OK, these posts are in no chronological order. This is all after the fact, just impressions as they occur.
Ko Poda is a small karst island off the shore near Krabi in the Andaman Sea. Small means I ended up swimming around the rocky half of the island, so it is maybe 1/2 mile across. More than half the island is flat, no more than 4 or 5 feet above high tide with a wonderful coral sand beach. The remaining part is a limestone karst that rises maybe 600 feet directly from the sea. Just offshore is a “small” karst island: maybe 200 feet in diameter, and 400 feet high. Off in the middle distance are other islands, and karst peaks on the mainland. OK, pretty much paradise incarnate.
This is one of a small number of private islands, owned by a former provincial official (acquired no doubt through dodgy means). So on the island is a small open air dining room, and maybe 20 little bungalows, each with a fan, and cold running water.
To prevent this from being too paradisical (and with the side effect of preventing the island from being overdeveloped), the power is available only a few hours a day, and the running water is from a brackish spring, nearly salty at this dry time of year.
We arrived from the mainland in a couple longtail boats at midday, and weren’t really impressed. The beach was crowded, and the shore was crowded with speedboats and longtails.
Around 3 in the afternoon, all the boats started leaving, and we were left with around a mile of beautiful beach surrounding 2/3 of the island and 14 visitors.
Barb & I tried snorkelling on one side of the island to our dissapointment. We are officially spoiled, but here the coral has been abused by boat traffic, and an El Nino current a few years ago killed off most of the rest. Great swimming though with perfect water temp, and total solitude.
Now you would think that supper would be pretty basic since everything except fish has to be boated over from the mainland, but we had one of our usual feasts with maybe 7 dishes, mostly of seafood; wonderful curries, spiced prawns and expensive beer (that’s only fair).
After a sweetly quiet night’s sleep, woken by monkeys, and hornbills, we set off by speedboat to Ko Phi Phi for our last snorkeling day of the trip.
1: for you pre-adolescents, this is pronounced Go Pee Pee
2: This is where DiCaprio et al filmed the movie the Beach
As I have already said, words are totally incapable of describing the whole snorkeling bit. But:
First site was an underwater seamount that rises to within about 6 feet of the surface at the highest places. There are massive coral heads separated my deeper holes and channels which hide, well they hide a whole lot more than we ever could have seen.
Barb and I snorkel together most the time, holding hands. We will laze along and approach an edge and just float quietly over the drop so we don’t disturb whatever is there.
There was lots there. Parrotfish of many colors and sizes. Groupers, a few nearly as big as us. Clouds of little guys, some drab and some psychedelic. Some cuttlefish, octopi, many different colored anemones, all in water with wonderful visibility, and great lighting.
I don’t really remember exactly the unique differences of each different site that day.
One, on the edge of a giant karst, descended straight down for maybe a couple hundred feet. The cliff was undercut so you can swim right underneath at low tide, and in the shadows there are schools of millions, and I really do mean millions, of anchovies. Teensy buggers, maybe an inch long and needle thin, moving in schools of tens and hundreds of thousands. Just absolutely mesmerizing to watch that many creatures move in absolute harmony and precision.
Another couple lionfish, just google a picture of one to see how unreal they are.
Followed another sea turtle, I can see that for poor fishing communities, these must be an amazing meat source, but what a damned shame. Such beauty in flight.
On this last day I fully realized how far I have come as a swimmer. In warm salt water with fins I can pretty much just keep going until hunger or thirst gets to me. First in, last out pretty much every time.
So other that swimming the day included the obligatory beautiful beach for lunch, and some visits to famous film spots. Back to our sweet island home and a salty shower. We all would have loved to feel unsticky and cleaner, but the price was worth it.
Sunset walk and another feast, and a quiet read and sweet sleep.
I got up at first light and walked around the island for sunrise. I was feeling frustrated that you couldn’t walk around the entire island, that cliff and all. Also the wind was calm and the water looked exceptionally clear, so I decided to skip breakfast and swim around the rest of the island.
Off I go, fins, mask, suit, and t-shirt. Did my due diligence, and hovered to make sure there wasn’t a current going, since we had seen and heard of swimmers being pulled offshore in several places, and here I was swimming alone.
The back side of the island, where no boats go and not too many swimmers either I guess was rich with fish. I was in shadow and could see into the caves that opened up under the base of the cliff where groupers and other larger fish were skulking. Woke up a sea turtle who showed just how fast one can go by disappearing in maybe 2 seconds flat. The final 1/4 mile was a bit of a sad reminder of overuse, and abuse.
Speaking of which I am reminded of a sad sight from the day before. Don’t want to stereotype, but a vast preponderance of the Japanese tourists we saw traveled in LARGE groups, and those in our immediate vicinity could not swim, and had no respect for the reef. When a large boatful was discharged for snorkeling, what you see is the rather amusing sight of maybe 40 people bobbing in life preservers, trying, mostly vainly, to get their face down into the water, as they tromp on anything that lies below them. Most are swimming with sneakers on (wouldn’t want to get sea anemone spines in the foot, and could use fins in any case). The upshot is that anything less that 6 feet under is smashed up. AND, if there is a member of the group who can actually submerge, That one is bringing up pieces of coral for the others to bring home as souvenirs. All totally against the laws, and all totally ignored.
So on a happier note, I finished my swim, and then we were back off to the mainland and a wonderful fresh water shower.