Koh Tao and its' dark side? My experience of a tropical paradise

21st September 2017

2017 09 22 fish djl diving blog 

Being a backpacker for over two years now I have been fortunate enough to see many beautiful people and places, one of which is Koh Tao.

My first impression of Koh Tao.

Arriving in Koh Tao on the afternoon ferry felt like any other island I had visited while travelling. An abundance of people trying to get you to jump into their taxi with promises of the cheapest best deals you will find. Not wanting to be swayed into a decision without seeing what else the island has to offer I put my best foot forward and start my hike of the island. Hoping to find a place that meets both my expectations and is within my price range.

Which dive school to choose on Koh Tao?

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After spending best part of the afternoon hiking around the island seeking local knowledge from the abundance of dive schools around the Island I came across Davy Jones Locker (DJL). Yet another dive school which would probably try to lure me in with promise of "great diving and unbeatable prices".

To my surprise, and for a refreshing change, I was welcomed by the shop staff Ed and Becky, who rather than jump straight onto a sales pitch asked if I'd like a drink. I'd been lugging my backpack round and was clearly exhausted from the intense sun which would have been beautiful if laying on the beach with a nice cold drink in my hand, not lugging my worldly possessions with me on my back.

Feeling a bit more refreshed and human we had a long chat about what I was looking for and what my plans were while visiting Koh Tao. Now with the relevant information I needed to find accommodation. I set off with a spring in my step to what could be home for my stay on the island.


Joining the DJL Family


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After a good nights rest I felt ready to start my search for what I originally came to the island to do, go diving. Now having trekked most the island I felt like I had a good idea which of the dives schools would be able to cater to my needs. Again starts the hunt but this time with sunglasses donned and a smile on my face I start my leisurely stroll.

Spending best part of the day listening to sales pitches from people looking at me like a walking ATM I felt myself being pulled back to DJL where the welcome was warm and inviting. Feeling like I'd found myself a great bunch of people and a well renowned dive school I began my experience of Koh Tao and it's world of diving. After spending a couple of months on the island (which originally was meant to be a week) I've had the pleasure of meeting some awesome people and seeing some wonderful things.


Koh Tao publicity


I hope my opening has given everyone a feel for my experiences when first arriving which brings us to Koh Tao's "dark side". I highly appreciate that the island has had a lot of bad media recently and my deepest sympathies go out to everyone affected by what has happened. I'd just like to bring some light to what has been a great life changing experience in my opinion during my stay on the island.

I realise that bad things do happen and I've seen both my fair share of good and bad in my time on this treasure we call Earth. In my time one thing I have learnt to appreciate is that social media has a massive effect on what people think. Although everyone's interpretation will be different, which is what makes us all unique, I will always be the optimist and make my decisions based on my experiences.


Things I love about Koh Tao


Night Dives

night dive students davy jones locker koh tao


During my stay I've been lucky enough to make some lifelong friends and share some beautiful experiences with them. Firstly is the number of night dives I've had the pleasure of taking part in. Being an experienced professional diver and being lucky enough to enjoy and share my knowledge with other people. Seeing people's reactions and euphoria while diving is priceless. Night dives are always a great experience even for a seasoned diver as everything is zeroed in to what your torch light discovers on your voyage of the deep blue.

Feeling more like you're in space, using your torch light to break through the darkness and give you a glimpse of what lies beneath. Not restricted by gravity you effortlessly glide in any direction you choose through the water. Hungrily searching all the cracks and crevices hoping to discover creatures from the deep and excitedly catching the reflection of yellowish-olive eyes as you notice a blue spotted ray effortlessly sail along the sandy bottom searching for benthic invertebrates and bony fish for a little midnight feast. Continuing your dive you can see a number of things, from parrot fish sheltering inside the mucus bubble they form for protection and an early warning system against possible predators, to small red eyes of shrimp nestling deep within the reef.


Koh Tao Sunsets

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Secondly was a sunset with a gift. Great location, great friends and great conversation. Relaxing on a rooftop balcony with an ice cold drink in my hands, socialising with some awesome people i've met during my short stay on Koh Tao. Watching a beautiful sunset slowly disappear into the ocean, not before a final display of colours erupt like a mixture of flames and lava dancing across the sky. To watch the final rays of light waving goodbye and giving way to the ever growing full moon. Gently creeping up above the hills behind us to watch over us as we stared up in awe with the fluent transition from sunset to the full moon rising.

All conversations came to an end as we all lay down and shared the beautiful moment watching the moon emerge into its full glory. lasting its strong beams like a lighthouse keeping sailors safe on their voyages across the ocean. No one needed to speak a word as we were all thinking the same thing and basked in the moment as we watched the moon as it crept slowly into the sky. Watching its beams pierce through the sporadic clouds, creating images that changed and danced with the light. After what felt like the blink of an eye, which was more like an hour, we eventually burst back into conversation about what we had all just witnessed.

Understandably these are moments in my life and everyones has their own experiences but experiences are around every corner just waiting for you to embrace.

This is my understanding of Koh Tao's dark side. One sentence, endless definitions.

How will you decide yours?