Heading to Thailand this summer? Avoid party islands Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan and head instead to Koh Tao, their chilled out white-sand-and-jungle little brother. This tiny weeny (21 sq km) but bountiful island is surrounded by the crystal clear waters of the Gulf, a diving haven stuffed with bright coral and undulating manta rays. Try some gentle snorkelling or get serious and scuba dive with Big Blue Diving.
A backpacker favourite, the cheerful gang at Big Blue offer everything from taster dives to month-long internships on their well-equipped boats. I took a three day PADI course with them and spent three intense but incredible days learning to breathe in the deep, spotting the bizarre and the beautiful under the waves. Flo already has 100 dives under her belt, so she was whisked off to do more exciting (read: terrifying) things, pretending to be James Bond and heading down to 40ft to explore wrecks whilst I practised gliding through the water, avoiding sea slugs and backflips off the boat.
As well as a plethora of brightly coloured fish, lucky divers sometimes spot turtles and even elusive, stardusted white sharks in Koh Tao’s crystalline waters. In 2013 Big Blue launched freediving courses too – perfect if you’re a diving junkie keen for a new challenge.
Accommodation at Big Blue is basic and clean – a pampered stay is really not what you’re here for. Five or six steps will deposit you on their chunk of white sandy beach, where you can eat, drink and be merry in their chilled-out bar under the palm trees. Perfect for necking a well-earned post-dive beer and boasting about all the sharks you had to fight down in the depths.