Today I had the day off. It is slow season here so I should probably be expecting a lot more days off where this one came from. Normally I like having about one day off a week, because diving is what I came here to do, and is my enjoyment. One day off a week allows me to do laundry and clean the house and run errands but any more days off then that and I find myself at a loss for what to do. Scuba diving is what I do! So yesterday was my run errands day and today, before I got into a funk, wondering what to do with myself, I decided to go explore!

There is an awesome little Koh Tao guide book they hand out for free here that has maps of the entire island and lists every business and describes every beach and bay and tells you every place you can sleep and eat. It's like a phone book and a guide book and an atlas all combined into one very informative little book. I used to make fun of Fletch when we visited back in October for spending so much time reading this book, but now that I have time to sit around and read free tourist books, I can see why he wouldn't put it down. So this morning I flipped to the section where they describe every bay in similar detail (according to the book they're all small and beautiful with boulders and great snorkeling) and picked out a bay to go visit. The one I chose was Sai Daeng Beach, "A very quiet, out of the way beach with a well preserved coral reef."

That's it down there in the South East corner, just left of that little point. I live about where the big butterfly is in the middle. 

Step two was to gather up my snorkel gear. I have my two spare masks sitting here at the house (very strategically located incase something happens to my primary on a dive) so all I was missing was my fins. For some reason I really did not feel like going to Dive Shop A, potentially get stuck sitting there as they are very fond of making freelancers do, then snagging my fins out of my gear bag. My fins are nice sized diving fins, and so the only reasonable way to transport them would be to bring my gear bag, but then I would have no place to leave the rest of my gear. Dilemmas. So I went to Mae Haad and bought myself a little pair of kiddie snorkeling fins for 500 baht that no self-respecting diver should ever own. But hey, they fit nicely inside my dry bag and now I have a set of gear to go snorkeling with whenever my hear desires, without having to go find my dive gear at work first. 

The road leading to Sai Daeng Beach was beautiful, lined with palm trees and scrubby brushy plants, high up enough so that the sky wasn't hidden by jungle. It was also paved which was very nice, since even though I have new tires now that handle just fine on dirt, the prospect of driving dirt roads still makes me squeamish from back in the days when I slipped on them every day. 

I arrived at Sai Daeng Beach to find this beautiful, picturesque view: 

It was about lunch time when I arrived so I decided to stop and eat. The restaurant had an indoorsy feel even though it was open like most places are here, and the ground was left out so that you could feel the sand in your toes as you ate. That's a big plus in my books. I ordered a mango shrimp salsa wrap which sounded quite nice, only what was delivered to my table was a tortilla filled with what seemed to be some sort of yogurt mix with mangos and bell peppers, and one lone lettuce leaf on the side drenched in balsamic. It was a very sad looking plate. I cut the wrap in half at an angle to try and make it look a little nicer, but all I accomplished was letting all the yogurt "salsa" inside ooze out into a big, white, goopy mess. It tasted like a gourmet meal from 7/11 (the convenience store, not the street market).  

I hurriedly ate the yogurt wrap and balsamic drenched lettuce leaf and paid what could have bought me five or six such meals from 7/11, then made my way to the beach where I left my dry bag with all of my belongings. It's nice to be able to just leave stuff sitting on the beach and not worry about anyone taking it (knock on wood). I swam along the left side of the bay, down that little point I showed you on the map earlier. At first it was just shallow beds of dead coral, like Shark Bay right next door, but once I made it to the point it was lovely formations of nice boulders underwater. Not a lot of coral growing there, but the topography was beautiful. I rounded the little point until I found myself in Hin Ngam Bay, which is one of my favorite dive sites. Snorkeling there was just as lovely as diving, the coral was abundant, and there were lots of fish to see. I remembered to bring my camera with me so here are some of the fish I see on a daily basis: 

Below is the Orange Spined Unicornfish. We never see these guys on the North West side of the island where Dive Shop A is, but down on the South East side they are all over the place. It was quite nice to see them today after only diving the other side of the island for so long. 

This is a Harlequin Sweetlips. The juveniles are adorable and move around excitedly like little puppy dogs in the water. The adults aren't quite as exciting.

This is a Longfin Batfish. I like these guys. They get to be about the size of dinner plates and have big curious eyes that always seem to ask what you're doing.

I'm pretty sure this is a Moon Wrasse? I say pretty sure because usually these things have cool designs on their heads and incorporate every color of the rainbow. This poor fellow must have missed that day of school.

Boring Clams. Not so boring at first because they come in many beautiful, shocking and vibrant colors, but after you've seen a hundred they do become a bit boring.

These cute little fellows are the Sergeant Major Fish. I was trying to get a picture of something else, I don't remember what now, and then turned around to see these little guys surrounding me and swimming along with me. Super cute.

Weibel's Butterflyfish. These guys are all over the place and even though we brief the sign for them before every dive, we rarely bother pointing them out because they are everywhere. The only time I point them out is when I'm with a DSD who doesn't know any better and there is absolutely nothing else to see at Japanese gardens. The only reason I took this picture was because I usually only see them in groups of two.

Scribbled Filefish. These guys crack me up. You don't see them as often, so when you do you get really excited and start pointing spastically like it's about to disappear any moment, and then it just hovers and moves at it's own slow pace, in no hurry to be anywhere, laughing at the fact that you took as long to find it as you did.

Crocodile Needlefish. I never get to see these guys diving because they always hang out just below the surface of the water. Just look at those sharp, pointy teeth!

And my favorite little guy is the Porcupinefish, who has a happy puppy dog face and just sort of bobs along awkwardly as he paddles his little tiny fins frantically. I spotted this guy under a ledge and then swam down and pointed my camera in his little nook. When I took the picture I didn't realize my flash was going to go off and blind the poor thing. Sorry, Porcupinefish.