Malapascua- An unexpected paradise

 When we planned the trip, we both picked a country that was totally OUR country to plan. Mine was india, and Kelly’s was the Philippines. As she’d also be celebrating her 30th here, we had to make sure she had something epic to celebrate! When we’ve talked with other divers and told them we’re heading here, literally all have said two places are essential to visit; Coron for shipwrecks and Malapascua for diving with Thresher Sharks. So after heading south to Cebu from the dark and dreary Boracay, we agreed to head north to Malpascua immediately. As ever In the Philippines, the journey there was fairly arduous and stressful journey. After a whole day traveling involving a bus, a plane, another bus, and 3 boats (each journey with additional taxes and hidden costs of course) we arrived to the tiny island! Immediately though, we knew we’d be happy here. 
Because Malapascua is a destination almost entirely for divers, many people don’t make the laborious journey. After all, there’s amazing beaches everywhere in this country! For this reason, and the fact it’s low season meant the whole island was super quiet! We ended up finding a place to stay right on the beach where we were the only guests right next door to the dive school we’d researched in advance, and immediately settled into the chilled atmosphere on the island after a quick walk around getting the lay of the land. The lay of the land was simple; a village in the centre of the island for the locals, stunning and relatively untouched beaches surrounding the outskirts, and a couple of restaurants along the beach front. We were greeted by the classic island ethos from the locals too; total chill and a general slower pace to life; totally up for that! Because it was just so quiet, it was complete and utter bliss! Spending a day on a beach was such a contrast to Boracay: almost no lookie lookie men trying to sell us stuff, zero noise pollution, and barely any boats revving engines apart from at key dive departures. Alongside this, there was almost no pollution in the sea or on the beaches; a nice change from what we’ve seen far too regularly on this trip. Doing nothing apart from read, snorkel and chill for our first day was just what the doctor ordered, especially when we discovered the next 4 days would involve 4am wake up calls for early morning dives! It also massively helped the weather was perfect throughout our time here, apart from late night and early morning storms. 

Here’s a video from one of my favourite travel bloggers showing how awesome this place is.

Malapascua is a very unique experience for divers. It’s famous primarily for the Thresher sharks, who travel daily to higher seas to be cleaned by smaller fish (known as a cleaning station). Thresher’s are normally deep sea sharks, so are rarely seen whilst diving. What makes these guys totally unique is their tail, which they use to whip their prey before eating them (they create an underwater sonic boom to knock other fish out: the only shark to do this). Thresher’s can really only be seen in a few places in the world, so this place is pretty special. 

To top this, you can dive through a tunnel that runs under an island, a drift dive, a muck dive, a coral wall and even a shipwreck, this really is a divers Mecca! Needless to say when planning this part of the Philippines, this was obviously the perfect spot for birthday celebrations. 

Kelly’s parents very kindly paid for a dive package for Kel, and Thresher Shark Divers (TSD, who we ended up booking with) very kindly gave Kel all her equipment for free as it was her birthday, saving us a good wedge of cash. The focus for the next few days was certainly more under water than on top, but unlike many dive excursions we’ve done, I was actually able to get involved, going out on the boats with the divers to the sites to have a cheeky snorkel. This was really nice as it meant I wasn’t totally excluded, and got to enjoy the beautiful trips across the pristine ocean. Obviously though, I avoided the dive trips before sunrise 🤣. 

On Kelly’s first day diving, the morning trip was to Gato island, a tiny lump of rock in the ocean that’s only inhabited by sea swallows. The real treat was 30m down though, with an underwater cave/tunnel surrounded by coral, and a coral garden that apparently turned into a drift dive. When she surfaced after both dives, Kel looked like an excited child, as she’d seen such a great abundance of coral and sea life, including sea horses, cuttlefish, sharks hiding under rocks, sea snakes and some really weird and unique crabs! 

For me, being on the boat was utter bliss. Taking a break from my book to soak in the scenery, I was totally blown away by the peacefulness surrounding me. There was literally nothing anywhere near us, and the sea was so flat it almost looked like a layer of glass coated it: Utter bliss. 


The next day the boat ran the divers out to Lapus Lapus island for a drift dive. Kel had never done a drift dive before, so she was super excited! It’s basically going down and watching the sea just shoot past you. From how she described it, there was so much going on she couldn’t keep up with everything, especially as the current was so strong. Looking at videos of other drift dives in the Philippines I can’t believe how quick the current throws divers! This video isn’t from our footage (that’s already backed up so can’t make a video that easy) but it gives you a good idea of what it’s like.  

On the third day, we both jumped on the boat and ventured to Calanggaman island, a tiny drop in the ocean pretty much untouched apart from a few temporary buildings. This whole area is a marine park so is beautifully kept, and you really can tell. Kelly did another dive, this time a wall dive. Again, she was blown away by the sealife on show, this time all Marco (teeny tiny stuff), from sea horses to nudibranchs surrounding coral in great condition. 

Following her first dive we spent a couple of hours on Kallanggaman, which was utter paradise. Again, low season really worked in our favour as there were only a handful of boats on the Island. The beaches were beautifully kept, I’d even go as far to say immaculate, whilst the sea was a stunning teal hue thanks to the shallow banks. This is the closest we’ve come for some time to being totally secluded, and surrounded by nothing but palm trees, coral, and not much else. 

The boat ride there and back was unbelievably relaxing too. Again, we were riding across a weirdly calm ocean with barely any waves or swell. I’d probably go as far as saying I’ve never seen such a calm ocean. 

On the final day, Kelly did the obligatory 4am wake up for the thresher dive just before we left and ventured back to mainland. Over the duration of the 5 days in Malapascua she did 4 early morning thresher dives (seeing them on three occasions), a drift dive, an under island tunnel, a coral wall, and a macro, all new experiences for her. It’s safe to say for a new (ish) diver this will be truly unforgettable, and I couldn’t imagine a better way for her to celebrate her 30th (30m under water away from me haha). Big thanks to Angie and Eugene for paying for her dives, a massive thanks to TSD for all their awesome help and support, and paying for her equipment! Even as someone who doesn’t dive, I absolutely loved it here. Finding such a chilled out spot that was constantly so beautiful was just what we needed after such shite weather up north. I’d 100% go back, and Kelly obviously would too. 

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Palawan- When it rains it pours. 

It feels very odd writing this blog knowing this is the last country I’ll be writing about. At the start of a year traveling I had no idea how quickly it would all seem to go, and how I’d feel at this stage. It’s safe to say the prospect of returning to the UK in less than a month is an incredibly daunting one! Adding to the uncertainty was our final stop, the Philippines. 

You’ve probably seen in the news that this country is being rocked by some rather challenging times. The new president is taking an incredibly tough line on drugs, basically legalising murder of dealers and even casual users, whilst terrorism appears to be shaking the Southern islands, to the point where the foreign office has put a red flag on travel to this part of the country entirely (voiding all travel insurance in the process, thanks for that). Just to add to the fun, we’d be visiting during typhoon season! As ever though, the media have massively inflated the seriousness of the situation, and actually across the northern areas of the county there’s very little to worry about right now. At the 11th hour, we booked flights from KL to Manila to get the most of our final country on this trip. Both Kelly and I were determined to go out with a bang, and the Philippines has been a top country on this list for a few years now! 
Arriving in Manila late at night resulted in writing the majority of the next day off apart from a quick trip out to explore the surround area. Whilst Manila felt similar to other major cities across Asia, traffic here is another level of bad. Reports that it could take us up to three hours to get to the airport from the hostel areas (about 6mi from the Area we were staying weren’t even remotely exaggerated. I’ve never seen anything like it! Anyway, sadly there wasn’t much to see in the local area until the evening, when the city totally transforms: Not necessarily in a good way though. The area we were staying in appeared to be rather popular for, let’s just say, rather large white men looking for young Filipino ladies. Roads were littered with prostitutes, strip joints, massage parlours (I’m guessing with a happy ending), jelly wrestling bars, and even a midget wrestling club. Basically everything you can possibly imagine to objectify women; great…. 

Because of this, and the perceived lack of entertainment or activity in the city, we quickly booked flights outta there to Puerto Princessa, the capital of Palawan.
Our time on Palawan was always going to require a lot of moving around. This massive island has so many spots that many deem as ‘must see’ we’d have to spend a few days at each spot before moving on, and that’s just what we did! After a couple of days exploring the surrounding areas and beaches around PP, we moved straight onto an area rather new to the travel scene, Port Barton. 
Port Barton is a tiny fishing village on a peninsula on the north east coastline. It’s well known for being a true Filipino village, still hanging onto its traditional roots. The beach is clean and well maintained, apart from being covered with fishing boats obviously. The journey here is definitely one to be called ‘challenging’. The road to port Barton is basically non existent at points, and because we’re in the wet season , huge stretches are mud baths. Inevitably, our minivan packed with bags of flour and backpacks got stuck in the mud for about an hour, resulting in me getting down and dirty trying to push it out of the quagmire, followed quickly by helping the next two vans that also got stuck. This was all part of the fun though, and paired with the absolutely stunning views on the drive, it was quite the experience overall. 

Upon arrival in the village, we quickly found accommodation right on the beach for about £7 a night. Regardless how much you spend here, you’re going to get something far from opulence; the village only gets power for six hours a day, and because the roads in and out are poor, the delivery of goods for hotels or homestays are scarce. This really didn’t matter though, our last intention was to be stuck inside for the few days we were here. Exploring this tiny village takes no time really, but we still spent a good half a day checking out the area. The real attraction of port Barton is the simplicity of life here. Vast areas of the village are agricultural, hosting cattle and other livestock, chickens and patchy areas of growing fruit. There’s very little machinery used on the land, and most rely on water buffalo to turn fields used for rice production. 

The way of life here is very simple and that’s the attraction of coming. Most inhabitants still live in bamboo huts, with the whole family living in one room, sleeping on the floor, with very few material possessions. Walking through one area of the village could be confused with a slum in India (apart from more bamboo), but just like in India, everyone was very happy! The locals were somewhat bemused by a couple of white faces walking through this area though, clearly it doesn’t happen very often!

Sadly though, we were greeted with a day of pretty heavy rainfall. Attempting to save a bit of cash, we hired a kayak to do our own version of island hopping, and as soon as we handed over cash, the heavens opened out of nowhere, meaning we were grounded. Once his calmed down we got onto the water quickly, and headed out of the bay, only to be chased by super strong winds, massive dark angry clouds. That’s one thing about the Philippines in this season in particular, it’s unpredictable! Trying to kayak back to land in those winds was definitely a challenge! The poor weather mixed with an area with one dirt road and no power basically resulted in us sitting on the balcony of our hut for half a day, watching the storms roll in. Once this cleared though, we did manage to get out to enjoy the last bits of the sun on a truly glorious beach, followed by an evening with friends at a reggae bar on the beach. I even got up and played the cajon and bongo with the local musicians. 

Sadly our time in port Barton was short lived. Conscious of our limited amount of time in this country, and 7108 islands (ish) to explore, we kept heading north to el nido. 
Another ‘must see’ in Palawan, El Nido is famous for its huge limestone cliffs and islands, long stretches of beaches, and wonderful sunsets. Again, the weather wasn’t really on our side; half of el nido was flooded resulting in the below average drainage systems overflowing down many streets. Fortubately  our hostel stayed dry.   The centre of el nido is a bit shit at the best of times but this just took the biscuit really! Upon arrival and a quick walk around the town we realised the best stuff to see here was on the outskirts of the town. Our first day consisted of heading to Las Cabanas, a small beach just outside the town. We timed it just right, catching our first glimpse of sun since getting to the Philippines, as well as getting there for low tide enabling us to walk to another island just off the coast! The islands here are all limestone formations so offer some stunning sights, covered with vibrant flora and fauna. 


After checking out a local hostel a bunch of our fellow Palawan buddies we’re staying it, we got to experience the change in El Nido at night. Let’s just say it’s rather lively. 

The following day we were once again blessed with good weather, so took a chance, hired a bike, and rode out of the town to Nacpan. We’d been told this beach was worth the drive, although at the current time the road was rather challenging to ride. People weren’t lying; the yet again non-existent road was more akin to a muddy bog that anything that resembled a road. Fortunately this isn’t the first time we’ve dealt with such conditions on a bike, so eventually made it through the 4-5km of thick mud riding (not always with Kelly on the back of the bike though). It was so worth it though! Nacpan is only just really getting popular with tourists. Adding low season to the mix resulted in us effectively having the beach to ourselves. Quite uniquely, nacpan has a dual beach on either side of a bay, tipped with a small collection of islands crying out for a paradise island development (someone’s already bought the land, I checked). After a couple of hours chilling (and surprisingly, burning) we got back on the bike, took on the mud again, and rode around the surrounding areas. 

Now I know I’ve said this before, but the Philippines may actually have jumped to the top of the list for beautiful landscapes. Honestly, Kelly and I had no idea it would be like this! Because so much of the land is effectively undeveloped, and the volcanic soil is so rich with nutrients, everything is so green and so beautiful! Driving for probably an hour involved multiple stops for photos, because just like New Zealand, every corner resulted in another stunning view. This experience has continued across Palawan and I suspect the rest of this country. To finish off the day, we parked up at Lio beach, a resort currently in development. Whilst the shops and suites didn’t have much going on, this beach was something else. We were the only people there, it was immaculately clean, and felt like we’d somehow discovered an untouched spot of paradise. When this resort is finished it’ll clearly be stunning, and probably outrageously expensive, but definitely one to keep an eye on. Our day of beach hopping made us both realise coming to the Philippines was definitely the right decision, even with the bad weather most of the time. 

Next on our list in Palawan was Coron, one of the top dive sites in the world. There are about a dozen WWII Japanese boats sunk around the island, resulting in some very unique and spooky dives. Kel spent a day underwater exploring three of the wrecks. From what I gather, it was some of the most chalennging yet rewarding dives she’s ever done. Sadly no photos (she was paying more attention on not touching that wreck) but here’s a glimpse of someone else’s experience. 

We spent a few days in coron and had to finish it off with island hopping! Whilst El Nido is more famous for the tours, Coron are just as good, with more shipwrecks you can freedive to, and it’s Cheaper! Setting off at 830am, we immediately entered the world of intense rain. On the open seas this was somewhat daunting, especially as we had a whole day on the sea! Our first stop was a lagoon surrounded by sharp limestone cliff edges. We had to swim through an underwater entrance to get into it, while the now torrential rain continued to batter us, but that just added to the experience. Just to add a bit more fun, this lagoon had a unique thermocline experience (layers of water at different temperatures) and once the sun eventually came out, the water was crystal clear! What a great start to the day! 


Over the rest of the day, we stopped at a small island and reef; a sunken ship, a tiny beach surrounded by cliffs for a spot of lunch, another even more impressive lagoon and a marine park for some seriously impressive corals! This day turned out to be so much better than I could have hoped for. We were fortunate to have some great people on the boat with us too so had a good day all round. 

Our final stop in (sort of) Palawan was boracay. Known for its long and beautifully white beaches boracay has become very famous over the past few years, also now meaning it’s super touristy. It’s become rather well known as a party island like Ibiza too, just without the super clubs. Regardless we agreed to take a punt on it to see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Boracay though was how we’d get there!

Somehow, this was cheaper than an airasia flight, which would have involved a huge amount of transport back to a main airport. Instead we flew this 12 seater plane for less than an hour, cruising at a low altitude so we could see all the islands. I never want to travel anywhere else in a different way now. 

When we arrived at Boracay we realised rather quickly the damage that tourism has done to this Island. The general infrastructure across the whole island just can’t cope, pure and simple. We were greeted by rains (of course we were), resulting in floods down many roads, and unfortunately resulting in overflowing drains around our hostel too. Lovely! For the next 4 days the rains barely ceased, and we only had a glimpse of blue skies for a few hours on our last full day. Fortunately though, we’d booked ourselves into stay at Mad Monkey in Boracay, meaning we were Guaranteed to have a good time with a great bunch of people. We’ve stayed at all the mad monkeys in Cambodia and without a doubt they are the best hostels I’ve stayed hands down, so more out of loyalty we stayed here than anything. This hostel follows the same suit as the others; good food, great Staff, a great party atmosphere with loads of social activities, a pool, and top quality dorms. Really we couldn’t ask for much more from this place (apart from great weather). The only caveat to all this, is mad monkey is definitely a PARTY hostel! The day we arrived most guests were on the twice weekly booze cruise. When they returned, the pool turned into what can only be described as an episode of love island (I assume this is what it’s like), with the cliche drunk British lads behaving like total tools. This was easily avoidable however, as we ventured away from the hostel to explore. This was our game plan the next few days; get out and explore ourselves after all, we couldn’t come all this way just to stay in the hostel! 

Our first full day in Boracay we set out to discover the famous white beach, stretching almost the whole length of the island. Straight away again, the tourism trap commeth! Lookie-lookie men (and children sadly) almost immediately surrounded us selling us everything from boat rides to outrageously priced kite surfing lessons, fake pearls to ray bans. The beach is covered in rubbish and wash up from the sea, as well as thousands of tourists all seeming to be attempting to snorkel in water that’s churned up from the swell. We later found out Boracay is a hugely popular destination for tourists from Taiwan and South Korea all year around, and more recently tourists have come in low season after a bargain, however the local economy has reacted to this and effectively kept prices at high season levels all year round. Finally, the resorts all erect horrific windbreakers in front of their beachfront entrances. 

I can say now if that was low season, I dread to think what high is like. Sadly, it was chokingly busy: You couldn’t really escape the carnage of white beach without local knowledge! On our final day, we took a trike to a beach further north and far away from the tourism strips, resulting in a great day out not surrounded by hundreds of clueless tourists. Again, this was short lived though, as the mother of all storms set in just hours after we found solitude, resulting in us taking refuge again, back in the confines of our hostel. 

Unfortunately, Boracay was a real let down for me. If it wasn’t for Mad Monkey I think it’s safe to say we’d have been rather miserable. Regardless of the weather, for me what was really sad was the evident destruction over investment in tourism can do to a place. A few years back, Boracay was voted one of the top islands in the world to visit. Now, there’s no escape from the carnage that comes from hyper-investment, literally shit running down the streets, a beach in a total state and very apparent damage to the ecology of the area thanks to humans (yet again; plastic and people are ruining everything). 

So after two weeks of rain, we’ve cut our losses and venture further south towards Cebu. The weather is consistently better down here. Let’s just hope it plays ball! 

Koh Tao- Into the flood

We’ve both been absolutely gagging for some beach bum vibes for a sustained period of time, and where better to achieve this than on Thailand’s picturesque south islands! Our first island experience began with Koh Tao, an island known primarily for its diving (especially for learning to dive), but also for being generally awesome. We were both so excited to be leaving crazy cities like Bangkok and living the chilled island life for a month. Sadly, the start of island life didn’t quite go to plan..
We’ve been really quite lucky over the past 100 or so days with weather. Yes, we’ve had a couple of overcast days (sometimes a blessing in disguise), and been caught in a couple of showers, but nothing I’d classify as severe or that requires a drastic change in our plans or routes. However, throughout our whole journey we’ve heard so many stories about freak weather in different countries. In Varanasi for example, the Ganges flooded higher than they ever have before, resulting in the Ganga Artii ceremony being held on a nearby roof for the first time ever, and in Phong Nha, the whole town was under water just days before we arrived. On this trip, I’ve really started to gain a much greater appreciation for climate and its volatility. In England, when 3mm of snow falls, everything goes to shit. On the other side of the world, when weather is bad, it gets REALLY bad!, and everyone just gets on with it. This storm though was an unrelenting monster!

We arrived on Koh Tao on the bumpiest and most vomit inducing boat trip I’ve ever experienced (we later found out the boat we were on is nicknamed the vomit comet by locals, as 60% of passengers spend the majority of the journey spewing constantly regardless of the waves). We have basically taken to ignoring weather forecasts in south east Asia as they have pretty much said rain would occur every day, even when there’s not a cloud in the sky. For this reason, we weren’t phased by the reports of a week of rain.Unbeknownst to us though, we had arrived on this beautiful island in the middle of the sea at the start of a freak storm that lasted days. I’ve seen reports from some sources that suggest it was actually a typhoon, and others suggesting it was the tail end of a monster storm that initially hit China. Either way, it was the worst storm to hit Koh Tao for over thirty years according to locals, and totally freak for this time of the year. The whole of Thailand was clobbered by this storm, but we were in the heart of it. Koh Tao, Phagnan and Samui were all in the centre and were the worst hit; apparently Samui even worse than us! I’ve genuinely never seen anything like it. 

On our third day on the island we moved to stay at the dive resort Where Kelly was doing her open water course, big blue diving. We were rather lucky to arrive just before the big rains really started, but even by that point the streets around the dive centre was underwater (waist deep). On day two of the storm, we couldn’t really leave big blue. The road to the main town was totally underwater, with all storm drains and sewers completely full and overloading the streets, the bridge by us had collapsed, the beach was a total mess due to intense flooding washing everything away from scooters to statues of the King. First, the power went off, then food rations came into place(the kitchen ran out of everything and couldn’t get supplies in), then water ran out, then beer! Because all diving was off due to the storm, 150 slightly drunk and hungry divers were stuck with no food and nothing to do. At this point we decided to brave it and get supplies! This walk should have literally taken 5 minutes, but the flooding was so severe it took more like 30. After two days of non stop rain, the majority of this end of Koh Tao was Still at least knee deep under water, with stupidly strong currents making even a simple task like walking a dangerous and challenging task!

The island genuinely looked like a war zone, with shops and restaurants totally destroyed, buildings and walkways literally washing away. As more and more restaurants and shops either flooded or ran out of produce, you could feel a slight sense of panic across many peoples faces. See for yourself!

The rain continued for another 3 days, but not quite as severe. Kelly was actually able to get out and do her 3 days of diving, although from what she said, the conditions were sadly pretty dire! On the plus side, diving anywhere else will seem like paradise now! Over those 3 days she fully embraced her inner mermaid, going out 4 times on her open water course. She loved it so much she also ended up doing her advanced qualification, which included a 30m dive, a shipwreck dive and a night dive. Over the 4 and a half days of diving, she clocked up 9 dives to various sites around the island. I suspect this will be something she does for life now, and definitely a lot more on this year abroad! I also kept myself occupied by helping with the island clean up, and giving Crossfit a go, which i actually really enjoyed, but damn it’s a hardcore workout! Thanks to KTC for getting me up to speed and back to lifting heavy things again!


Now, time for a rant…

I’m writing this as I’m watching an episode of black mirror I think. Oh wait, this shit is REAL???? Yes, I’m obviously talking about Trump being elected….
The reason I’m even mentioning this, is because of his stance on climate makes my blood boil (to be honest his stance on everything does). Being stuck in freak weather like this really made me think about the impact climate change is having. I’ve always had an interest in sustainability and climate change and have been lucky to work with the Global Sustainability Institute at my university on a bunch of projects so have been fortunate to see some cutting edge research on the matter. I’ve also spent a fair amount of long bus rides watching and reading more about the impact were having. But Koh Tao was the first time I ever actually experienced a literal shit storm, and seen the massive impact climate change can have on societies. I am at a total loss that anyone can be a climate change denier, it’s bloody obvious we are destroying this planet, and fast.
AND THE USA HAS JUST ELECTED SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T BELIEVE IN THE IMPACT TO THE MOST POWERFUL JOB IN THE WORLD!!!!
I mean seriously, this is actually Black Mirror isn’t it?
I’ve found this whole election both fascinating and terrifying. Terrifying for so many reasons though. Like so many people, I’m at a complete loss as to how such a total fuckwit like Trump can become president, but add on top of that the scandals with Russia, basically every thing he’s ever put on Twitter, every other scandal that comes out during this time, and the fact Clinton actually got more votes and still didn’t win makes me question the the legitimacy of the whole electoral system in the states (as well as the sanity of huge waves of the USA populous). The real problem for me though, is how widespread the impact of Trump is going to be. Trump has basically said he wants to ramp up the use of fossil fuels to make America great again, but this will impact us all, for a country that’s already one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse emissions and generally cocking up our planet, this is not cool! I honestly have no idea how anyone can actually deny climate change…


Seeing all this first hand is honestly terrifying, and unless we do something to combat this change, you’ll all be experiencing similar at some point I’m sure. I would encourage you to watch two documentaries, Al Gores “an inconvenient truth” and Leo De Caprio’s “before the flood” that both do fantastic jobs at showing the real world impacts we are enduring. Being stuck on Koh Tao during such a terrifying storm really bought climate change to life for me, and it’s something I’ll never forget. We all need to do our bits to fight our self inflicted impending doom, before we see some truly disastrous changes happening to our world. I just hope Trump can’t fuck things up too much for us all..

ANYWAY…

So I’ve pretty much described the 5 or so days of Armageddon that we experienced, but after the storm, it was like being on a different island. It was quite incredible seeing how quickly the island recovered to be honest. Within a few days the water had nearly all subsided, the countless rubbish pick up missions had tidied the areas, and building had started to repair the really badly damaged areas. When the sun came out, I honestly could have cried, and when the beaches were good enough to lie on, I was utterly overjoyed. We were lucky to catch up with Matt and Charlie (who shall be known forevermore as the beautiful people), a couple we met in Varanasi who are both dive masters thanks to Big Blue, so enjoyed the good weather with them on a couple of days and evenings, but we basically reverted back to being proper sun worshippers for the next five days, driving around the island hunting out the best beaches (and sneaking into private resorts to borrow a bit of VIP experience for a day). When Koh Tao isn’t being clobbered by a typhoon, it really is bloody beautiful! I can definitely see why it’s such a popular place to visit, even if you take diving out of the equation. Sadly for health reasons I’ve been told I can NEVER dive, but I still manage to have a great time. We ended up staying for ten days in the end, the longest we’ve stayed anywhere on this trip, and after ten days we really didn’t want to leave! Big thanks to the Big Blue staff for being awesome, and especially to Alex for being a superb diving instructor, also thanks to Gaz at KTC for introducing me to Crossfit, something I’ve wanted to try for ages.