Aboard the Pro Ocean Divers ship.
Time to dust off the diving mask, last put into action in Dahab, and get into them inviting turquoise waters. Sub-aquatic withdrawl symptoms. Enough of the blue above, time for the blue below! There are a number of dive shops pocketed around Pattaya
beach and prices are much of a muchness really. I pay 2,400 Baht with Pro Ocean Divers (£48) for a two dives plus lunch day. As it happens, they have the biggest dive boat on Ko Lipe and things are certainly smooth, well-run and excellently equipped for the nice little group that gathers for fun today. I don’t even have to set up my own equipment. “Yey!” Lazy diving!
Kris, a French lady, is our dive leader today and a very friendly, competent one she proves to be too.
She proves really good at spotting little moments of almost impossible to see ‘macro’ life (that’s very small stuff peeps). On dive one she introduces me to my first ever nudibranchs, tiny invertibrate slug-like creatures that from my previous understanding populate most of the worlds seas in an almost infinite variety of colours and shapes. Very cute. I also get to see my first ever sea snake! Very small, but one to be wary of as they can be deadly poisonous (provided they can actually stretch their teeny little mouths wide enough to get a purchase on ya). It seems to attempt courting one of the regulator tubes of dive-assistant Mark’s setup much to his discomfort. Star spotter Kris also manages to find today’s most mooted and hoped for ‘special guest star’ species, the Ghost Pipe Fish.
A tiny delicate, myriad-spined little creature of the Sea Horse family. It flits and turns gently in the water, no more than 1-2 inches long, like the fragment of a burnt-red autumnal leaf, petrified in feathered icicles and blown as such upon the oceans sub-aquatic breeze. Graceful and beautiful.
A pleasant lunch, prepared for us by the young female boss of the operation, Noi, is consumed with great gusto before we move to dive site number two. This dive is just pure, pure fun! A super-exciting ‘drift dive’ - this being the terminology for a dive where you drop into the water at point (A) and leave yourself largely at the whim and power of the prevailing currents to ‘blow’ you to wherever point (B) ends up being. These are fantastically fun dives as it’s about the closest you’ll ever come to the sensation of flying without jumping out’ve a plane at 17,000 feet… with the added bonus that you can continue to move in all directions!
There’s a crackin’ pace on the current today.
Hermit crab :)
“It’s running like a train!” as the guys from my UK dive club (Tamworth Sub Aqua Club) would say. Flying along, my mind likens the experience to some kinda beautiful computer game simulator. Exhaling… inhaling… exhaling… twisting, dipping, rising and ruddering away with the merest flick of a fin trying to keep as close to the sea bed as possible (so as to take everything in) without suddenly smacking into a coral forest, granite boulder or gang of mean-looking black spiney sea urchins “Ouch!”. Great, great fun!
Tired and returned to Koh Lipe
I stroll across to Sunset Beach. The sunset is also visible from Pattaya beach but you are not as secluded as you find yourself at sundown here.
Leaf and foot and heart and sand
I stroll the length of the beach and back, taking some snaps as I go. Some cute, brightly dressed kids play about in the sand. A few Long Tails bob about, fast becoming silhouettes upon the sun-goldened waves. This is more like it! My kind of beach moment… and in fact, picking up on my promise of yesterday it is time I redressed my harsher initial responses to by extolling the virtues of some of Ko Lipe’s quieter, less spoilt spots. For they are there, and all within easy walking distance of one another.
On my final full day I am up even earlier than usual. Admittedly this may have something to do with the circumstance of my chosen accommodation having moved to a tent for 100 Baht (£2) a night before heading off diving.
Channels in the sand 1(abstract)
Hey, loss of comfort is of course often the price of cutting budget so not something I am going to gripe at. Early doors is fine though. At this time (and to be fair, long after sunset too when you may lie down and look up at the stars) even Pattaya beach is pleasant to stroll along. But what you really wanna do at this time (if you’re not already staying at some of the bungalows there) is to head for Sunrise Beach to the east… “Well, yeah where did you expect a ‘sunrise’ beach to be! Duh!”. For the sake of TravBuddy thoroughness though, the aforementioned ‘Sunset Beach’ is to the west of the island.
It’s about 7.30 - 8.00am and this loooong stretch of white, white sand is beautifully undisturbed by any presence… excepting me and a few dogs that scamper about.
There are lots of dogs roaming Ko Lipe. Love ’em or hate ’em there’s no getting’ away from ’em. The water is far out this morning so at the southern end of the beach a huge underwater forest of rock pools and anenomes has been left to bathe in the early morning suns rays. You could walk all the way over to the little Viewpoint Island that sits in the waters here if you wished. The silhouettes of local chao ley people picking in the pools of water for maybe cockles and whelks to make curries with dip and rise across this early morning panorama. I play with a splendid looking hermit crab whom I think has been stranded in the sun by the rapidly receding waters. I return him to cool, watery safety. I sit on a rock.
Throw pebbles and listen to the waves as they wash up on the shores. Long Tails sit beached for now by the tide. As the waters have been sucked back by the moon, fascinating coruscating patterns have been channelled through the sun-silvered sands. The last trickling remnants of water, still running back towards the ocean like distracted school kids on a trip, left behind and in need of catching up with the pack.
Beach bungalow complexes reside here in the east too, but seem silent, empty? More spread out and in harmony with their surrounds. Things are much much more laid back feeling here, and this vibe prevails as you walk through the lip of the tidal fringe waters all the way around to the northern swathe of the island.
I pass a Tsunami marker commemorating 4.5metres of destructive force. “Blimey!” The beaches remain sparsely populated here, and waves wash quite heavily onto them. It is here that more of Ko Lipe’s high end resorts are to be found.
To finish off this day too I return to the sunset I abandoned halfway through this particular text, for it is to the same destination that I return two evenings in succession and feels like an appropriate place to sit here, in the nook of tree, Charles Dickens on my knee, watching the beautiful sun go down over Ko Lipe and wishing the island farewell then and now within my thoughts.