Diving In Koh Lipe, Thailand
Diving In Koh Lipe, Thailand
Koh Lipe is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park archipelago, in the remote southern Andaman Sea, in Thailand.
The biggest island in the 51 island archipelago is Koh Tarutao.
The islands are closer to Langkawi, Malaysia, across the straits of Malacca, than to mainland Thailand.
From 1937 to 1948, because of its remote location, Koh Tarutao was used as a prison, housing around 3,000 prisoners.
The prisoners were not confined to cells, because it was believed that the islands were surrounded by sharks and crocodiles, making escape impossible.
During World War II, when Japan occupied Thailand, the
Japanese suffered crippling shortages of food and fuel, and they began cutting supplies of rice and other staples to the remote prison island.
Starvation set in and the prisoners resorted to begging from coastal trading boats in the nearby Straits of Malacca when they had no food.
Eventually, the prisoners turned to savage piracy, cold-bloodedly murdering the crews of any ships passing by.
It is estimated that they plundered more than 100 ships.
In March, 1947, fierce fighting broke out between the pirates and the British army, in which the pirates surrendered within a week.
In 1975, after 25 years of closure, the island and the surrounding area were named as the first marine national park in Thailand.
In 2002, the 5th season of the television show Survivor was filmed on the remote southern part of the island.
Koh Lipe is just a short ferry ride from Koh Tarutao and the marine park, which is closed during the rainy season, from April to October every year.
In Koh Lipe, about half of the businesses are closed during the green (rainy) season, and almost everything else is under constant renovation, preparing for the high season when tourists descend en masse on the island.
Some say that there are still stashes of pirate treasure hidden in the mountainous islands, but there is no doubt that the real treasure is the marine park itself.
Koh Lipe is outside of the jurisdiction of the Tarutao National Park and its neighboring 51 islands, and as such, fishing and development are permitted on the island.
Because of the abundance of accommodations and competition for tourists, some dive resorts on the island offer free accommodation to divers who dive with them at least twice per day.
I did not take advantage of the offer of free accommodations, and instead booked my own accommodation in a resort that has a nice swimming pool, a very good breakfast and very spacious rooms with Netflix TV, air conditioning and a hot shower.
I have to say that the Castaway Dive resort, with whom I dive daily, does have nice private cabins on the beach, and their clients are mostly women divers, who travel alone and are happy not just to have the free accommodation, but also the companionship of other women divers and the friendly atmosphere of the dive center.
My days start early.
We wake up at 6:30 in the morning and I get ready, pack my diving camera and lights and my thermos with green tea to drink between dives, and we go to breakfast by 7:00 AM.
I try to eat early, because I don’t enjoy diving with a full stomach.
My breakfast choices are usually an array of tropical fruits or a vegetable noodle soup with a fragrant broth made with goji berries and jujube, or rice with an egg.
The food is truly amazing.
It is mostly regional southern Thai which has a heavy Malaysian influence.
Dishes are marked by a natural abundance of herbs, local coconut cream and the ever present rich spice blends of turmeric, galangal, garlic, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, along with cinnamon and star anise.
We gather at the Castaway dive shop at 8:30am, put on our dive suits, and board the traditional fishing wooden longboats, that are now used as dive boats.
The dives vary from muck diving, where you can spot macro and micro creatures, to colorful live coral, home to all sorts of tropical fish.
Occasionally I see schools of Barracudas or of Yellow Snappers, large groups of squids, and all sorts of interesting Nudibranchs.
Generally, I am a very lucky person, and this time was no different.
The dive center’s manager, called Tos, is an avid deep sea photographer, and when he heard that I love diving photography, he offered to dive with me and teach me photography and how to light and take photos of creatures that people rarely even see.
Because it was the low season, Tos dived with me twice every day and showed me a world unseen by most.
Having him as my guide and teacher was pure bliss, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to dive with him.
Beside being a good teacher, he is also a fabulous person with a nice, soft demeanor and an easy going personality.
Between dives, we return to the dive center to rest and wait out the required surface interval.
During this time some people eat some noodles or cookies, but I just drink some green tea or have a piece of fruit.
Then we go for the second dive.
After the second dive, Tos calls in our lunch orders so the food will be hot and ready for us upon our return.
Jules, who has already completed his daily 5 kilometer run and daily swim, meets me at the dive shop to have lunch together at the restaurant.
Depending on the weather, we might spend the afternoon walking around the island or just lazying around, sorting my diving photos, resting, relaxing or reading.
Island life is simple and I quickly relaxed into the calming daily routine of a worry free life.
So many of our anxieties come from having information overload.
Through the internet, we can have access to news and disasters happening all over the world, and this paints a picture in our minds of a world that is in terrible shape and almost beyond repair.
But when I look at my day, I can see nothing but joy, pleasure, kindness, smiles, love, appreciation, gratitude, humor and beauty under the surface of the sea and everywhere else, in the faces of kind people, in their laughter, in their good intentions.
If I carry the feeling that life is hard and painful, that wars, earthquakes and fires destroy lives, than I will be living in a world of fearful nightmares and feeling a sad sympathy for those suffering, and ignoring my own reality that is pure beauty and bliss….
Sometimes it is hard to decide what you should be focusing on and choosing to see….
In Truth, life in the physical realm is meant for exploration, experimentation and for learning.
We come here to learn how to become more loving, more kind, more bright, more compassionate, more understanding and how to let our inner light shine into the world.
It is possible to become less dense and more god-like, and to experience and express unfathomable happiness, experience constant renewal and discover new dimensions of life, not seen by those who dwell in the muddy vibrations of low expectations from life and from their bodies and minds.
Sending you an ocean of blessings,