The scene? My second snorkelling experience ever, and this took place on a day trip from Koh Tao in Thailand.
The first snorkelling trip, in Koh Phi Phi, had actually gone rather well, and I managed not to do anything that left me too emotionally scarred.
As you might have guessed already, this was not the case for my Koh Tao trip.
I had booked this day trip in haste, so I didn’t really know what the itinerary held in store for us. All I knew was that we had a full day of sun, sea and snorkelling ahead.
|Ours was one of the many boat tours leaving that morning.|
Our boat was packed full of daytrippers, and it took off, taking us past beautiful stretches of coastline. We stopped at certain vantage points, snapping away with our cameras. After about 45 minutes of this, we finally stopped at our first snorkel site.
The water was choppier than usual, but there was nothing unusual about this little bay. In fact, it was just as stunning as every other place we had been to so far.
I took out my sun lotion that I had procured on the island, which was, I was told, water-resistant, ensuring that my pasty Londonified skin would not get incinerated. Sunscreen applied, I grabbed a snorkel and mask and headed to the back of the boat.
There were two ladders leading off the back of the boat into the water and, for some reason, I was one of the first people going in. The rest of the daytrippers waited their turn to go down the ladders.
In full view of all, I started climbing down … and slipped. (Strike one, sun lotion, strike one.) Dangling like some crazily uncoordinated person by only one arm on the ladder, my muscles gave out, and, with a loud splash, I did a spectacular side-flop into the water below.
Unfortunately, I did not drown at that moment, and I surfaced to the sounds of gleeful laughter. Great start.
Others soon joined, all of them carrying out the act of getting down a ladder like normal human beings.
As we were bobbing in the water, the Thai boat driver pointed down to the water and shouted, “Shahk, shahk!“
My arm throbbing and having just recently faced all-too-public humiliation, I didn’t comprehend what the boat driver could be on about. Eager to hide away, I pushed my head into the water, mask-first.
Now, I hate exaggerating, but, below me, among the corals and other creatures of the sea floor, was an impossibly massive shark.
Cue hyperventiliation, getting water in my mask and a string of expletives. I grew up in South Africa, where being in the water at the same time as a shark is a really terrible idea. Yet here I was, in the water with nothing between me and the shark in question.
The thoughts raced through my head, accompanied by the theme song from Jaws: I’m alone, in Thailand, and I’m about to lose one of my limbs. I need my stupid, disloyal limbs.
Thankfully, a fellow daytripper, someone way, way cooler than I could ever be, obviously noticed the panicked look on my face, and told me that the sharks were blacktip reef sharks, and were, mostly, completely uninterested in eating humans.
I mumbled my thanks and, remembering to reassure myself that the diving mask made everything appear way bigger than it actually is, took another look below.
The initial panic subsiding, I felt the fear melt away as I watched the sharks and fish far below. The sharks moved with such grace and against such a colourful backdrop of coral and marine plants – I couldn’t help but admire these creatures and the environment in which they lived. The next 30 minutes flew by, and I don’t think I looked above the water the entire time.
Too soon, we climbed back up the ladders. Wisely, I chose to climb up last, just in case my body would betray me once more.
The rest of the day trip passed without further mishaps, and, despite hoping that I’d never, ever see any of these people, the witnesses to my humiliation, again, I felt satisfied that I had managed to redeem what turned out to be a memorable snorkeling (mis)adventure.
Later, strike two from the sun lotion revealed itself. Words have different meanings in different places; in Thailand, ‘water-resistant’ is really its opposite, especially if you’re in the water all day and have applied said lotion generously. I walked around in Koh Tao with an impressive shade of angry red – but only on one side of my body.
|Gorgeous Koh Tao.|
*** This post is my entry into a competition to win an awesome diving holiday to Malta with lowcostholidays. Root for me so that I can embarrass myself in the water yet again (I promise to share the results here). ***