amount to see in the Mangrove forest, that being said though the only way to see them is to take a boat trip. We went to the edge thinking we could at least see a little bit or venture part way in ourselves but the way is pretty much blocked by restaurants and places to arrange tours. Being able to bargain down to £5 for a couple of hours trip though isn’t a bad deal if you do want to explore.

From the mangroves it was on to the neighbouring island of Nusa Cenigan. I had heard of some beautiful spots, such as Blue Lagoon and Secret Beach. They were a bit tricky to track down and to be honest Blue Lagoon was pretty but nothing spectacular and after rattling down a dirt track and going through a resort to get to Secret Beach, I was disappointed to see it was nothing special. The wind and waves were too fierce to swim there and it was a rocky beach with very little sand to chill on. The photos I had seen online looked more impressive. It is something which has been a topic of conversation recently that many typical instagram spots in Bali turn out not to live up to expectation and I have to say this is something we encountered a lot. Many places looked nice but less impressive than the edited photos online and for these photos to have zero tourists in they must have had superb timing in visiting places as it was a constant struggle to get photos without crowds. Aesthetics aside the other disappointment is that many of these picturesque beaches are too dangerous to swim in and generally, views aside, there are not a lot of activities to do on these islands.

That being said, simply watching life pass by from the back of the motorbike, zipping through villages, past bustling markets, serene temples or even the beautiful blue ocean, on our way to these view points and beaches was an experience in itself and made the day all round worth it.

Day 14 – An early start for our dives this morning but it wasn’t long before we were on the boat speeding round to Nusa Penida. After some research we discovered that although Manta Point dive site is off Nusa Penida, most dive shops are based on Nusa Lembongan, although more are opening up on Nusa Penida now too, and they will charge an extra fee for the manta dive sites (150,000 IDR per person). On the way we saw a couple of dolphins jumping out of the surf and I took it as a good sign for the days dive.

The water was a lot colder than we had been used to in the Gili islands as manta rays prefer colder water. We were diving down to a known cleaning station where other fish come to eat parasites and other icky things from the rays, keeping them nice and healthy and feeding the other fish at the same time. I was expecting we would be lucky to see a couple on our dive but almost immediately we saw our first manta ray and it was stunning. I knew they would be big but their size still surprised me and so did their grace as they glided through the water. I could have watched them all day. The most magical moment was when a particularly dark one, black almost all over, came straight towards me. I hovered in the water as it moved closer, feeling completely at peace and in awe of this incredible creature, before it swerved away into the ocean depths. One of my favourite moments of the trip.

After that experience the second dive was a bit of an anti-climax however it was still a beautiful reef, teeming with fish. We managed to see a couple of moray eels and I even spotted a lobster that had recently de-shelled, the poor naked lobster looked very startled and scurried under a rock!

Day 15 – We checked out of our AirBnB and headed to the Yellow Bridge to get a boat across to Nusa Penida. The journey is just 10 – 15 minutes and costs 40,000 IDR per person each way. It was simple to get a ticket, there was a guy with a stall, he handed us a yellow ticket with the names of the boats on the back for us to look out for on our open return and then took a seat and waited to be called up. Our next Air BnB picked us up the other end and a kind local even helped us out by calling him to let him know we had arrived when he saw us trying to track down wifi to message him.

The rest of the day was spent chilling out and in the evening we hopped on a scooter hired from our host and headed to a popular restaurant I had read about online called Penida Colada. If you are a big group it is best to book ahead and I think most tables are reserved after 8pm as there is always a queue. But the wait wasn’t long and it was most definitely worth it! Penida Colada is a stylish beach side restaurant with a mixture of tables and more casual beanbags, benches and sofas, in case you want to wander straight off the beach, and is great for watching the sunset. It was started by a Balinese guy called Pak Wayan and his Australian wife, Liz, you can usually see him helping out around the restaurant and keeping things running smoothly. They only hire locals and cook with local produce, which is great in itself, but they also make it their mission to get involved in community projects, run beach cleanups you can join in with and sell eco friendly bits and bobs such as bamboo straws. The menu is quite small but there is only one thing you need to order – the honey barbequeue prawns. We ended up coming back a second time and I couldn’t resist eating them again. Joey had major regrets and food envy both times. If you are on Nusa Penida definitely pay them a visit, it is a great way to support the local community and eat some amazing food.

Day 16 – Around lunchtime we headed to the nearby Crystal Bay, the same bay we had done our second dive at, to chill on the beach. We were hoping it would be a bit more built up so we could grab lunch, wander through some shops and then relax on the beach but it turns out to be a few shack shops selling cheap lunch and not much else. So we chilled for a bit and then hit the road again to find the Guri Putri Cave temple.

When you arrive you can hire sarongs from a shop over the road, then head up the stairs where at the top you’ll receive a blessing and provide a donation to enter (40,000 IDR for two of us). The entrance is a very small hole you have to climb into. It isn’t too tight a squeeze and as soon as you are in the ceiling is low but it all opens up pretty quickly then you can walk through these huge caverns. It was very humid and there were several alters and statues in the different chambers we passed through. A few people were at prayer but otherwise when we visited it was very quiet.

At the end as we left there were some monkeys outside the temple, only I got completely caught off guard by one on a railing that I seemed to have also startled. He bared his teeth at me and then made to lunge forward, I took a step back and lowered my gaze, trying to appear submissive, and at the same time one of the men from the temple chased him off but it was a scary moment!

Day 17 – Today was our big siteseeing day. We were driving over to the other side of the island to see Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong, Kelingking Beach and Waterfalls. As we were leaving our AirBnB host warned “broken beach, broken road” and he was not wrong! I expected some uneven ground, potholes and dirt tracks, what we got was mile stretches of all of these things combined to the worst possible standard you could imagine, plus going up and down hills, plus going round tight bends sometimes and as there were plenty of big cars taking other tourists there, we also had to occasionally dodge these too. “Hold on”, Joey was yelling repeatedly as I gripped the back of the motorbike and rattled around so much I swear my brain was bouncing about in my skull. But eventually, we made it.

Angel’s Billabong is a rock pool that creates a natural infinity pool overlooking the sea. If you come at low tide you can swim, enjoying the crystal clear waters, but at high tide the waves crash over the edge and it is too dangerous to enter the pool. We had tried to time our visit for low tide but seemed to have gotten the wrong information as the pool was cordoned off. There were so many people surrounding it to get photos that I was almost glad I wasn’t swimming with them in a small pool where everyone would be trying to get the over the edge shot.

Around the corner from Angel’s Billabong is Broken Beach, so called as it is encircled by land that has an opening, creating a kind of bridge on one side and an enclosed beach to look down on. You can’t get down to the beach but it makes for some stunning pictures from above.

Next was KelingKing Beach, so well known as the rocky outcrop next to it looks like a t-Rex head from above. Again it was a bit of a battle to get photos without people in (how they do it for instagram I have no idea?!) but it looked gorgeous. The beach is accessible here… if you fancy climbing down approximately one thousand steep steps. We went part way down for a better look but didn’t much fancy the climb back up and to be honest we would be glad we saved our energy. This is another beach that isn’t great for swimming, though as long as you don’t go too far out in the surf you can actually get in the water.

Final stop for the day was Waterfall and if I thought the steps at Kelkinking were bad I was in for a surprise! The blue stairs leading down was more like a ladder at points and the gaps between the stairs themselves were enough to make my knees weak. The fact that the old, collapsed and rusted previous stairs still lay directly underneath these new ones didn’t help either. However, it was worth the journey. At the bottom is a temple so you need to wear a sarong t visit. When we reached the rocks at the bottom there was water cascading over them and it was a little slippy so you had to be careful. We passed through the small temple gates and down the rocks, with nothing more than natural footholds to climb down, to an area where you can bathe. There is a set of mini infinity pools that offer a beautiful look out to sea as the waves crash just below you. For the first time that day there were not many people around, we reached the bottom not long before sunset so everything had a slight golden glow and the water was cool and refreshing after a humid hike down. It was so peaceful. I took a moment just to be.

Unfortunatly it couldnt last too long though as we were nervous about getting caught on bad roads in the dark so as much as I would have liked to sit and watch the sunset we got going on the long climb back up and luckily didn’t come across any broken roads on the way back.

Day 17 – The end of our trip was approaching fast and we had decided to spend our final days back in Canggu. We loved the food, it was nice to go back to somewhere we knew and we were still keen to give surfing a go. It took us retry much the whole day to get back as it involved getting the short boat trip back to Lembongan first, getting picked up by Scoot at the Yellow Bridge, a bumpy boat journey back to mainland Bali and then a long taxi ride mostly in traffic from Sanur to Canggu.

Day 18 – Canggu is known as a good place to give surfing a go as the waves are great for beginners. I had only tried surfing once before and loved it, so was keen to give it another try. We booked a lesson for 350,000 IDR per person but we went with the first person we spoke to so it is worth asking around for the cheapest price.

The instructor didn’t have the best English so I felt like I missed some of the finer points of surf techniques but once I got the hang of it in the water he was very encouraging. It was slightly disappointing that Joey had a different instructor and was taken off separately but he really needed bigger waves than me to get the best experience. We managed to cross paths though when I looked up to find the surfer in the white rash guard was my boyfriend, my first thought was ‘amazing! He’s standing up!’ And my second, as he came straight towards me was ‘please dont kill me!’ Up to that point I had been struggling to stand, always losing my balance at the last moment, but I think seeing him made me more determined than ever and on my next go I stood up on the board. I was amazed that I managed to ride a wave a fair while and only jump off when I was either losing momentum or heading towards another surfer.

It was a great way to end our time in Bali and we sat talking over our trip and reminiscing about our favourite parts as we sat on the beach, cold drinks in hand and watched surfers more pro than us. Our next adventure was about to start and although I hoped there would be more times like this I knew that we had a lot to do when we touched down in Melbourne. Bali was the perfect break we needed to soak up the sun, let go of past stresses and find our feet traveling. There were times this country surprised me, times it didn’t quite meet expectations and times it exceeded them immensely. Above all I can see why people come back again and again and I knew as we lingered another moment longer on that beach, that we too would be back again one day.

Bali Part 2 – Turtles, Reef Sharks and Sunsets

Gili Trawangan is an island off Lombok known for a party atmosphere but even if partying is not your thing there are a host of other activities to enjoy. We had barely dipped our toes into the ocean and now we were off to the gorgeous white sands and crystal clear waters of Gili T for diving, snorkelling and more. If you want to hit the strip and hop from bar to bar there are cheap drinks to be had and great live music to get the party started. However, our scene is a bit more laid back and we discovered there is still plenty of more chilled out spots, fresh local seafood to try and amazing ocean life to experience.

Day 7 – We travelled to Gili T on a one way ferry ticket for 500,000 IDR for both of us, which is around £28. There may be cheaper deals to be had if you book a return ticket or even with a bit more haggling but since we had heard of return tickets for one going for 600,000 IDR we didn’t think this was too bad. It’s always hard to know what is a fair deal for the locals and a cheap price for yourself.

It was an early start to get to the dock with an hour transfer there and then a lot of standing around in the heat waiting for our boat. You need to have your wits about you as a guy who seemed to be taking us to our boat left us waiting and never came back to collect us when it actually turned up. Luckily the local hawkers on the pier were very helpful and let us know we needed to get a move on to catch our boat. The journey was fine if a bit hot and stuffy and we were soon piling out onto the white sands of Gili T.

Just seeing the hustle and bustle of holiday makers and backpackers, the array or restaurants, shops and bars along the beach front and the dive shops everywhere you looked we had already decided we were glad not to get a return ticket and to extend our time here. Having a 4* hotel also helped! Villa Ombak was stunning and we stayed in a traditional Lumbung room, with our own private terrace and balcony plus outdoor shower to bathe under the stars. We wanted to stay forever.

Day 8 – Knowing our days in luxury were numbered we took full advantage of the facilities today and spent most of the day swimming and sunbathing. In the afternoon we went back to one of the dive shops we had checked out earlier and booked in to dive the next day.

Day 9 – There are a lot of choice with dive shops but after ducking our heads into a few we went with Dive Central as they made the dive sites sound most exciting and seemed pretty chill about us getting back in the water after quite a break from the last time. Only downside was we did feel at times they were selling the dive packages and courses a little too much. This is surely down to competition from other dive shops and partly also because we seemed to speak to a different person each time but as we dropped in a few times over the course of the week to chat about what dive sites were coming up this got a bit repetitive.

Selling aside they were great to dive with and we headed to Turtle Heaven for a mid morning dive. This certainly lived up to its name! Within 5-10 minutes we had spotted our first turtle. They have a mix of Green and Hawksbill turtles and I’ll admit I’m not sure I could tell the difference. I was impressed by the size though with some stretching up to my shoulder if we were laid down next to each other. We lost track of how many we saw in the end but we loved every minute and along with turtles we saw a stonefish, trumpetfish and humphead bannerfish. Along with, of course, many of the regulars you see on tropical reefs, the yellow, black and white bannerfish you would recognise as Gill from Finding Nemo, clownfish too, many bright blue and neon fish, anemones and so much more. If you want to see a video of the dive you can check it out here on our facebook page @ThereAndBackAgainJJ.

Day 10 – As if we hadn’t had enough of turtles we started our day with a snorkelling trip. If you are on a budget then you can join the group boat trips from as little as 150,000 IDR (around £8) but these trips can have up to 30 people on them, so a great way to meet other backpackers but also expect crowds. We opted for a two hour private snorkelling trip so we could choose a time when the sites would be less busy and went early in the morning, which I would definitely recommend. We paid 600,000 (around £34), which in hindsight was more than it was worth for 2 hours, especially as they had advertised it as 4 sites and we only went to 3, however the first place we went to had asked for 900,000 and we had talked the one we booked with down from 750,000 but we were told the prices were high because of peak season.

Regardless we had a great time! Our first stop was Turtle Heaven again and this time the turtles were a lot more active, coming up to the surface to breathe so that we could swim right alongside them. It felt magical to dive under the waves and float along next to them as they munched on coral.

The second site was not great visibility so we didn’t see a huge amount of sea life and didn’t stay long. The final site was the famous ring of statues that is also a popular instagram spot and this was my least favourite of the day. It was pretty cool to dive down and swim amongst the statues but dodging the flippers of other snorkelers trying to get that perfect shot in the water was not so fun. The way everyone was splashing about in clusters reminded me of a net of fish on dry land, flapping about, not really sure which way to go. It has the possibility of being such a peaceful spot but after a while it got a bit too much and we gave up and hopped back on the boat.

To end the day we hired bikes from our Air BnB (by this point we had moved to Lumbung Cottage Air BnB, a huge step back to basics after our gorgeous hotel but it would do the trick or the next few days and the staff were very helpful and kind) and set off to see more of the island. We stuck to the coast and some of the paths were pretty tricky, stony or too sandy to ride over at all, when we cycled back we had more luck cutting across the island where the roads weren’t cut off by sections of beach. The sunset side of the island is a completely different vibe, very quiet and dining and drinking options a lot more spread out but I have to say some of the accommodation we passed looked lovely. Definitely a good shout if you want some peace and quiet. We settled down right in line for the sunset and although slightly obscured by the clouds, it was gorgeous and the perfect way to end the day.

Day 11 – Joey wasn’t feeling a second dive so opted to do research on our next stop but as you can’t keep me out of the water I booked an early morning dive to Shark Point. Dive Central explained that with the water temperature drop recently and the sharks enjoying cooler water there was a good chance of seeing them and I was in luck! This dive was deeper than the one before and the currents were strong so it was a bit of a battle at times but as we were drifting along, letting the current take us, our guide pointed out two white tip reef sharks sitting on the bottom. Neither were huge but one was bigger than the other and both darted awake as us divers went past. I wasn’t nervous of the sharks at all, they really just look like big fish, but I can’t say I would be so chill if it was a great white!

Along with the sharks I saw a sting ray and blue spotted eagle ray, an octopus hiding away in the rocks and a cuttlefish that was so well camouflaged I had to look three times to spot him! It’s incredible to see this animals in their natural habitat and I’m always recommending people give diving a go to enjoy the same wonders. It may not be for everyone but it certainly gives you a whole new perspective from snorkelling alone and actually a lot of the time the breathing is easier (if that’s something that worries you) as there is no chance of accidentally sucking up water. You won’t notice the depth either because there is just so much to see! It really is an amazing experience I feel privileged to be able to do.

Day 12 – As I write this we are sitting in a cafe not far rom the ferry port waiting to catch a ride to Nusa Lembongan where we will stay for a few nights before heading on to Nusa Penida and finally back to Canggu for a final couple of nights. There are lots to do on these islands so I feel our chill out time is coming to an end but having the luxury of three weeks to explore means we’ve been able to do everything at a slow pace and not cram a lot in. The Nusa islands offer some amazing beaches, cliff top lookouts and swimming with manta rays (fingers crossed for us and this big bucket list item!) so lots to see and do. We managed to get a direct ferry from Gili T for 600,000 IDR for both of us which also included a ferry on from Nusa Lembongan back to Sanur, Bali and a transfer from there to Canggu, so even better value than our outbound trip. And apparently boats between the islands are pretty cheap.

I can’t believe we have reached the end of our second week in Bali! I can feel that now we are more energised our attention is beginning to shift to Australia and all we need to prepare for our Working Holiday. It is exciting to still have so much to look forward to but for now I can’t wait to get to Nusa Lembongan and plan our next week of adventuring.

Thailand Week 2 – lost iPad, scuba diving and fiery New Years celebrations!

Our first week had already flown by and it seemed like we had already done so much and at the same time not much at all. Joey and I were tired from the routine of Elephant Nature Park; although the work wasn’t hard there was always something to do and the early starts were catching up on us. We were looking forward to heading to our first island stop of Koh Tao but we weren’t expecting a whole lot of rest as next on the agenda was scuba diving!
Day 78 – Boxing Day! Before heading to the islands we had a couple of days left in Chiang Mai to relax and soak up the sun. We stayed in the lovely Eco Resort and got up late, swam in the pool and generally didn’t do a whole lot other than nap and eat. After our odd Christmas Day first at the elephant park, then at the hospital and finally at the night market, today felt more like the lazy Christmas Days I’m used to back home… except with a swimming pool and sunshine! In the evening we went out for pizza but when the restaurant turned out to be closed on Mondays we ended up at this awful Mexican restaurant across the road where the meat tasted like cat food. Ugh! Typically, when we went for a wander afterwards we stumbled across this great night market called Ploen Rudee, which was a treasure trove for foodies. We were too stuffed and tired to stay long but vowed to come back the next day.

Day 79 – Another lazy morning but eventually we roused ourselves from our spot by the pool and went on a boat tour. There wasn’t a whole lot to see and the stop at the herb garden wasn’t much more than a pretty place to eat our fruit snack but it was still enjoyable to float down the river in long, low boat with a shady roof. A relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Later we went to a place I had heard of called Art in Paradise. It’s a museum full of 3D paintings you can stand in to look like you are part of the scenery! It was so much fun, trying to pose to make the pictures look the best. It made us feel like big kids again.

In the evening we stuck to our word and headed back to Ploen Rudee night market where we had a feast of BBQ foods! It was probably the best food of the whole trip. We ate BBQ ribs, chicken wings, prawn skewers and for dessert, baked bananas with marshmallows and chocolate sauce, of which we somehow ended up with a free extra portion. We weren’t complaining! We even ran into some of A Team and got to catch up on what they had been up to since leaving the Elephant Nature Park.

Day 80 – The end of our lie ins as we had to get up early to fly to Krabi and then take a taxi to the ferry office to take a bus to the ferry to take a ferry to the island. It was as hectic as it sounds! Our taxi driver had no clue where the ferry office was and since we were tight on time we were getting more and more worried as we drove round in circles. Eventually we found it only to discover that there was complete chaos there! There was no line just a huge crowd of people all trying to get checked in at once. We battled our way to the front and got our tickets, boarded an insanely hot bus with no air conditioning and began to settle down for the journey. I went to take out my ipad to do some reading… only it wasn’t there. With a painful crystal clear clarity I remembered that I had taken it out on the plane and put it down by my side when I slept, forgetting to pick it up again. It was the cherry on top of the already stressful situation. Luckily a phone call revealed that the ipad had been found but getting it back would be a problem as we weren’t sure whether we would be passing back through Krabi and our bus was already on its way. I opted to have it sent to Bangkok and just prayed that both we and the ipad would make it back there.

The ferry ride did not improve the already horrible day. It was crammed past full capacity and behind schedule. By the time we passed Koh Samui and Koh Phangnan, finally drawing close to Koh Tao, the boat starting rocking up and down on the choppy waves. People around us were being sick and I had to stand outside and stare at the horizon to keep from losing the very little food I had eaten that day. In the process I got soaked from the splashing waves and Joey simply held me tight as we both wished we were there already. Thank goodness the taxi ride from the port to our hotel was short. We had booked this cute little beach hut for our stay on the island but after a full day travel we were too exhausted to appreciate it. We did however appreciate the kind, if abrupt, bustling host who waved the guest form away and told us to just get to our room and get some rest. Needless to say, we didn’t need telling twice!

Day 81
– First on our agenda was to book our diving! I had completed my Open Water certificate on holiday in Mexico earlier in the year but wanted to take things to the next step with my Advanced Open Water, allowing me to dive deeper and hone other skills I have already learnt. Joey was just starting out on his Open Water though so we had to make sure that I could do an extra dive so we would actually get to explore the underwater world together at some point. Our hotel recommended Scuba Shack and they were great. We were signed up straight away and that afternoon Joey started on his theory and I sat outside our beach hut (very much appreciated after a good nights sleep) doing some of my own homework and watching the sun set.

Day 82
– While Joey had to get up early to do some pool work for his first day of diving I, who was going out on the boat later, got a bit of a lie in. It was strange to be doing the same thing but on different schedules and a bit of a shame that we couldn’t do it together. It was my own fault though for being impatient and doing my open water early but it didn’t matter too much as we still crossed paths a lot over the next few days. While Joey had his first experience of diving I went out to open water to practice my navigation and peak performance bouyancy skills. The first dive was on a reef called Junkyard, an artificial reef where coral has been planted on structures and tunnels to encourage reef growth and wildlife. There are all sorts of other things down there though, including a car and some gym equipment! It was very odd to see familiar objects in such an unfamiliar environment but pretty cool too! It also turned out that I got my navigation skills from my mum (sorry mum but you know its true) and although I passed my tasks I did swim an extra length of the square I was navigating, forgetting that I had already turned enough corners to complete it. Oops! 

Unfortunatly my peak performance bouyancy wasn’t much better, though I blame the weather conditions for that mostly. The sea was quite choppy, churning up all the sediment on the bottom and making visibility awful as well as making my task to hover in the water even harder. Peak performance bouyancy is where you control your weight, air in your BCD (bouyancy control device – the jacket divers wear underwater) and your breathing to be able to hover just off the bottom of the sea. This is called neutral bouyancy and when you achieve this you should be able to control your movements simply by breathing in, filling your lungs full of air and making you more buoyant, to float over the reef and then letting it out to drift downwards as you become slightly less bouyant. Obviously this is pretty tricky when the first rule of diving is to always breath continuously but the adjustments are very subtle and its a skill I enjoy practicing so it was good fun despite the conditions. It was also nice to finally catch up with Joey over dinner, getting more and more excited about the diving adventures we would soon be able to take together in the future.

Day 83
– New Years Eve! It was our second day of diving and this time we at least got to go out on the boat together as Joey started his open water dives. The conditions were still less than perfect though and I felt bad for Joey that after I had gone on about how amazing swimming underwater is and all the things you can see, he could barely see anything. He said he didn’t mind though as it helped him concentrate on learning instead of getting distracted by beautiful corals and fish, plus it would make it twice as amazing for him when he did get the chance to dive in clearer waters. 

While Joey continued to learn I went on two more adventure dives. Firstly I did my deep dive, going down to 28m and seeing how colour and water pressure is different a tha depth. We took down a red packet of crisps  but until my instructor shined his light on it you would have thought it was brown. The pressure had also suctioned the packet to the crisps, making it hard and awkwardly shaped. We took a bottle down too, filled it with air at depth and back on the boat watched the lid pop off as the expanded air tried to escape.

In the evening it was time to celebrate New Year’s Eve! The place to be seemed to be down on the beach. Everyone was gathered, drinking from buckets and watching the many fire shows along the shoreline. We hopped from place to place, first having BBQ prawns on the beach, then fancy dessert and wine just off the beach front and later positioning ourselves in front of the New Years signs with a bucket of booze to watch it go up in flames at the countdown. We seemed to have picked the wrong one though as next doors went off with a dramatic fiery blow torch whereas ours was lit by two guys holding long stick with flames on the end. Still, it was amazing to say that we were starting 2017 on a beach in Thailand and more amazing still to be seeing the new year in with together.

Day 84
– New Years Day! For the first day of 2017 we got a day off from diving as the instructors recovered from their hangovers. This meant we could enjoy an easy day too, exploring the island a bit more, tracking down a nice place to sit and watch the sunset, feeling grateful to be where we were.

Day 85
– The final day of diving for both of us and at last we got a chance to dive together. On Joey’s third dive I did an extra dive just to tag along and enjoy experiencing it together. Again, visibility made it slightly disappointing but it was good to get a feel for what it would be like to be dive buddies and later that evening we would already be planning dive holidays we could go on together. My final dive was Fish Identification and it was probably the most enjoyable of them all. My dad, a bit of a fish fanatic, would have been proud. This dive basically involved me diving as usual but with a board I could write on underwater to point out the different kinds of fish we saw. There were none of my favourite trunkfish, little boxy fish with tiny whirring fins, but there were huge batfish with black and white stripes and pufferfish, bigger than you might imagine, and with their spines pressed flat against their bodies.

Finally we had both passed our diving courses and to celebrate we shared a chocolate brownie after a lovely dinner. It was starting to feel like all we did was sleep, eat and dive! It was perfect! It had to end though as we needed to move on to our next stop. We had planned to make the long journey back by ferry to the mainland to cross to the west coast islands and visit Koh Lanta. We were hoping that the weather might be better that side and we could get in another dive with better visibility. Alas it was not meant to be, the ferry was booked up and instead of taking the arduous night journey that was the only option available on the day we wanted to travel, we settled on the closer island of Koh Samui. It was a decision we would come to regret but at that point we were just looking forward to some free time to explore an island properly. Little did we know what awaited us on Koh Samui.