A 'pre-retirement' diving escape on an island in Thailand


A stone fish resting on a leafy cup coral. — Photos: KANIKA

Recently, my dive master Ben sent me a picture of a serene sunrise in Koh Lipe, Thailand. It was enough to make me plan for my own five-day trip to the island.

Since Koh Lipe is near the Malaysian border in the north of the peninsular, I decided to take a ferry there instead of flying. Booking a ticket for the ferry was easy enough as it was off-peak season and therefore not many tourists were around. The picturesque drive from the Klang Valley to Kedah along the North-South highway, adorned with padi fields and lush greenery, preceded my early arrival at the ferry terminal in Kuala Kedah.

The ferry took me to the Langkawi Ferry Terminal, where I stayed the night somewhere nearby, before getting on another ferry the next morning to Koh Lipe. This ride only took about an hour.

In Koh Lipe I could see crystal-clear waters, the vibrant marine life, as well as bustling land and sea activities. There were many long-tail boats that were ferrying tourists to diving and snorkelling spots, as well as to the nearby islands.

The view of the beautiful sea from the hill at Tarutao National Park.The view of the beautiful sea from the hill at Tarutao National Park.

I was picked up from the jetty by a local on a motorbike fitted with a side carriage. It was a bumpy, sandy ride of about 2km to the dive shop I had booked, Ocean Pro Diving.

Since it was already too late to go for a dive that day, a bunch of us decided to hike up a small hill at Tarutao National Park instead. This was on another island so we had to take a boat to get there first. After hiking for about 10 minutes under the scorching sun, we stopped at a rest area, before climbing up a steep 300m incline.

We then trekked for another 1.5km, but this time there were lots of trees to shade us from the sun.

Once we got to the top of the hill, we had a magnificent view of Koh Lipe.

I also got the chance to stay with the dive master at his work quarters. The dive masters sleep in dormitory-style beds and share a common bathroom. It was an eye-opening experience for me, and seeing how they were content with living such a simple life humbled me.

The writer at Koh Lipe beach early in the morning.The writer at Koh Lipe beach early in the morning.

I woke up early the next day, excited about my first dive. We geared up and had breakfast at the dive shop before departing at 10am. While on our way to the dive spot, I started thinking about retirement and what kind of life I would like to have when the time comes.

Unfortunately for me that day, underwater visibility was poor and I had a challenging time trying to control my buoyancy. But I enjoyed every bit of it as I could still see some sea creatures.

The following day had better conditions, and this unveiled a diverse marine world, including the cherished clown fish that kind of looked like my dog somehow.

On the third day, we went to the 8 Mile Rock dive site, which is one of the last underwater pinnacles left in the Andaman Sea. We faced safety concerns due to strong currents and poor visibility, which ultimately led to us abandoning the dive.

The dive master then took us to a different dive site with better conditions and here, we saw so many varieties of fish, as well as colourful soft and hard corals. It was indeed a satisfying dive.

I decided to check out Koh Lipe’s vibrant nightlife on the final day and enjoyed myself. This trip proved to be the perfect “pre-retirement” holiday for me.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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