Jun 232013
 

Last month, Mike and I decided to do a weekend getaway in Diani, a town on the Kenyan coast, just south of Mombasa.  We didn’t take any days off, just left on a Friday evening as it’s a 1 hr flight from Nairobi to Mombasa.  It was low season so we didn’t have any problems booking hotels or flights.

I think if we were to do it again, we would probably take at least a day off to make it a 3 day weekend.  Friday night – Sunday is just too short for the travel logistics that are involved.  Fridays are the worst for traffic in Nairobi and even though we left at 5pm for the airport, we didn’t get there until 7:30pm.  We almost missed our flight!  We got there 30 min before take off and they let us through.  Whew!  The flight is quick but then to get to Diani it’s an hour and a half taxi ride — mostly it takes this long because you have to wait for the ferry.  We don’t arrive at the hotel until around 11pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner.  Luckily, the hotel had dinner waiting for us.  We stayed at Southern Palms Resort.  It’s a huge complex and it must get really crowded during busy season, but it was a bit cavernous while we were there during low season.  The pools are huge and winding all around but the rooms probably need a bit of updating.

Swim Up Bar

Swim Up Bar

I was fascinated by these yellow weaver birds who had made their nests in the waterways in between the hotel lobby and restaurant.  They would loudly chirp all day and weave their little nests.  There were so many of them!  Mike and I watched one weaver for a long time as it took down an old nest and then started a brand new nest from one long blade of grass.  It’s pretty incredible that the birds know how to build those with just their beaks and feet.  In order to get to the bottom of the nest, they would hang upside down and beat their wings to keep themselves up while weaving the nest.  I feel like I notice the birds a lot more here–partially because there’s just so many more here (nature!) and also they’re usually brightly colored or unusually patterned.

Amazing Yellow Weaver

Amazing Yellow Weaver

The first morning we got up really early and went diving with Diani Marine.  The first dive was a wreck dive that was sunk for diving and the other one was a reef dive.  Diani Marine was a good shop but definitely expensive.  I think compared to the diving we experienced in Indonesia, we are really spoiled!  The diving was good, but not great.  Hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to wake up at the crack of dawn after getting in so late the night before!  But pretty much everything closes on Sundays in Kenya, so Saturday was our only option.  After we got back to the hotel, it started pouring…ahh, low season.  But we played a mean game of ping pong. =)  Mike always has very low expectations of my hand-eye coordination skills (rightly so), but I think I impressed him and surprised myself with the ping pong skills.

The next day was a beautiful sunny day and we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves at the beach and pool.  Diani is known for its beautiful white sands.  The sands were definitely super soft, powdery, and white but I think during low season there is more seaweed washed in from the rains.  It’s still beautiful, nevertheless.  The only reason we didn’t spend more time out on the beach is because you tend to get harassed by “beach boy” selling boat rides and crafts.

Soft Seaweed Drifting

Soft Seaweed Drifting

White Sands

White Sands

All weekend, we kept seeing this mysterious set of blonde twins, dressed exactly the same, walking around the resort.  They were very distinct, with blunt cut platinum blonde hair, super pale, and very tall and skinny.  It was so bizarre!  We felt like we were in the twilight zone and the other hotel guests seemed to think the same too, since everyone would stare at them.  Turns out they were German and were shooting some sort of TV program at the hotel.  Wild.

Strange Twins...

Strange Twins…

We didn’t want to leave when the time came–just needed one more day!  Next time, when our parents come visit us in August, we will check out Watamu which is 2 hours north of Mombasa.  It will be closer to high season then, so we will see how it is up there.

Hypercolor Lizard

Hypercolor Lizard

 June 23, 2013  Posted by at 2:49 pm Attractions, Diani, Kenya Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Jul 202012
 

We just heard from a fellow couple from our diving liveaboard and they sent us photos from our dive at Manta Point. They arrived back in Switzerland after their honeymoon and I’m so glad they remembered to send the photos!  I had forgotten my camera and this was the dive not to forget it!  We saw three huge mantas and they came so close to us, about 5 feet away.  These things looked so unreal and had wingspans of at least 12 feet.  Just out of this world.  This dive had a really heavy current so you had to hold on to dead coral in order to avoid getting swept away.  Our divemaster took us to a “cleaning station” where he knew mantas come and get cleaned by smaller fish.  The current is the weakest at the very bottom of the ocean floor so you just hold on and get as close to the ground as possible and wait for mantas.  Pretty soon, one swam over and hovered above us for a few minutes while it got cleaned by all the little cleaner fish.  Sometimes there would be giant trevally hanging out underneath the manta for protection from the current.  The photos don’t really do it justice, but here’s a glimpse of what that experience was like!

Swimming Right By Us

Each Manta Has Unique Spots Underneath

Probably 12 feet across

Jun 202012
 

The Komodo Islands is known for some of the best diving in the world.  Because of the currents that run through the islands, there’s a ton of diversity of fish who feed on the nutrients swept by the currents.  It also has some pretty difficult diving, with strong currents.  We decided to do a liveaboard for 3 days to get the most out of the dive sites with a total of 9 dives.  We also got our PADI Advanced Open Water certifications which lets us go deeper and gain more experience with drift and night diving.  I’m really glad we did the course because it meant we had a dedicated instructor/dive guide for the difficult dives.  Highly recommend Divine Diving shop in Labuanbajo.

Our Liveaboard Boat — Mike and I Studying for our Advanced Open Water Course

I rented an underwater camera for the 3 days—I wasn’t about to miss out on photos of the great dive sites!  The Komodo dive sites really had so many fish I had never seen before.  All the other dive sites you see a lot of the same type of reef fish.  Here I was just stunned at the diversity of the fish and coral.  So amazingly colorful.  The one bummer is we forgot the camera on board for Manta Point—a drift dive site known for huge manta rays.  We had really close encounters with 3 enormous mantas.  It’s a drift dive so you have to hold on to some rocks so you don’t get swept away.  While you hold on to the rocks, you stay still and low to the ground and this manta with a 10-12 ft wingspan came and hovered about 3 feet above us.  It was surreal and they looked so alien and beautiful.  Another couple told us they would email us their photos, so I will share when we get those!  Here are some of the best shots of the 3 days of diving.

Lionfish — Tons on the Night Dive

Unicorn Fish

Moray Eel

Trumpet Fish

White Tipped Shark with Giant Trevally

Nudibranch on Night Dive — Really Colorful Sea Slug Type Animals

Guineafowl Pufferfish on Night Dive — HUGE!

The Most Colorful Coral I’ve Ever Seen in Komodo

Nestling in the Giant Anemone

Clownfish Closeup

My Favorite: Clown Triggerfish

Yes, There are THAT Many Fish! At Castle Rock Dive Site in Komodo

School of Purple Antheas

On the first evening of the liveaboard, we anchored off of Rinca and watched the flying foxes take off at sunset.  At sunset, they fly out of the trees—there must have been thousands of them!  It was a pretty incredible sight.  The photos don’t do it justice, so I’ve uploaded a short video so you can see just how many of them there were.  Amazing.

Flying Foxes Off of Rinca Island

 

Jun 182012
 

Sorry it’s been a little while since the last update, we’ve been on boats for the last week and I haven’t had very much downtime to write!

Back to Gili Trawangan…we decided to do 1 dive on Gili T with Gili Divers (where we were staying) to check it out.  There’s a site called Turtle City, which is the shallower version of Shark Point, supposedly one of the better dive sites around there.  With our open water certification, we can only go down 18m by PADI standards (but that will change when we get our Advanced Open Water certification in Komodo!).  Turtle City was an amazing dive.  We saw bumphead parrotfish for the first time and they were HUGE.  We got really close several times and they were in a school of about 12 fish.  The bumphead parrotfish were about 5 feet long and pretty wide.  It was an incredible sight.  I don’t have a diving camera, but here’s a photo I pulled off of Google images so you can see what these fish look like.

This bumphead parrotfish is a little big larger than the ones we saw, but you can get an idea of how huge these fish are!

And of course from the name Turtle City, we saw maybe 5-6 sea turtles, both green turtles and hawksbill turtles.  How you can tell the difference between the two is that hawksbill turtles usually have dirty looking or scratched shells.  Since they like to hide under coral and eat it, their shells tend to be more scratched up.  On Gili T, they have a sea turtle rehabilitation project and large tanks with tiny baby sea turtles.  It was really cute, some of them were so small, only a few inches across.

The nice thing about diving in Gili T is that all the dive sites are so close to the island, only a 5-15 minute boat ride away and you can in tiny boats.  So really you just do 1 dive at a time versus the usual 2 dives per boat trip.  Great experience!

May 132012
 

Diving is the main attraction in Ko Tao, so we signed up for a 6 dive package with Sairee Cottage.  The dive packages are a pretty good deal and cost about half what dives normally cost elsewhere.  So instead of ~$100 for 2 dives, you pay ~$50 and the days we dive we have free lodging.  Not bad!

Visibility is usually better in the morning, so we opted to do morning dives for the 3 days we went out.  6:30am call time is rough!  Usually we’re not really awake until we’re on the boat.  Diving on Ko Tao is a bit more of a DIY kind of spirit.  In Ko Lanta, all our equipment is set up by the dive shop, but here you set up and rinse your own gear every time.  It’s actually good to do it yourself once in a while to remember.

Chumpon Pinnacle was by far our favorite dive site and we went on two separate dives there.  The pinnacles are entirely covered with sea anemones that it looks like one huge carpet swaying in the current.  Magical.  This morning we saw humongous Malabar groupers and these fish were probably half the size of me and as wide around!  HUGE.  Schools of barracuda and batfish were some of the highlights along with moray eels.  Mike and I have been interested in getting our Advanced Open Water certification and this would have been a good site to have it.  With Advanced, you can go down to 30m whereas we are limited to 18m.  We mostly stayed around the tops of the pinnacles.

White Rock was a nice dive and the major highlight there was we saw a whale shark!!  It was only a baby whale shark but even then it was about 10 feet long and really thick around.  Still seemed HUGE to me.

Ko Tao Whale Shark

HUGE Whale Shark!! Photo taken by our dive shop, Sairee Cottage

It had all these cleaner fish attached to it.  When it was spotted in the water, all the divers went crazy and swam over to where it was.  It was chaos in the water with everyone trying to get close to get a good look—maybe 30 divers or so in one area!

The other dive sites were nice but Chumpon Pinnacle and the whale shark outshines them all.  We did a swim through at Green Rock where you go underneath these crazy overhangs and into a small cave and out the other side.  Overall, we think the Andaman side and Ko Lanta was a bit better scenery wise, but Chumpon Pinnacle was fantastic.

f a DI�� n � � �h&.  In Ko Lanta, all our equipment is set up by the dive shop, but here you set up and rinse your own gear every time.  It’s actually good to do it yourself once in a while to remember.

 

Chumpon Pinnacle was by far our favorite dive site and we went on two separate dives there.  The pinnacles are entirely covered with sea anemones that it looks like one huge carpet swaying in the current.  Magical.  This morning we saw humongous Malabar groupers and these fish were probably half the size of me and as wide around!  HUGE.  Schools of barracuda and batfish were some of the highlights along with moray eels.  Mike and I have been interested in getting our Advanced Open Water certification and this would have been a good site to have it.  With Advanced, you can go down to 30m whereas we are limited to 18m.  We mostly stayed around the tops of the pinnacles.

White Rock was a nice dive and the major highlight there was we saw a whale shark!!  It was only a baby whale shark but even then it was about 10 feet long and really thick around.  Still seemed HUGE to me.

 

May 032012
 

After another lazy beach day yesterday, we went diving today with the dive operator at our hotel, Dive and Relax.  We actually combined groups with 3 other dive shops to go on one big boat to Ko Haa, a neighboring island cluster of 5 islands (Haa means five in Thai).  We had to take a big boat out since the waters were a bit choppy and taking our dive shops smaller speedboat would have been less comfortable.

Mike and I decided to take seasick tablets before we set off, and it’s a good thing we did, because the waters were pretty choppy!  Even with the tablets, it was easy to feel a little queasy.  It took about 2 hours to get to the dive site and we split into smaller groups with our guides.  Mike and I were really lucky and got a guide to ourselves.  It’s so much nicer to have small groups.

Neighboring Dive Boat in Ko Haa

We did two one hour dives and went in a circle around Ko Haa 2 and Ko Haa 4.  Because of the weather, we had to stay mostly in the lagoon.  The diving was still great though!  We saw a couple of lionfish, a clown triggerfish (which our guide has only seen 4 times out of 4,500 dives), moray eel, garden eels—the list goes on.  The coolest part was swimming with a huge school of bigeye barracuda.  We were surrounded by them, I almost didn’t want to move since I felt like I was going to run into them!  These barracuda are smaller than what you normally think of, the bigeye barracuda only grow up to 2 feet whereas the other kind can get up to 6 feet.  We saw some fish picking a jellyfish, and cute little goby fish sharing holes in the sand with shrimp.  Blue seastars everywhere, sea anemones with blue stems, and giant blue clams.  There were bubble coral everywhere, huge growths that were translucent little grapes.  If only I had an underwater camera to show you!

Ko Haa Island #2, Typical Karst Formation in Thailand

It was really nice probably to go during low season as we didn’t run into any other divers once we were under the water.  Our guide says during high season, sometimes there can be hundreds of people in the waters.  We’ll have to see what Ko Tao is like (where we’re headed next), since that’s known as the dive mecca in Thailand.

Ko Haa Bay

 

 

 May 3, 2012  Posted by at 1:37 pm Attractions, Ko Lanta, Thailand Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »