When checking in I had bought us breakfast at the hotel and so I was up at 7a.m to get there in enough time to eat my Thai style chicken and rice soup before walking the 10 minutes to the dive centre. When I arrived to meet Lieke my dive buddy again for the day I was given the fantastic news that it was just me and an Italian man diving that day and since we were the only ones on the boat we could pick any dive sites we wanted. What luck! I was really keen to try Chumphon Pinnacle, one of Koh Tao’s most famous sites but Lieke was really keen to do South West Pinnacle, so we went with that and I am so glad we did. It was a nice 40 minute boat ride out and when we arrived we were the only boat there, a very rare occurrence for Koh Tao where most sites have about 10-20 boats anchored. We descended down and had a lovely dive seeing a lot of fish, some interesting nudibranchs, a blue spotted stingray and a couple of massive groupers. As we ascended to our 5m safety stop I was thinking how nice a dive we had had when the unthinkable happened. I turned to see a whale shark glide past and then circle our small 3 person group. Whale sharks can grow up to 12 metres as fully grown adults so it was clear this one was just a baby at 2-3 metres. She was so curious and kept swimming right up to us to check us out before diving down, circling and coming back up. Generally a safety stop should last about 3 minutes but due to our extra attendee we stayed down for 15 minutes just watching her swim around. Since doing my Open Water course in 2012 I have been travelling the world and diving in search of firstly a shark (thanks South Africa, we saw about 40 on one dive there) and secondly a whale shark (which is the world’s largest fish, not actually a shark). Carolyn and I visited Utila, a place known for them, Mozambique all to no avail and then in Thailand where they are very rare I chance upon one with no other divers or boats around and it is the most curious and beautiful creature I have ever seen. This was definitely my diving highlight to date!
We finally surfaced and spent a good few minutes in shock cheering at our complete luck before getting back on board. One of the diving instructors who has been in Koh Tao for over 7 months and was on the boat has never seen a whale shark and so was obviously massively disappointed to have missed her, although he was a good sport and was thrilled at our fantastic experience. I spent the boat ride back to White Rock on a complete high while logging the dives from the previous day. Luck was definitely on our side that day and when we got to White Rock we were again the only dive boat on the site, someone was definitely looking out for us that day! After the whale shark sighting the second dive was never going to live up but I finally spotted a triggerfish, been looking for those for ages too, as well as a blue spotted ray again, rabbitfish, some cool nudibranchs and a queenfish. Not bad really. We headed back to the dive centre on a speedboat meaning we could skip out going back to the pier and logged the last of our dives. Unfortunately, it seemed my luck had run out as I managed to cut the sole of my foot open when I was washing my kit but I honestly didn’t even care, as I was still in a daze after the amazing whale shark experience.
My dad and Gillian met us at the dive centre and so we headed off for lunch to Sui Chilli where we enjoyed an amazing feast of cashew nut chicken, laab moo (spicy minced pork) and penang curry with a desert of mango sticky rice. It was absolutely delicious and by far the best meal we had on Koh Tao. We wandered back to the hotel and I went for a Thai massage which was nice after the hectic few days we had had (so much for island chilling), before having a nice rest on the best in the afternoon sun. Bliss. We decided to check out Fizz Beach Lounge for dinner and opted for Thai fishcakes to start, before getting grilled prawns, beef massaman curry and a grilled fish with lemon and garlic. The food was fairly average although we made the most of their frozen cocktails to celebrate my fantastic dives and finally spotting the elusive whale shark. Since the lounge was quite far from our hotel we stopped off at another bar on the way home for some more cocktails on the beach.
All these cocktails seemed a fantastic decision at the time but I was really ill during the night (I suspect more from the ice than the alcohol given I only had 4 drinks) and when my alarm went off at 5.20a.m I was not a happy traveller. I spent the next 7 hours puking intermittently on a boat (it is very difficult to not get sick in your hair when on a fast moving boat, check wind direction to prevent accident), in an open air airport and then on 2 separate planes. Thank god for the second Emirates flight where I finally managed to keep down some fried potatoes and cream crackers. We finally got to Hong Kong and took a taxi from the airport to our lovely hotel Butterfly on the Waterfront which had some lovely views across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon. After my awful day, I went straight to bed, just after getting an email from the hotel in Koh Tao informing me I had left my camera behind, what a disastrous day and such a contrast from the high of yesterday. The only thing to do was sleep, everything is always better in the morning!