Before leaving Bangkok, I could borrow the underwater camera of my friend (Go Pro) and here is a selection of the shots I took during the 10 dives or so that I did in Thailand. For those who want to know a bit more, I have also listed the dive spots which I visited:
Ko Ha (Andaman sea, near Ko Lanta)
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang (Andaman see, off Ko Lanta)
HTMS Sattakut wreck (Ko Tao, Gulf of Thailand)
White Rock (Ko Tao, Gulf of Thailand)
Shark island (Ko Tao, Gulf of Thailand)
Chumphon Pinnacle (Ko Tao, Gulf of Thailand)
South West Rock (Ko Tao, Gulf of Thailand)
Before jumping into the water
Cave in the Ko Ha islands
Some of the dive sites can actually be really crowded...
Et un article en français de plus! Je voulais à l'origine combiner ma visite des îles avec mes photos et aventures odysséennes sous la mer mais je pense que j'ai assez de contenu et surtout trop de photos pour ne faire qu'un seul article...
De Bangkok donc, je pris donc le bus de nuit qui me fit arriver au petit matin, après environ 14h de bus, 3h d'attente et 30 min de ferry, sur Ko Lanta, l'île dont forcément tout le monde a entendu parler en France, du fait du jeu télévisé. Mais Ko Lanta est en fait composé de plusieurs îles, certaines plus grandes que d'autres et l'île principale sur laquelle je me suis trouvé est en fait appelée Ko Lanta Yai et j’eus bon chercher mais je ne vis point de caméras de TF1 nul part dans l'île ou aux alentours...
La raison principale qui me faisait venir sur Ko Lanta était donc comme mentionné plus haut, de pouvoir faire de la plongée dans l'un des meilleurs endroits au monde (pas le moins cher non plus par contre). En effet même si le golfe de Thaïlande (Sud-Est de la Thaïlande, voire la carte) est réputé pour ses certifications de plongées à prix très abordables, le côté Ouest de la Thaïlande, coté mer d'Andaman, possède les plus beaux spots de plongée et il n'est pas rare de croiser raies-manta et autres requins-baleine...
Mais entre deux plongées, je pris donc le temps de visiter ces îles que je ne qualifierai pas de paradisiaques car le développement du tourisme de masse en Thaïlande (avec tous ses bons et mauvais côtés) a fait un peu perdre le charme et caractère unique de ces îles je pense, mais c'est quand même bien sympa: le soleil est au rendez-vous, les plages de sable blanc aussi pour peu que l'on s'éloigne quelque peu des sentiers battus et surtout la mer est chaude, atteignant facilement les 30 degrés.
De plus certaines de ces îles sont aussi connues pour leurs apparitions dans des films tels que La Plage (avec Di Caprio) ou encore un des anciens James Bond (L'Homme au pistolet d'or) et même si les excursions vers ces îles étaient vraiment trop touristiques à mon gout, cela n’empêche pas moins que ces sites sont de toute beauté et ont été choisis pour de bonnes raisons.
Bref, je conclurai en vous disant que sur les îles de Thaïlande, il y en a vraiment pour tous les goûts, que vous soyez à la recherche d'un coin isolé pour pouvoir vous reposer à l'ombre des cocotiers, que vous ayez envie de visiter toutes les îles dont vous avez entendu parler à la télé ou dans les magazines, que vous soyez ici pour faire la fête non-stop avec la Full Moon party par exemple ou encore que vous désiriez cocher de votre liste de plongée la Thaïlande et ses eaux turquoises, le choix est vôtre!
Bateau de plongée près de Ko Ha
Drapeau Thaïlandais avec l'archipel de Ko Ha en fond
Un bébé éléphant sur Ko Lanta, ici en Thaïlande les éléphants sont souvent maltraités pour des fins touristiques donc une certaine éthique recommande de ne pas faire d'excursions à dos d'éléphant
Le phare de Ko Lanta
Coucher de soleil sur la jungle, Ko Lanta
Toujours Ko Lanta
Ile au large de Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi Leh, qui a servi pour le tournage de "La Plage"
Ko Phi Phi Leh
Maya bay, où "La Plage" fut tourné. On réalise alors que l'équipe de tournage avait bien fait en sorte de ne choisir que certains angles de vue car la baie est beaucoup moins "enfermée" en vrai qu'elle ne le paraît dans le film.
I already mentioned it briefly in the last post, but today I am going to talk a bit more about Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful and famous fjords in New Zealand. Milford Sound (Māori: Piopiotahi) is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, within Fiordland National Park (see last post's map). Some people even called it the eighth Wonder of the World...
Most of the tourists who come to this majestic place take a boat tour or a kayak trip, but this time I wanted to do things a bit differently and contacted a scuba diving school which offers a combination of the boat tour (to admire the fjord and waterfalls) and 2 x 40 minutes dives. The specificity of Milford Sound when diving is that you dive through a layer of blurry ice-cold fresh water, which is stained with tannins from the forest trees, and when you reach the clear salt water huge trees of rarely seen black coral greet you. When you exit the water, giant waterfalls surround the boat. I also wanted to experience diving in cold waters and Milford Sound didn't disappoint as the water was ranging between 13 degrees Celsius at the surface, with a minimum of 10 degrees around 26 meters, which was the maximum depth we reached that day. I can say that even with the two-piece 7mm wetsuit they provide you, you really start feeling cold after 20 minutes! But overall it was a truly a great experience.
Milford Sound... Truly majestic
View of the "harbour"
When suddenly dolphins appear! Everyone on the boat got excited!
Nico jumping in the water to catch the dolphins
Check at 0:25, the dolphins were really quick and hard to get on video!
AS I mentioned before my main aim by going to Honduras was to dive! Indeed all along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico and Belize, there is some amazing reef which I couldn't wait to explore in other ways than with a snorkel, this time not by going twenty thousand leagues under the sea (I wish...) but only at a maximum depth of 30 meters.
For a bit of geography, Utila is one of the Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras, with the other ones being Roatan (bigger, better reef but also more expensive) and Guanaja (smaller but a bit far to reach). Utila is also home to more than 20 dive schools and a lot of tourists are going there to dive. Actually if you do not dive, there is little point to go to Utila, Roatan is a better option though more expensive. This was actually one of the point which I didn't like too much about the island, that there are definitely too many "gringos" and that you lose the local feeling that you can have in other places in Central America.
After making my way to Utila, going through hectic towns like San Pedro Sula or La Ceiba in Honduras, I had to choose a diving school in order to pass the PADI Advanced Open Water certification. 15 years ago, when I was in high school in France (my god it's already that far away....) I had passed the french level 1 diving certification, although it was only in a swimming pool so I was hoping that they would accept this as a valid certification and that they would allow me to try straight away the Advanced Open Water without having to do first the Open Water one which is more for beginners.
Diving spots around the island
So lying a little bit about the number of dives I had done in the sea (actually they never asked to see my French license), I registered in the Utila Dive Center, not the cheapest place to dive in Utila but one of the most serious with lots of instructors and students instructors (dive masters). The whole course was about 300$ for the certification (7 dives) + 30$ for a refreshment course (which I really needed anyway). And there we were, after practising again the basics, I was taken for my first dive to a ship wreck, down to 30 meters (100 feet)!
Actually this was a bit scary because it was my first dive ever in sea, and we were going to the maximum depth you can reach when diving for "fun" (once down at 30 meters, you cannot go up when you want if there is a problem, you first have to do a safety stop at 5 meters for 3 minutes, to eliminate the excess of nitrogen in your blood. Taking a deep breath, I then jumped into the water, only to find out that my mask did not fit and that it was impossible to clear the water out of it. Of course the others had more experience and were already going down so I was starting to think "ok, this doesn't start that well"... Fortunately the instructor realised what the problem was and going up to the surface (we were only a few meters down at that point), we exchanged our mask and I made another attempt to go down. Second issue though, I had not taken enough weights on my belt to allow for a smooth descent (I found out later that I needed 4.5 kilos of weight to compensate for the wetsuit and gear which always make you float) and I was getting stuck at a few meters below the surface, incapable of going down by myself. Once again the instructor helped me (nice guy from New Zealand btw) by pulling me down to the bottom and a few minutes later I could reach the bottom of the sea where the others were waiting, 30 meters down, near the base of the wreck. Phew!!
My camera not being water-proof, I could not take any footage which would have been really nice, but instead I have found this video of the same wreck on Youtube. This is actually exactly how I saw it, very impressive...
The rest of the dive was totally fine and we could do a few tests to see what are the consequences of the pressure when you are at this depth. For example the colours start to look different (well I am colourblind anyway so not a lot of change for me...), or we even took some eggs with us, broke them and we were playing with the yolk (the yellow part) like a ball with no gravity!
One of the other dives you need to complete as part of this course is a night dive, when you jump into the water armed with a light torch because it is completely pitch black! The wildlife at night is also very different and this was an amazing experience.
And after 7 dives in total (5 are required to be certified), I was officially an Advanced Open Water diver, which means that I can now dive in any dive spot around the world! I had definitely a great time and I am now looking forward to dive more in South America or Asia later on, if my bank account allows it...