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De Ko Lanta à Ko Tao, petite visite des îles Thaïlandaises


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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

Bateau de plongée près de Ko Ha


Drapeau Thaïlandais avec l'archipel de Ko Ha en fond

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

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

Le phare de Ko Lanta


Coucher de soleil sur la jungle, Ko Lanta

Coucher de soleil sur la jungle, Ko Lanta


Toujours Ko Lanta

Toujours Ko Lanta


Ko Lanta

Ko Lanta


Ile au large de Ko Phi Phi

Ile au large de Ko Phi Phi


Ko Phi Phi Leh, qui a servi pour le tournage de "La Plage"

Ko Phi Phi Leh, qui a servi pour le tournage de "La Plage"


Ko Phi Phi Leh

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.

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.


Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh

Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh


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Ko Phi Phi

Ko Phi Phi


Coucher de soleil sur Ko Phi Phi

Coucher de soleil sur Ko Phi Phi


Les îles de Phan Nga Bay

Les îles de Phan Nga Bay


Phan Nga Bay

Phan Nga Bay


La fameuse îles de James Bond à Phan Nga Bay

La fameuse îles de James Bond à Phan Nga Bay


Coucher de soleil sur Phuket

Coucher de soleil sur Phuket


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Le Bouddha géant sur Phuket

Le Bouddha géant sur Phuket


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Coucher de soleil sur Ko Tao, golfe de Thaïlande

Coucher de soleil sur Ko Tao, golfe de Thaïlande

Posted by manolo84 03:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches boats islands diving jungle french Comments (0)

The infamous lake Titicaca

and Copacabana...


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Lake Titicaca is a place everybody has heard of, though maybe not as many people could locate it on a map. Located then just at the border between Peru and Bolivia, this majestic site is considered the world's largest high-altitude lake, covering 8400 square km and at an altitude of 3808m. The lake is also supposedly the legendary Inca creation site, with the Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side, the birthplace of the Sun in the Inca mythology.

I would have wished to cross the border and arrive a few days earlier in Copacabana, in Bolivia, but a strike in Puno (Peru) prevented me to do so for a few days as the only road leading to Bolivia was blocked. Apparently the Peruvian miners were contesting new laws introduced by the government against illegal mining. Fortunately the strike stopped for the weekend and buses were allowed to go through and this is how I ended up spending one night in Puno, then crossing the border and reaching Copacabana the following day.

Because Bolivia doesn't have access to the ocean, Copacabana, located a few hours away from the capital La Paz, is the prime destination for Bolivianos who come here to enjoy the fantastic views of the lake and get some tan (or sunburns as the combination of the lake's sun reflection and the altitude doesn't forgive...).

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And on the lake, two hours away by boat, lies the Islas del Sol and de la Luna, where as I already said the Inca mythology comes from. It was here that the bearded white god Viracocha and the first Incas, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Mama Ocllo, made their mystical appearances. The Isla del Sol is actually quite small as within a few hours you can cross it from north to south but landscape is nice and the villages there have a few hostels, hence my decision to spend a night on the island, which actually allowed me to catch up totally by luck with friends I had met a few weeks ago... The world is small and the tourist trail often the same...

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The inca path linked the south and north parts of the island

The inca path linked the south and north parts of the island


El Jaguar...

El Jaguar...


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Rémi and Edu snapping....

Rémi and Edu snapping....


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Posted by manolo84 20:17 Archived in Bolivia Tagged lakes islands english treks Comments (1)

Utila, Vingt mille lieues sous les mers...

Utila, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea...


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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.



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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

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...

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Captain Cookie, the coolest captain...

Captain Cookie, the coolest captain...


Everybody is quite tired after diving

Everybody is quite tired after diving


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My diving equipment

My diving equipment

Posted by manolo84 14:59 Archived in Honduras Tagged islands diving Comments (1)

Adventures in Belize


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Still trying to catch up with the blog as I am almost a month behind now, so I'll make a condensed one for a change with mainly pictures... :)

Caye Caulker was then the next destination, a small island located East of the Belize coast, not far from the coral reef. The first thing which strikes you when you arrive in Belize, is the difference in price compared to Mexico. Indeed here the currency is almost fixed on the US dollar (1 US$ = 2 Bz $) and this means that the prices are high. For example, a day trip on a boat to do some snorkelling costs around 65 US$, and other tours can easily reach 90-100 US$... Anyway, my aim by coming to Belize was not to stay here forever, but to see the reef and its wildlife, a few ruins across the country and then head off to Guatemala.

English is the main language of this country (all the other countries in Central America are Spanish-speaking countries), and it was therefore easier for me to deal and communicate with the locals than in Spanish, but I still felt that one week was enough to explore a few chosen places in the country. I am sure my bank account will thank me later on...

The first days then in Caye Caulker were therefore dedicated to snorkelling and I managed to see manatees (impressive!), nurse-sharks, sting-rays, barracudas and tons of other fishes and corals. Really an amazing experience. It would even have probably be better to do some scuba-diving but the high prices just discouraged me. However for those who like to dive (and have a bit of money to spend), you can easily arrange a day trip to the blue hole, one of the deepest in the world. Apparently those who did so warmly recommend it.

Among my group some people had waterproof cameras and I really wanted to show you some pictures taken "under" but I didn't manage to get the pictures yet. I will probably update this post at a later date then once I can get hold of them. In the meantime here are a few shots I took during these few days on the island.

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My tour agency... Easy boys!

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The streets of Caye Caulker

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On the right side you can see the waves created by the presence of the reef underneath. We are at about 1km from the island already.

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Let's jump!

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Our guide feeding the several nurse-sharks and sting-rays populating the area to attract them near our boat. Fierce battle! A few minutes later, we would be swimming in the middle of these totally inoffensive yet impressive creatures...

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The second stop (and last one) in Belize would then be San Ignacio, a town located near the Guatemalan border. From there there are several tours you can do, including visiting Mayan ruins (Caracol), swim near waterfalls, go to some caves adventures, well it's not easy to get bored. However as I said before your wallet will suffer a little...

As I am mainly interested in the Mayan culture and architecture, I decided to opt for visiting the ruins of Caracol instead of the popular ATM tour (caves adventures) and on the way our group also stopped to see a few natural caves and waterfalls.

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The streets of San Ignacio

And one week is a short time but I felt it was enough and that time had now come to pass the border of Guatemala, as Tikal and El Mirador were already calling me in the distance...

Posted by manolo84 13:38 Archived in Belize Tagged waterfalls islands snorkelling ruins mayas Comments (3)

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