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My journey to Koh Tao – by Katie Woodroffe

How I left a piece of my heart on Koh Tao

Have you ever visited a place where you felt a strong connection, either before you arrived or whilst you were there – like being drawn to a place but have no apparent reasons why? I remember watching a documentary many years ago about a coastal National Park in Costa Rica, filled with some of the most interesting species on earth, with tropical and swamp rainforest densely covering the land. A place where jaguars hunted sea turtles, monkeys used their own tools to open coconuts and bull sharks graced the waters of both ocean and rivers. The documentary amazed me, and I told almost everyone about this magical place and that one day I hoped to visit. But life soon catches you up, and I forgot about the documentary and even forgot the name of the National Park.

 

It all started in Costa Rica…

Fast forward a few years and there I was. Sat in a research hub within that very location, and it wasn’t until the staff there showed us the documentary did I realise this was the place. Strange how life can often lead you to life choices and destinations that have uncanny connections. If it wasn’t for that trip to Costa Rica where I worked as a field staff, then I wouldn’t have ended up working in Thailand in 2016. Neither would I have visited Koh Tao, whilst taking some holiday from work, and been introduced to Master Divers and done my PADI Open Water Diver course, meaning I would not be where I am now!

Freedom-Beach-Koh-Tao

 

Koh Tao stole a piece of my heart

I think everyone that has visited this little rock in the Gulf of Thailand left a small piece of their heart here. When I had to leave the island after finishing my scuba diving course a year ago, I remember staring back from the top of the ferry knowing that one day I would visit again. There was something about the island. An idyllic post card paradise with a community, both Thai and Foreign, committed to protecting one of Earth’s vital life support systems. The health of our oceans is just as important as the health of the rainforests, if not more. There is still an unbelievable amount we don’t know about this “water planet” we call home, and divers have access to what we could call “our final frontier”.

Divers-during-surface-interval

 

Koh Tao’s Focus on Conservation

Koh Tao has a very conservation focused approach thanks to the big community of divers based here and the understanding locals. Encouraging behavioural change is often the most difficult step in conservation and can be tough for native communities to understand. But Koh Tao has been making those steps and continues to do so. From providing bamboo or paper straws in bars and restaurants to not handing out plastic bags in 7/11 – which is, in fact, a first for Thailand. Not only should this little rock be proud for what it is doing to improve the conditions of the habitats, it should be proud that other islands are looking to take on similar actions. The neighbouring island of Koh Phangan is also beginning to employ a no plastic bags policy in their 7/11’s. Koh Tao is acting as a role model.

Fraggle-Rock-Viewpoint-Koh-Tao

 

Learning to dive in this sort of conservation-focused environment is the best thing anybody considering doing any PADI course could do. Eco friendly approach aside, Koh Tao is a small island, measuring just 8 square miles, with a single main road running pretty much from North to South. It has many hidden beaches with fantastic snorkelling and breath-taking viewpoints, a very relaxed dining and nightlife atmosphere, numerous diverse dive sites ranging from deep wrecks to towering pinnacles, and of course a beautiful array of marine life that calls the surrounding waters their home. Trust me, nothing beats the feeling you get when you go diving, turn around and see a huge Whale Shark swimming around the corner of a pinnacle! Oh, and the sunsets here are just insane.

Koh-Tao-Sunset

 

Last year this little rock sticking out of the ocean stole a piece of my heart, this time around I fear that the longer I’m here the bigger the piece will be and the more difficult it will be to leave!

 

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