Finding Nemo’s cousin

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No clownfish in Ko Tao, but there are pink anemone fish, which are just as cute.

(Quick disclaimer: I don’t have an underwater camera, so all the fishy photos are from the excellent My Fish Gallery)

I’m going to work through this week backwards, because that way I can get the miserable stuff out of the way first. I was supposed to be spending 6 days diving in Thailand. Unfortunately what started out as just a bit of water in one ear worsened into a full blown infection in both, so I had to give up my last two days. That may have been a good thing since the monsoon was catching up with us which made my last dives extremely choppy, but given that it was raining too much to do anything else I spent most of those days sleeping and sulking. Being almost completely deaf and in pain doesn’t make me overly sociable either…

Anyhoo, seeing as the rest of the week was like this I can’t really complain that much

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General order of the day: Get up for the sunrise, stroll along the beach, go diving for a couple of hours, stroll back, have a nice long nap, get up for dinner (really good pizzas here), have a drink with dive buddies, sleep, repeat.  Not a bad way to live.

I was diving with Big Blue, who were really excellent and rather brilliantly give free accommodation for every day you have a tank on your back. Can’t comment on their teaching since I was already qualified and only fun diving, but other learners I met said they were really good. All equipment is provided (but you get a discount if you have your own), but I did decide to buy some neoprene socks because I was getting nasty blisters from the fins. Annoyingly I bought them the day before I stopped diving, so I’ve only worn them once. Just means I’ll have to dive somewhere else I guess. What a hardship.

So! I guess you want to know what I saw? Take a deep breath and join in then (apologies to add anyone who isn’t remotely interested in fish. Or musicals. You can stop reading now)

Big fish and box fish
And bubble strewn corals
Rude trigger fish
Who don’t have any morals
Rays that are covered in bright turquoise rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Shrimp that dance tangos
And blue Christmas pine trees
Everything down here
Is food for the Chinese
Blog posts that make sure that everyone sings
These are a few of my favourite things

When the seas rock
When my ears block
When the monsoons pour
I simply start bragging about things I’ve seen
Until I can dive some more!

(Yeah, sorry. Got a bit carried away there)

I’m not pretending to be the most widely experienced diver, but this is the best diving I’ve seen. Of course that’s not difficult having learned to dive in the UK, and there were people saying that the Red Sea or the Barrier Reef are better, but given that I’m comparing it to England (definitely no coral), Tenerife (no coral as far as I remember) and Mexico (where I was monitoring a dying coral reef), bimbling about on a healthy reef is a bit special to me.

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This is my favourite. Yes, it’s entirely normal to have a favourite coral. This is called bubble coral, for obvious reasons, and it’s very tempting to ignore all diving common sense and try to pop the bubbles.

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White eyed Moray eels. Saw quite a few of these on the night dive. Oh yeah, I did my first night dive on this trip! It wasn’t the most exciting dive ever, not a lot to see that we didn’t see on the day dives, but if you ever get bored you can hide your torch and play with the bioluminescence. Ooooooooh. Sparkly.

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Juvenile harlequin sweetlips. Apparently these are pretty rare, but I saw two, because I’M JUST THAT SPECIAL. The adults aren’t nearly as funky.

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Black spotted porcupine fish. I don’t have much to say about this guy, except how can a fish the size of your average terrier still be so darn cute?

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Wart slugs and nudibranches. I got extremely excited on my first dive to see what I thought was my first nudibranch. I was told later it was a varicose wart slug, unfortunately named and common as muck. Whatever, I still thought it was cool. We saw several real nudies too, but they are generally speaking teeny tiny and require the super human eyesight of a dive leader to spot (and in case you’re wondering the difference is that nudibranches have external lungs)

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These are Durban dancing shrimp. I’m not sure why. I never saw them dance. Nor did I see the ghost boxer shrimp box.

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Blue spotted ribbon tailed ray

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Chevron barracuda.

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Baby box fish. Possibly most adorable fish ever.

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Banned sea snake. Very very poisonous, but thankfully with a very very small mouth, so not really going to bother divers unless you point your fingers at it.

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Titan trigger fish. I may have been a bit unfair about having no morals (is there anything that rhymes with corals?), but they are known to get very aggressive if you swim into their territory. The small ‘trigger’ fin pops up when they get angry and you should swim down and away unless you fancy meeting their big teeth. The diver in the photo is probably missing some chunks by now.

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Christmas tree worms!  I love these, much to the amusement of the experienced Ko Tao divers as you see about a thousand on every dive. The worms live in the rocks and corals and poke out cone shaped spirals of fronds which they then snatch away if you get too close. So of course I spent ages waving at them and giggling as they all disappeared.

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WHALE SHARK!  Well yeah, obviously left the best till last. If you know me on Facebook you’ve already seen me getting stupidly excited about this. I was extremely lucky on this dive as it wasn’t seen for the rest of the week (so no, I don’t regret pushing my abused ears at all). In the Philippines they can supposedly get to 12 metres, but ours was a mere tiddler at 4. We first saw it right at the beginning of the dive, and as they’re known to swim in figure 8’s we could just sit in the same spot for the whole dive and wait for her to come back to us again and again. We must have had about an hour watching her. I don’t think I can get better than this.

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