“Reef Police” (Koh Tao, Thailand)

Reef Police

Koh Tao, Thailand – October 20, 2017

Monique rolled out of bed after her 5 alarms went off to make sure we woke up for the snorkel tour we planned for the day. She staggered over to my bottom bunk and groggily asked if we should just sleep off the wild night we had before for a few more hours rather than rushing to our tour, but I was like “NO MAN, WE GOTTA GO!” When the driver came to pick us up, we hopped in the bed of a truck and held on for dear life as he quickly backed down a bumpy beachside alley. As we boarded the bright blue ship, the South African scuba guide told us that it was a brand new boat and that we were the first to test it! It was a really small boat and seemed rather top-heavy as it really rocked back and forth on the rough waters. We sat on the top deck, and he told us we may need to climb down if the weather got any worse.

We were all being so goofy and chatty with everyone on the ship. Sometimes I get in these funny moods where I just wanna release all my weirdness on everyone around me. Those are my favorite moods! My friends laughed at the neon green paint that I couldn’t get out of the inside of my ears as we rocked over the rolling waves. Why we decided painting the inside of our ears was a good idea? I’m not sure. The tour was to stop at five different snorkel spots as we circled the entire island, and what a beautiful island it was! The captain shimmied up and down the small stairs teaching us fun facts and pointing out special places. He motioned toward massive boulders that were naturally stacked like totems and mentioned they were sacred symbols to the natives as the Thai boat crew bowed to the stones while passing by.

The seafloor of turtle bay (known for usually having turtles) was completely blanketed by a thick layer of brown tree-top-like coral formations that popped and crackled constantly. I’ve always wondered what the crackling sound is when your ears are under the ocean, and the captain informed us that it’s actually the sound of the coral breathing! Man, the earth is SO cool! He also mentioned that the reason why our hands and feet get pruney while swimming is a biological trait that we’ve kept through evolution. Wrinkly fingers and toes improves our grip on slippery wet surfaces, similar to the way tire treads work in the rain. Man, people are SO cool! A school of spotted yellow fish swarmed in front of my goggles, solidly patterning my perspective with red-tipped fins and tails.

At Shark Bay me and only one other boy from our scuba tour got graced by the biggest cloud of fish I’ve ever seen. Literally MILLIONS and I was squealing into my snorkel with excitement! I felt like I was filming for Planet Earth with David Attenborough’s sweet voice cooing in the distance. The fish darted back and forth fleeing away from silver predators. I saw a few with bites taken out of them, barely making it out alive. We played with the pack studying how they would move and disperse in unison. Floating still, unfaltering, barely breathing, the fish would fill in around me. Once moving, the myriad would barrel away in a downward spiral, creating a woven bowl of thousands of fish before me. We swam through the center of the swarm, poking holes in the multitude as we kicked on through. It was seriously one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed!

While enjoying the full lifecycle of a chicken for lunch (bbq chicken topped with a fried egg), we laughed hysterically about the toilet situation in Asia. They’re usually just squatter holes in the ground with only a “bum gun” to squirt yourself off with and no toilet paper to dry. But actually, I learned (so much learning today) that squatting is really the way humans are meant to poo. Toilets in “civilized” countries are just in line with our lazy “get shit done” (literally) mentality, whereas squatting actually helps to “align the pipes.” Balancing, you align the pipes and pray to God you don’t shit down your trousers. After the deed is done, you blast yourself off, wiggle a little dry, pull up your khaks and DEAL. Oh, what’s this? You think “girls don’t poo?” You’re right, not in Asia! Here you pretty much pee out your butt every time you hit the toilets! Spicy food = Brown waterfall.

My favorite reef was back on the Island Nang Yuan (where we paid 500 baht simply to GO yesterday, and paid 750 today for this insanely magical snorkel tour around the entire island. Screwed!). The “Japanese Garden” snorkeling spot was studded with massive coral mounds that cracked through the glistening white sand. Brightly colored coiled Christmas tree worms would suck themselves into hiding upon feeling a change in current as you swam by. Fish mingled through the knotted tentacles of sea anemones and sea urchins fought over territory by spearing one another with their needle-like spires. Spiny sea slugs slinked slowly along the floor and neon fish darted in and out of coral caves, stirring up fluffs of sand in their haste. Massive purple clams swished the salty water in and out of their gaping mouths, probably preparing pearls as they chewed on the sand. Everything down there is so ALIVE, constantly moving, changing, growing.

Scuba crews sunk themselves in circles along the sea floor and I played overtop of the giant bubbles that mushroomed up from their exhales. I turned into the “Reef Police” when I saw a Thai tour guide leading a life-jacketed girl around on a private snorkel tour. He trampled atop a giant yellow coral tree, fins cutting and slicing through millions of homes as he stomped. Did you know coral is actually alive? Please please please remember, DO NOT step on or touch coral. Corals are fragile living creatures, in fact they’re actually animals! I yelled at the Thai tour guide “You know coral dies when you step on it?!” He called back “I know,” as he hopped off the mound. “Oh really?! You also know you’re a fucking idiot?!” I wanted to yell back at him, but I refrained. Some people… I swear!

The crew was wonderfully jolly as they jumped around rigging the boat. I loved watching as their little brown toes wrapped around the deck and railings and monkeyed around the ship. They whistled and sang all day as they toured us around the island, and what a job it must be! Imagine working with happy tourists all day, showing off beautiful under-the-sea gardens, always eating fresh chilled pineapple and watermelon, and getting a healthy dose of vitamin Sea and D everyday in the sun! I jokingly asked them if they’re hiring because it seriously seems like the most incredible job in the world. “Can you swim?” Like a fish! “Can you speak English?” Its the only language I do speak! “Do you like people?” Most of the time… except maybe the coral-trampling guy. “Do you like the ocean?” See these scales? Slowly turning into a mermaid. “Then you’re our girl for next season,” the captain chanted. Infinite possibilities!


Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato

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