Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Koh Tao - Dive Central, Gulf of Thailand

Want to learn how to snorkel or dive at one of the easiest dive spots and clearest waters around?  Then head for Koh Tao, the little island in the Gulf of Thailand with over 30 dive operators, 20 dive spots and visibility of up to 40 meters on a good day.  Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places to get dive certified.  If you are lucky, besides the reef sharks, turtles and stingrays, you may bump into the whale sharks that occasionally drop by.

There are several wrecks to sniff around, among them the USS Lagarto and the spooky Tottori Maru from the Second World War and the Seacrest Drill Ship hammered down by Typhoon Gay in November 1989.  Be aware that storm season in the Gulf of Thailand is usually in the month of October thru November.

Not only is Koh Tao a little remote from its popular neighbour Koh Samui, its also much quieter, just nice to get away from it all to its secluded beaches, or go hiking, abseiling or biking. 

This short video by photographic75 shows off glimpses of Koh Tao.

And this video by MasterDiversKohTao may inspire some to go diving soon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Desert Point – Surfers Challenge

Desert Point or Bangko Bangko beach is in the remote south west of Lombok Island.  Desert Point was voted as the best surfing point by most surfers.

As described by surfers, the wave quality is totally epic, great barrels, with a thrilling 300 meter hollow ride, best when the tide is low and rising.  Because of this and that there is a shallow reef with razor sharp corals, only seasoned surfers risk the ride.  The swells start at 1.5 meters, and holds up to 2.5 meters.

Besides surfing at Desert Point, one can go diving, snorkelling, hiking and a host of other activities in this relative quiet away from the crowds from the other touristy areas of Lombok.  There are several nice lodges around Bangko Bangko at Pelangan.

This video by aznness shows off the fun and the tubes of Desert Point Lombok.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lombok - Travel to Tropical Islands

Lombok, part of the Lesser Sunda Islands, is east of Bali in Indonesia.  For ecology buffs, the Wallace Line is here at the Lombok Straits, separating the Indomalayan biome at Bali and the start of the Australasian biome from Lombok.  An active volcano, Mount Rinjani, the third highest mountain in Indonesia, dominates the Lombok skyline and is a National Park.  Gili Trawang and its two tranquil sister islands are off the northern tip of Lombok Island. 

Lombok offers jungle trekking, beaches, scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling and some historical sight seeing.  

Sengigi beach is just north of Mataram, en route to Gili Trawangan.  Sengigi beach has four focus areas namely Mangsit with its long and tranquil beach, Kerangdangan Bay, Sengigi town and the Batu Bolong hotels.  Kute beach on the southern end of Lombok is an area popular with surfers for its clean beaches and high waves.  A well hidden surfers gem is Desert Point. You can even hop off Lombok to GIli Trawangan or Sumbawa for a get away from it all feel.

For sightseeing you can go see the Tanjung A'an beach to see its unique pepper shaped sand, Sukarare to watch local artisans at work on handicrafts or for a spirit of adventure, trek up Mount Rinjani to see its beautiful lake crater. Narmada park and Brahma's Throne offers some historical insights and the many waterfalls offer cooling dips from the tropical heat of Lombok.

The video by bali0range shows what Lombok has to offer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Si Phan Don – The 4,000 Islands of Adventure

Si Phan Don is a collection of 4,000 islands and islets on the Mekong River on the LaosCambodian border and is great for backpacking.  Half of these islands are submerged when the Mekong floods.  The main island at Si Phan Don to travel to is Don Khong and to a lesser extent,  Don Det and Don Khon.

The main activity to do is boating, swimming, clambering around the rapids and watching the locals at play and at work.  The Khone Phapheng waterfalls are a great place to go sightseeing and to take a dip.  It is the biggest waterfall and rapids in Southeast Asia. This is where the Mekong River falls down through the rapids to continue on to Cambodia. Here we can see the remains of the narrow gauge railway that the French built to enable transportation along the Mekong by passing the Khone Phapeng falls.  It is these falls that prevent direct navigation from Vietnam to China.

Irrawady dolphins can be spotted here and the giant catfish, the largest freshwater fish in the world can also be spotted here.  Both are highly endangered, especially the giant catfish which is rarely caught now.

There is not much else in entertainment nor electricity.  So be prepared for romantic candle lit nights at the guest houses when the generators switch off.  Most of the accommodation are kind of rustic little stilt huts by the locals, just nice for backpackers.  Not to worry, civilisation is just 3 hours away to Pakse, the third largest city in Laos.

Here is a video by swsanderson on the adventures at Si Phan Don in Laos.