With bag and baggage,scrip and scrippage the flight to Bangkok from Kolkata is boarded. Reasonably priced between Rs 9,000-to-Rs 15,000 – the flight is a steal. Another flight from Bangkok to Chumporn and a catamaran ride from Chumporn to Koh Tao for another 2,900 baht transport you to the island,which in every way,is heaven on earth.
The catamaran has an open deck,refreshments and everything else to provide for an enjoyable ride. An upgrade to first class is available to all for an additional 150 baht (one baht equals Rs 1.9). Good lodging at Koh Tao is priced at an average of 3,000-5,000 baht per night. The main purpose of the trip for any diver,is of course the deep sea diving. Post several trials and experiences,I can safely say ‘Coral Grand’,which is both PADI and SSI affiliated,trumps other diving companies like ‘Blue Diving’ and ‘Big Blue’. Two lovely dives here are priced at 1,800 baht.
A deep breath,eyes tightly shut,hands clutch the weight belt and the regulator as if clinging on to life. A deep plunge and a big splash,followed by hasty resurfacing. This sums up the first few seconds of any diving experience. The vastness and blue hue of the sea coupled with the warm yellow of the sun creates an enthralling,but warm sensation that echoes in the hidden corners of the soul. Floating in the midst of nowhere,there is a serenity that evades us in our everyday lives. The faint chatter of fellow divers goes blissfully ignored as the mind remains rapt in thought.
Deflating the BCD,sinking deeper into the deliciously warm waters,light slowly starts thinning out. The white on the land is replaced by the blue in the waters. Reds,oranges,greens and browns come alive showcased in the stunning coral and array of exotic sea creatures. Legs thrust forward with ease carry the body as weightlessly as a feather. Exhaustion never takes over,and the drive to move forward keeps the body going – a spirit that should be adopted up on land. Every breath taken underwater is distinctly marked and fully aware,accentuating its vitality. The warm waters embrace you,beckon you,and you follow its call,as if in a trance.
Shoals of fish swim by,out of the ‘blue’ and you suddenly find yourself in the midst of a school,bewildered and amazed. Amused by the timorous fish,continuing forward,there suddenly appears a meeting of two adjoining reefs that creates a small cave. A rush of adrenaline flows through the veins as the body cautiously swims through it. On the other side of the opening there suddenly appears the head of a spotted,leopard fish that is extraordinary enough to hold your attention until it disappears into the blue. The reefs and the marine life create a utopic world that no person would want to get out of. The tranquility that prevails is not overpowering,but is like a balm that mollifies the soul.
Tens of starfish can be seen clinging onto the boulders on the sea bed,while the black spiky sea urchins try to conceal themselves between the boulders. A closer look at these seemingly simple creatures gives an intrinsic view of their extraordinary bodies,making you wonder at Gods creations . Clown fish hiding in their sea anemone homes are ubiquitous. The joy of seeing one peep out of it,quickly to swim back inside,cannot be described. The corals take eclectic forms – sometimes branching out,sometimes towering high and sometimes spreading across large distances,like pebbles on a rocky beach.
The mind acts like a camera,capturing as many pictures as it can,for forgetting a single one of these magnificent sights would be reprehensible. The mechanical camera in my hand obviously does the task better. With an expert photographer of a father,I manage to capture a number of pretty sights,eternalizing them. Time flies by,minute after minute,and soon its time to leave utopia and return to banal land. Swimming up,fins flapping away,the sun grows stronger as if imparting hope and courage. This time,again floating in the midst of nowhere,the mind is not thoughtful but rejuvenated and enlivened.
Post the dive,or even better several dives,the stay in Koh Tao is ideal. The beach is stunning,the sand is soft,the people always greet you with a smile and a ‘swadika’,the food in the smallest of places is fit for a review from the biggest of connoisseurs and its overall simplicity appeals to the senses. The return journey comprises another beautiful catamaran ride to Koh Samui (a small island) this time for 600 baht,a flight to Bangkok for approximately 3,300 baht and another short flight to Kolkata. The journey may seem arduous but there is not a prettier island closer home than this.
Overall,a diving trip to Koh Tao is affordable,comfortable and enriching. There are few destinations that can combine aesthetics,luxury and adventure such as the island of Koh Tao.