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Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is a small island off the West coast of Thailand.
This is where Paul and I chose to have a ‘two week’ holiday, as we were beginning to feel knackered and run down. This travelling malarkey can be quite tiring, moving location every three days and never unpacking your bag.
Koh Lanta was the perfect place to re-charge our batteries and relax.

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We chose this island as it is one of the quieter ones, and it offered everything we wanted to do – SCUBA diving,  beaches, yoga,  good food, kayaking, and all within easy reach.
Koh Lanta proved to be a very laid back place, nothing is rushed and there is no pressure. Just what we needed.

We had some yoga sessions booked in the mornings, such a great way to start the day. Paul was surprised at how tough yoga was (I think he just thought it was a stretch session) – wow we were worked hard! Our teacher was great, and we really benefitted from it – we miss exercise alot so it has kicked started mini workouts in the morning for us.

We visited many of the sandy beaches Lanta had to offer, and the temperature of the sea was amazingly warm – just like getting into a bath!

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The ocean was a beautiful turquoise, and surprisingly shallow for quite a way out. At low tide some beaches were very rocky, and on closer inspection you realise the rock is in fact dead coral. We wondered whether the coral had died because of its exposure at low tide, or if the warm sea temperatures had affected it.

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The views of the beaches we visited were picture perfect, but what the photos don’t show was the litter which was hidden away in the undergrowth. Not every beach was like that however, as a local group organise beach cleans every Sunday which is a brilliant incentive to become more aware of the impact of litter on the beaches and in the sea. Unfortunately we couldn’t get involved with this as we were diving that day.

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I had an incident with a jelly fish whilst snorkeling – I was happily in my own world watching the fish underneath me when I felt a sting on my back (similar to a wasp sting). I surfaced to find a large brown jelly fish facing me. I freaked out! I started splashing towards the shore shouting at Paul I’d been stung. I do dislike them – they are beautiful and fascinating creatures but they do have a tendency of creeping up on you!

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Anyway, I got out of the water and flapped around a bit, but all you could see was a small red patch on my back. I felt fine, and didn’t have any issues (thankfully not needing Paul’s offer on urinating on me, how kind).

More water based activities included kayaking around a protected mangrove forest (trees whose roots are submerged in water), which was really beautiful.

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The mangroves were very healthy, and the animal life plentiful which we were happy to see. We saw many kingfishers, including this beauty I managed to snap before he flew off.

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Also many fiddler crabs, all sporting an array of colours.

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The most fascinating animal we came across are these fish (Paul thinks mud skippers or guppies).
They would jump out of the water onto the land, and walk along using their fins. Fascinating fish!

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Kayaking was a good workout, and we were soon sweating buckets even though we had set off early in the morning. It just gets so hot out here, you really can’t be out and about past 11am!

Another morning we left early to tackle the National Park. After a pleasant scooter drive along the coast, and past a couple of cheeky Macaques at the side of the road, we were the first to arrive at the park.

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The forest walk was enjoyable, however a little quiet on the animal front which is not surprising really – you’re more likely to find the majority of wildlife far from people. We did spot a couple of large black squirrels dashing through the canopy, however it was the lizards who were most numerous. We hadn’t seen this type before – we saw them ‘flying’ from tree to tree. We managed to creep up to one (as they were quite nervous) and saw the side of it’s abdomen had skin flaps which quickly flattened to the side of it’s body. One we saw was even in the middle of some type of display, as you can see in the picture below.

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So, after some Bill Oddie style lizard spotting, we headed to the National Park’s beach, which also has an old lighthouse looking out over the ocean.
The beach was like a postcard, and the ocean a much needed cool off after the sweaty forest walk.

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On our way back we found a quiet lane so i could have a go driving the scooter. I was quite nervous! I have to admit, Paul’s laughter was warranted – i must have looked hilarious! Driving about 5mph and shrieking every few minutes! I did get the hang of it, and gradually got my speed up. However, as is usually the case i got over-confident and nearly ploughed into a tree so we stopped my first lesson there!

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We also offered our help to the local animal rescue and rehoming centre. We spent two afternoons assisting the vet with worming the cats and dogs. The cats are ‘free range’ here so I would catch one, Paul would note down the name and the weight, and hold the cat whilst I popped a pill down it’s throat – oh we made many friends that day!!!
We also walked the dogs which was lovely – they were all very well behaved but surprisingly afraid of the sea!

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I have left our best and most favourite activity to last – diving! It felt SO good to be back underwater!

Firstly i have to mention the fact that it turned out the two bosses of the dive centre knew Andover very well – one used to live in Salisbury and the other in Tidworth! Such a small world! They were both surprised we were from Andover because we were ‘normal’. Classic!

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We dived for three days, two dives per day. The wealth of coral and marine life was just awesome. As always, i’m in awe of the beauty of what is under the ocean. The corals were huge, colourful, and surrounded by so much vibrant life.

We saw huge shoals of yellow finned snapper and barracuda, so many pufferfish and box fish, damsel fish and angel fish just to name a few! I also saw my first trumpet and cornet fish, which are very long and thin, with huge eyes. Such an odd shape which makes them all the more fascinating.
Anemone fish (these are your ‘Nemo’ fish) are well known for being very protective of their anemone home. I accidentally upset one by getting too close to his home whilst watching a half buried fish on the sea bed, he came up to me and chased me off. Then to make his day even worse Paul came over (not realising there was an annoyed anemone fish in the vicinity) and the little guy launched straight onto Paul’s regulator mouthpiece and bit it! The look of surprise on Paul’s face was comedy genius!
You’d be surprised how many fish are always intrigued by your presence whilst diving. Damsel fish like to follow you quite closely, maybe sometimes attempting a cheeky nibble.

I unknowingly had a batfish follow me quite closely. I also had a staring competition with a cornet fish who spent a good 15 minutes facing me head on. I feel he was trying to steal the limelight from one of our most memorable fishes we have seen to date, who was chilling on the seabed right behind him. A two metre leopard shark. We were fortunate enough to see four individuals, and wow they’re absolutely stunning. These sharks are the largest egg bearing fish, and are classified as endangered (like so many of the world’s shark species). Their tails are incredibly long, and they have spots covering their body, hence the name. We watched from a polite distance, not wanting to stress and scare them.

What a privilege to view all these beautiful animals in their ocean. It really brings it home how diverse this planet is, and how so many of these animals and their environments are in immediate danger. In the news recently you may have seen a piece regarding the Great Barrier Reef and coral bleaching? Basically, as the oceans’ temperatures are rising due to climate change, the corals are being damaged or being killed (i read 90% of the coral was affected on the Great Barrier Reef but that may vary depending on which report you read). Everything in the ocean is affected by warming sea temperatures, just like we are with the constant rising of our temperatures on land (during our time out here we have learned of draughts and water shortages in Thailand, and many locals have commented that the rain should have arrived weeks ago). We also heard that the UK has had snow recently – when was snow normal for the end of April?! All over the world we have experienced yet another ‘hottest year on record so far’.
We are witnessing or being told of a lot of changes during this trip, and it all points to climate change.

I know you all want to see the pictures of diving, however Paul wants to improve the colour quality of them so i will add them when they are ready!

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Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia