17/18 Moo 1, Koh Tao Suratthani, 84360 Thailand         Info @ Big Blue Diving        +66 (0) 77 456 050

BIg Blue News

 

 

 

kohkoodmap

The last in a series of blogs aimed at those of you out there looking to discover a breathtaking island paradise free of tourists and the hordes of Thailand backpackers that wash up on the beaches of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, Koh Kood is a gem of an island that is worth a trip with your significant other if you’re looking for peace and quiet, beautiful palm-fringed beaches and a whole lot of doing not very much at all!

At 105 square kilometres, Ko Kood (also known as Koh Kut) is a large, mountainous island close to Koh Chang and about 50 kilometres west of both Thai and Cambodian mainland. Its size and beauty make it pretty unique among the Thai islands in that it’s still relatively unheard of by all but a handful of Thai and Russian tourists who’ve been enjoying this stunning place for many years now – don’t let that put you off however, they tend to stay limited to a particular resort or two in some of the more far-flung parts of the island, and rarely venture out or to the cheaper places on the island that the more budget-conscious traveler like myself usually ends up in.

 

 

Vast swathes of the north, east and south coasts are accessible only by boat, and even on the slightly more tourist-oriented west coast a lot of the beaches back into nothing but coconut groves and the hills that surround so many of Koh Kood’s fabulous coastline. It has reasonably good ‘roads’ so it’s quite easy to explore the 10 or so beaches accessible on a rental scooter or bicycle, or there is also the option of renting one of the few ‘songthaew’ taxi trucks to get around – this tends to be pretty expensive however! My last count revealed around 20 beaches to be found via kayak, scooter and longtail boat, so it’s easy to spend a few weeks getting to know the island if laying around all day long in a hammock isn’t quite your cup of tea.

My Top 3 Beaches on Koh Kood

 

Khlong Hin Beach koh kood

Khlong Hin Beach

My own personal favourite in the off season, this beautiful white sand beach is also a favourite of the Russian tourists in busier months but come a month or so either side of the busy periods and you’ll find a long, sandy beach almost empty of anyone else, palm lined with nice clear seas and kept reasonably clean by the two resorts separated by an estuary that share this beach - Khlong Hin Beach Resort and Montana Hut were the only two on my last visit.

 

 

Ao Noi Beach koh kood

Ao Noi Beach

An incredibly beautiful beach in an isolated part of the island, it’s possible to reach by road or by kayak from one of its neighbouring beaches. With its strategically placed wooden piers and crystal clear waters, it’s one of those beaches where you can easily spend the whole day taking pictures, laying around on hammocks, frolicking on the wooden jetty and enjoying a nice cold beer or two.

 

Bang Bao Koh Kood

Bang Bao Bay

Bang Bao Bay is often called the best beach on the island, and is located in the southwest of Koh Kood.  Easy to reach by motorbike it’s a real-life paradise, the fine sand and calm turquoise waters make it ideal for swimming and lounging around, plus the palm trees lining the beach make for some incredible sunset photos. Expect to want to come back here again and again!

This is one of the few places on the island that offers lower budget accommodation, and is also a pretty good place to try a bit of snorkeling. I usually stay in ‘Siam Hut’, which is famous on the island for having rude staff, boring food but bloody cheap rooms!

 

ferry

How To Get To Koh Kood

There are regular buses to Trat from Bangkok, all ofm which can be organised at the many travel agents around the capital, or you can always do it yourself and take the public bus, which is surprisingly good and quite fast too. From Trat I usually head to the nearest travel agent, and then book all my onward travel to Koh Kood.

Speedboats from Laem Sok Pier on the mainland (close to Trat) currently offer daily transfers to the island, departing from Laem Sok at approximately 9am every morning and taking you directly to the resort of your choice. For afternoon transfers, there are many fast ferry services that you can opt for which depart from Laem Sok at 12pm. The ferries usually drop you in Ao Salad in the north of the island, and you transfer to your beach of choice via the songthaew taxi trucks that operate pretty much all day and night if the price is right.

Expect to pay around 400 baht for the slower ferries, and around 600 baht for the speedboats.

 

See you there!

I’ve been living and loving Thailand for quite a few years now, and like to think I know a thing or two about places to visit if you’re looking for some time to really unwind and forget the stresses of the real world. Personally I think the real beauty of Koh Tao is underwater, so when I want to really take advantage of the peace and tranquility that this wonderful country has to offer it’s time to grab that backpack and head to the other side of Thailand to explore some of the lesser-known gems that still manage to hide away from the masses of tourists now visiting this country.

In these next three blogs I’d like to look in detail at my all-time favourite islands for those wanting something other than partying every night!

 

KPmap

Koh Phayam

My absolute number one choice due to its easy accessibility from Koh Tao, Koh Phayam is like taking a step back in time to the days when Thai beaches were filled only with palm trees, crabs, a few simple bungalows and the odd skinny beach dog.

This gorgeous little island is around 35 kilometres square, and is the second most northern Thai island found on the Andaman Sea. It’s just 20km from Ranong and has long white sandy beaches, warm seas, beautiful views of neighbouring Burmese islands, fascinating wildlife and no ATMs, 7-11s or cars– although there is a weird tractor-type thing that you see on occasion carting large groups of Thai tourists to their plush resorts! It's the perfect place to really get away from it all, with great treks through the jungle or on the beaches revealing playful monkeys, the weirdly wonderful great hornbills, sea eagles, many types of butterfly and hordes of crabs going about their business. The interior of the island is home to large rubber and cashew nut farms which line the narrow ‘roads’ that link the main beaches and villages of Phayam – the smell of the cashew trees in bloom in March is amazing!

Great Hornbill 1

 

It’s not a place for those wishing to enjoy the clear, coral filled waters that so many Andaman-side islands can boast, but one thing that I’ll never get bored of is the 1 metre-plus breaking waves on the busiest beach of Long Beach, making it possible to surf and boogie board– one of only a two places in Thailand that can offer this I believe, the other being Phuket, which as we all know is a sh1thole.

There are a few really nice beaches around this island  - most of the accommodation is on Aow Yai  (Long Beach) and Aow Khao Kwai  (Buffalo Bay). Ao Yai is the largest bay on the west-coast with a lovely 3 km long beach perfect for sunset strolls and watching the bioluminescence, and there’s the occasional party in high season and cheap simple bungalows on the far north and south of the beach – expect to pay a minimum of 300 baht per night for the most basic. The amount of resorts and bungalow operations on Long beach has risen dramatically the last few years, but it’s still a great place to hang out during the day and eat at night – most of the best restaurants are located on Long Beach.

 

kpsunset

Buffalo Bay is a quieter beach, especially the south-east part of the bay where you’ll find me lazing around in a cloud of smoke and Chang bottles in my time off from Koh Tao. More upscale and better quality resorts dedicated to families, couples and Thai tour groups are found here, but there are still a few low-budget places on the beach and overlooking the bay – prices start at around 300 baht per night for the most basic wooden bungalow.

At the south end of Buffalo Bay is a small sea gypsy settlement which is worth exploring, especially when the locals return with their daily catch – just remember to ask before taking pictures of them, they’re gyspy/pirates so I imagine they’re pretty tough guys!

 

KPsurf

When you feel like snorkelling or a spot of scuba diving it’s possible to sign up for a day trip to sublime Ko Surin or the islands in Laem Son Marine Park to the south, plus on the odd occasion I’ve seen adverts for Liveaboard trips north into Burma’s Mergui Archipelago. Those of you thinking of doing your PADI Open Water course here should expect to pay around 15,000 baht for the 4 day course, which is 50% more than what you pay here on Koh Tao.

Koh Phayam’s tourism season lasts from November to May, with the high season kicking in around late December through to February. It’s not necessary to book in advance for budget travelers, and discounts are often given when dealing face-to face with the resort of your choice.

 A ‘cashew festival’ is held every year in March to mark the harvest with music and sports on Long Beach for all you nut fans!

 

KPsign

How to get there:

In Ranong, take a taxi motorcycle or ‘songthaew’ to the Koh Phayam pier. This will cost between 50 and 100 baht, depending on the mood of the driver.

The slow ferries and speedboats leave every hour or so nowadays, so it’s easy to arrive and book on to the next available boat out most times of the year – though in the peak of high season it may be a good idea to book in advance at least the day before. The slow boats cost about 200 baht and takes 2-3 hours depending on the waves, and the speedboats cost around 400 baht and take just 40 minutes.

The last boats to Phayam are at 14.30 in low season, and 17.30 in high season – again subject to change depending on the mood of the drivers and the weather of course!

For a small island, Koh Tao is blessed with a lot of dive sites; we have around twenty-five beautiful sites within an hour by boat, with a wonderful mix of easy, shallow sites for beginners and deeper, more difficult locations for those wishing to challenge themselves more underwater. No matter what your experience level is, all of us diving on Koh Tao are after one thing in particular - to share our dives with incredible marine life!

Here, in no particular order, are my top unusual things to encounter whilst beneath Koh Tao:

Bigfin Reef Squid

Now not everyone will agree with me here, but i'm quite the fan of these delicious little buggers with their spectacularly hypnotic appearance. Often seen hanging around close to the buoylines or very close to the surface at Chumphon, Hin Wong and South West Pinnacle, if you happen to bump into them it's well worth keeping a very close eye on them in case they start showing their amazing capacity to change colour in a blink of an eye!

Bigfin reef squid, which in general have a lifespan of about a year, are very skilled in this art of colour change and use it mainly for camouflage or to startle and warn potential predators. It's produced by changing the way light bounces off their bodies by altering the patterns of pigment in their skin, which mimics sunlight dancing in the water in such a way that they become essentially invisible. The effect is absolutely mesmerizing and also quite hypnotic, with streaks and waves of colour flickering across their skin until they speed off into the distance, often leaving the lucky viewer in disbelief at what they just witnessed.

How to see them? -  If you sit at the back of the boat at night with a bright light shining into the water, the bigfin reef squid hang out in the shadows and wait for small fish to come towards the light. When they see their prey they dart in and grab the fish and disappear back into the shadows again - easy!

Weird Fact - All types of squid have three hearts, but will never send a Valentine's Card.

 

                                                                                            

Nudibranch

A phenomenal creature that only the best of Divemasters can locate, these slime-oozing creatures with a boneless body feature brilliant colors and eye-catching patterns on their skin, and is often considered one of the most beautiful animals in the world - often referred to as 'Mother Nature's Greatest Work of Art' by divers, there's certainly there's no other creature on the planet that has colour patterns as spectacular as a sea slug! Hermaphrodites, their size ranges from just a few millimetres to around 30 cm and there are more than 3000 known species of nudibranch, with new ones being identified almost daily. They are carnivorous, so their prey includes sponges, coral, anemones, hydroids, barnacles and other nudibranch - it's nice to see cannibalism is finally making a comeback! They are actually very picky eaters, and individual species or families of nudibranchs may eat only one kind of prey, so as all good DMs know when you find their favourite food there's a good chance there'll be a nudibranch hanging around close by waiting for their next meal.

Weird Fact - Some nudibranchs are actually solar-powered! They create their own food by harvesting coral with algae, and house this algae inside their bodies. This algae derives its energy from light via photosynthesis, which is then used by the nudibranch to provide nutrients to sustain it for months- the human equivalent would be sticking a plant on your back and never having to eat again!

Weirder Fact - Some humans actually eat nudibranchs. Chileans and some islanders in Russia and Alaska roast or boil sea slugs and sometimes eat them raw...it has been described as “chewing an eraser", and is not recommended by Big Blue.

 

                                                              

                                                                                                       

 

Saddleback Clownfish Protecting its Eggs

Named due to their wide white head band and a wide white middle band that looks like it forms a 'saddle', these aggressive little fish are always one of the most popular things to see with our first time divers, but for the more experienced diver amongst us it's well worth taking a closer look around their home anemone to see if any eggs are present, in my opinion one of the most interesting things about the clownfish species.

Clownfish are always very dependent on their host anemone and stay very close to it. They do not migrate to other anemones to start new families, but stay in their host for their entire life time unless the anemone dies. It's only when protecting eggs that will they will stray from their anemone, and it is common to see them swimming a fair distance to warn off anything they believe may be showing too much of an interest in their young. The female will lay her eggs upon a flat surface just to the side of their host anemone, in the area that the happy couple cleared of debris earlier.  Such items as shells, coconut shells or litter such as tin cans or plastic are often seen housing the eggs here around Koh Tao!

The male is the one whose main task is caring for the eggs, and he quickly attacks any approaching predators, preferring to rely on an excellent offense as his best defense - attacking and biting the intruder. When no threat is present, he fans the eggs with his tail both to aerate them as well as to remove any debris that may have settled onto them. In addition to fanning the eggs, the male removes any unfertilized or infected eggs by eating them!

 In general, the eggs are pink to orange in colour as they are laid and remain so for a couple days. As they age, their pink to orange will gradually fade to a dull grey or brown. Finally, as the hatching nears (usually around 1 week after laying), they become shiny silver with the fry's developed eyeballs clearly visible. This in particular makes for an excellent photo, as you can see in the example below – just watch out for angry Dad!

Weird Fact -  If the large breeding female is removed, her male mate changes sex to female and the next largest fish in the group rapidly increases in size and takes over the role as the sexually mature male. 

 

 

                                                                                         

 

Your html here