THE TALE OF A MERMAID
DIVING WITH CRYSTAL YACHTS
IN KOH LIPE
Advertorial by Kamila Delart
For more information about
‘Crystal Yacht Holidays’
I love the sea. The sound of waves breaking against primordial rocks, the emerald green water shimmering in the sun, the salty taste in my mouth… The ocean seems to exert such a pull on me; I sometimes wonder whether in another life, I used to be a mermaid. Living on the bottom of the sea, spending my days playing with colorful fish, taking care of my coral garden… To indulge in my sea- fairy fantasy, I got myself a diving license a few years back. But due to heavy sedimentation, the coral reefs around Langkawi have little appeal.
So when I learn that CRYSTAL YACHT HOLIDAYS, a company specialized in sea adventures, just launched a diving trip to Tarutao National Marine Park, I am among the very first guests embarking on this exciting voyage. Having previously experienced a dreamlike day cruise with CRYSTAL YACHT HOLIDAYS, I have quite high expectations. And I am not disappointed. The entire package is fine-tuned to perfection!
On the day of the trip, there is a van waiting in front of my house gate to bring me to Telaga Harbor. Rather than having to queue in a long line, waiting for my turn to deal with the immigration, everything is taken care of. So within a few minutes, I board the ferry. Escorted to my seat by a friendly Crystal Yacht Holidays associate, I am even offered a cup of strong aromatic coffee. How much more could one wish for at eight o’clock in the morning!
Only an hour later we reach Koh Lipe, one of the tiny idyllic islands in the Butang archipelago. Standing on a pontoon, the floating arrival platform, I look around and I am mesmerized by the view: sandy beach hemmed with palm trees and beautiful rock formations, traditional Thai long-tail boats adorned with colorful silk ribbons to keep away evil spirits … But what really takes my breath away is the crystal clear water! I can see all the way to the bottom. And to my astonishment, I notice corals, sea urchins and colorful fish twirling around… Right here – only 15 meters from the shore! I cannot even imagine what the view must be like once we reach the actual reef and dive deep into the ocean.
While others head first to the immigration office, our group immediately boards one of the dreamy long-tail boats loaded with diving equipment. With all the relevant details clarified upon booking, each of us receives fins and wetsuits in the correct size, so while our documents are being processed, we get dressed and put together our equipment, departing only a short while later.
With CRYSTAL YACHT HOLIDAYS known for their high standards, I am not surprised to learn that the local cooperation partner of their choice is SABYE DIVERS. Founded in 1998 by Canadian Barry Modler, the eco-friendly diving company provides state-of-the-art equipment from leading brands Scuba Pro and US Divers, and with the owner also being a certified equipment technician, regular maintenance is guaranteed. All employees are licensed Instructors, and groups are limited to 10 persons in order to ensure safety. Sounds promising! The best part? After exploring the Butang Archipelago for nearly 15 years, Barry knows the area by heart, and can choose among more than 50 spectacular dive sites based on weather condition, experience and interest of participating guests.
After a 50 minute boat ride we dock on the shore of the deserted island Koh Dong, put on our equipment, and Barry and another Instructor, walk us through refresher training. And then the long awaited moment comes, and we plunge into water.
Having confessed that it has been years since I dived the last time, Barry initially holds my hand. He reminds me to regularly equalize the pressure in my ears and calms me down as I briefly panic when some water enters my diving mask. His presence is so reassuring – I instantly relax, stop thinking about the technique and equipment, and look around…
The reef is covered with branchy Staghorn Coral, and the round Brain Coral with a surface elaborately grooved as if it was indeed keeping the ancient memory of the ocean. The Sea Whips, responding to the gentle motion of the water, engage in a gracious dance. And out of the blue we are surrounded by a shoal of Yellow Barracudas. There must be hundreds of them! What a spectacle…
When Barry indicates that it’s time to go slowly to the surface, I cannot believe how fast the 50 minutes passed. The pristine beach of Koh Dong with a backdrop of a lush green jungle calls for a leisurely siesta. We spread straw-mats in the sand, let the sunrays dry off our skin, and enjoy a lovely picnic. With Sabye Divers also running a restaurant, the creamy coconut curry with chicken and rice are delicious. And there are even home-made brownies for dessert.
It’s time for the next dive. The long-tail boat takes us to Hin Song, another tiny island surrounded by a spectacular reef. Leaving the boat with a backward roll, the hum of the motor along with joyful chatter and laughter instantly disappear. And there we are – enchanted by the silent blue magic of the underwater world. Submerging deeper and deeper, the golden rays of the sun gradually abate, until we reach the very bottom, 18 meters under the sea surface. With fins on our feet, we move in slow motion along the reef. Weightless and sleek. Just as one of the creatures around us…
There is a family of yellow and black striped Moorish Idols and a group of bright yellow Garibaldis floating around, playfully chasing each other, nibbling on plankton… On the left, from beyond a giant pink coral, emerges a beautiful Lion Fish, gracefully waving her veil-like fins, expecting to be admired. She is so stunning; it’s hard to look away. But I suddenly register a rapid movement behind my back. Turning around I see this huge, dangerous looking fish with black saddle-like markings and large spots over its back. Watching me…
I falter, holding my breath. Relaxing only once I notice the OK sign from Barry. As he later explains, it was a Leopard Shark – a species with a dietary preference of clams, crabs and shrimps. A minor detail as I find. I still feel like a hero!
Just before it’s time to surface, we discover underneath a flat coral the Yellow Box fish with black polka dots and lips pulled together as if he was about to kiss one of us. And just in case we were not entertained enough, here comes a Puffer Fish with a smile of a clown, and a balloon-like body covered in prickles. The whole experience is just mind-blowing.
Once back at Sabye Divers base in Koh Lipe, we wash and disinfect our equipment, have a proper shower, and meet in the beach restaurant. Savoring a juicy water melon, we flip through diving literature. Pointing in a fish atlas at the species we saw, we recall the amazing moments we experienced during the day.
The ferry back to Langkawi is about to depart, but looking at the pace with which my fellow divers are packing their belongings, I wouldn’t be surprised if we miss it. Not that I would blame them. It’s so much easier to leave this paradise knowing that I can return any time. The Tarutao National Marine Park boasts more than 350 fish species. And with 49 diving sites left to explore, there is no doubt that I will soon be dialing the phone number of CRYSTAL YACHT HOLIDAYS again.
For more information about
‘Crystal Yacht Holidays’