A couple of days before we left Koh Lanta, we took a trip to some smaller islands on a ‘longboat’ as they’re called. (see first picture of Paradise Island) The weather had crashed the night before – the temperature had dropped and it was raining, which is unusual there for this time of year, as this is their dry season – but as it was still around 25 degrees, we decided to go anyway. We soon realised that we were going to get very wet during this trip – the spray from the sea was coming in with every wave, and we were soaked through after five minutes on the boat. There were about 20 of us and only the people at the back stayed more or less dry.
Most of the islands were quite unusual as they were sheer rocks, which looked as if they had been dropped out of the sky by some giant’s hand. We stopped by the side of some of them, to swim and snorkel in the beautiful green water, which was like a warm, very salty bath, and clear enough to see the bottom about 10 feet below. Beautiful coral and colourful fish were everywhere, although we had to watch out for jellyfish, which would have caused painful and quite dangerous stings.
The highlight of the trip was the Emerald Cave however. We stopped by another sheer rock face and the dark mouth of the cave, and we were all given a luminous yellow life vest to put on. My daughter and I are very good swimmers and didn’t think we would need this, but put it on anyway. One of the Thai sailors came into the water with us and functioned as a guide to take us into and through the cave. I have to admit that I didn’t like it much, even though seeing the emerald green water from the inside of the cave when we first went in was very beautiful. About two minutes in, it was pitch black in there, apart from the small torch of our guide, and we had to swim for 10 -15 minutes in virtual darkness to get to the other side. We had quite a surprise when we did however, as we came out into a kind of rock funnel. There was a small beach and some trees behind it, all surrounded by sheer rock walls, which were about 15 metres high. It turned out that we were in the mouth of what had once been a small volcano and that we’d actually swum through a lava tube to get in there. According to a sign on the beach, the cave and funnel had been used by pirates to stash their loot before being discovered by the authorities and was now a heritage site. So we had to swim back again through the pitch black cave. The emerald waters at the place where we first came in were a wonderful and very welcome sight. After climbing back onto the boat, we were off again, stopping at another small island, where we had a meal and a lovely hot cup of coffee, before returning to Koh Lanta.
It would have been a wonderful trip if it had been a hot sunny day, but the rain never stopped and being soaked to the skin and unable to get dry all day put a bit of a damper on our enjoyment. It also stopped us from taking pictures. It was however another experience we’ll never forget. We were feeling quite chilled by the time we got back to the hotel, but a nice hot shower and some dry clothes soon made us feel better, and ready for some of that wonderful, hot and spicy Thai food.
I didn’t realise until later that it had been the first time I had been on a small boat after a sailing accident in the Thames estuary years ago, during which I came close to drowning. It had really put the wind up me and I had vowed never to go out on a small boat again, yet I had been on this trip without a single thought. I’ve been surprised at myself so many times during this holiday, that I can hardly believe how much I’ve changed inside.
Two days later we were back on an aeroplane for the second and last part of our trip – four days in Bangkok.
Part 3 to follow…..