You could only claimed to have visited Phuket after you’d soaked yourself in the beautiful sea waters there. I can certainly testify for that.
After two days of touring, the skins around my body are itching to get into the sea waters. How one could resist? The crystalline waters, the sandy white beaches, the sounds of the waves… that’s my perfect paradise.
It’s really popular among tourists to go for a tour to Phi Phi island; I had decided on something different. I had spent some time studying Phi Phi tour itineraries when I was there and find them quite rushed with about seven spots to visit. Preferring a relaxed trip, I had decided to go for a tour to Khai islands.
The Khai islands are a group of three islands situated at the north of Phi Phi island, namely Khai Nok, Khai Nui and Khai Nai. Most Phi Phi tours would include a visit to Khai Nok: and that’s where we had spent most of our day.
The thing I like about tours in Phuket is that they really made sure that the tour is a pleasant experience: from comfortable vans to pick you up from your hotel to ultra friendly, patient and helpful tour guides.
I really enjoyed the sights along the way to the port: one that I find most interesting is when a line of school buses passed us by. The buses appeared to be from the same school and each bus was packed with smiling faces of school children. As I noticed the long line of buses we had passed by, my curiosity was piqued and I counted them as they passed through – the last, twelfth bus passed by as we reached the port, estimating about hundreds of students in them.
I wonder where they are going? Are they going on a school trip? Or are they actually rural kids being fetched to town so that they could go to school?
After collecting our snorkeling gear, we were soon departed to the islands via speedboat. It was raining as the boat charged through the slightly rough seas. The barrage of rain drops invaded the interiors, making us wet well before we reach the shores of Khai Nok.
Interestingly, the rain slowly came to a stop as the boat approached the island. I took that as a blessing. The boat was anchored down and the passengers finally set foot on the fine white sands. The beauty of the place captivates me instantly: completely exceeded my expectations in a way that no photograph could do any justice to capture that magical sensation.
On the beach, a more livelier view was in front of me: huge wooden huts of restaurants and shops that supports the livelihood of locals and rows of beach chairs and parasols that complements the whiteness of the sands beneath it with vibrant colours.
We were one of the first who had reached the island, and that gave me the impression that we had the such a secluded paradise all to ourselves. Everyone around us were excited as well, most of them gleefully got their feet in shallow waters almost immediately after they had reached here. Some of them, including myself, couldn’t help in whipping out our cameras and snapping away.
Shirts off and it’s time to get myself soaked in the waters that I’d been longing for! As I wade myself into the waters, I was instantly welcomed by a large school of fishes coming towards me. These fishes are accustomed to having visitors and are actually checking whether we had any bread to feed them. They are really adorable when they swam and circled around me and swiftly keeping a distance when I tried to touch them.
Going a bit deeper in the waters with my snorkeling gear gave a more disheartening view: all I could see is a graveyard of corals. The seabeds are barren with the remains of corals looking like jagged fossils. I feel sad when I looked such a tragedy and wondered whether is there ways for us to protect and preserve the natural treasures that has been bestowed upon us.
I was still consoled to see the still vibrant marine life and fishes that still treat the place as home. This is just the perfect place to try underwater photography for the first time. And boy was it tough!
The first and most obvious challenge is that the shutter button on the camera is slightly harder to press using an underwater case. In terms of skills, underwater photography is essentially dealing with fishes that are constantly swimming around and the lighting conditions aren’t that ideal than when we were on land: both of which adds to the difficulty of taking good, stable shots.
The most subtle and most important challenge I had faced in underwater photography is in controlling and orienting my body movements in the water. There’s just a lot of factors that comes into play here: my physical fitness, my buoyancy and the surrounding waves. It’s really an art to keep yourself still in one place while patiently waiting for that Kodak moment to arrive.
In addition to that, I immediately learned a lesson as soon as I see this right next to me when I’m busy taking shots:
A jelly fish of the size of a volley ball slowly hovers right next to me! This scared the hell out of me knowing that getting stung by them is no laughing matter. Keeping my composure and calm, I slowly keeping a distance with the jellyfish until it hovers away gracefully away from me.
Lesson learned? Always keep an eye on your surroundings when you are in touch with nature, I’m at the mercy of any creature and the landscape that surrounds me.
When I’m not soaking myself in the sea, I find myself having lunch with unlimited supply of Pepsi, walking along the coast and simply laying down on the chair and enjoying the view in relaxation.
I could go on forever about my love for beaches and the sea: I wrap this up with a brief mention about Kata beach.
It is a really different experience between the beach along the coast of Phuket itself (e.g. Kata, Karon, Patong, Surin etc.) and the ones on the island. Key difference: Tourist. Lots of them, in fact. Kata beach is really a lively place from noon till the afternoon, with tourists all round the world enjoyed themselves with activities and relaxation. And with the waves are higher in times of monsoon, there are lots of surfers that braves the waves and glides skillfully at each coming wave.
In the evenings, Kata beach is more peaceful with fewer people around and still have a lot of liveliness and soul. Instead of seeing people laying down to get a tan when the sun is high up, I saw people jogging along the shore and another group of people playing football. There were also families who were enjoying time with their kids playing, giggling and shouted in excitement for any new discoveries they had encountered.
As for me, I just sat there and enjoyed the sea breeze.
Note: The image gallery below is a mixture of photos between those taken at the Khai islands and Kata beach, arranged in a thematic order. Hence the tone may seems a bit out-of-place due to the weather when the photographs were taken