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Tarutao National Park: Snorkeling Paradise

Koh Lipe turned out to be a better island. It was the center for longtail boat trips to the surrounding islands and we took two tours in two days. On the way to one island we came upon a couple of dolphins. We followed as closely as possible and they disappeared. But then they reappeared on the other side of the boat farther away–and we followed again. It didn’t take us long to figure out that actually there were at least a dozen dolphins in the area. Fishing boats were also about, so both captain and dolphin knew where the fish were. Got some great shots of them leaping from the water which is something I’ve never seen in the wild before.

The snorkeling here is as good as diving. I’ve never been able to say that. There is SO much in such shallow water. Soft coral is a rainbow of colors, very healthy and home to a wide variety of reef fish and other creatures. I snagged an excellent photo of a lion fish (first time sight for me in 14 years of diving) and when I surfaced after four dives to its location in about 20 feet of water, I was about to return to the boat. Then I thought: How many times have I returned home to find that the photos were blurry? Shouldn’t I go back for one last photo??? “One last time” is often the start of an incident, and this is no exception. I told the guide I would be right back. I popped my snorkel back in my mouth, turned and stuck my head back in the water only to find myself almost planting my face in a HUGE jellyfish! I’m sure the gasps and moans of despair through my snorkel were a source of comedy for all those in the nearby boats. I pushed myself back and tried to get away as quickly as possible. A few of the tentacles, like long clear rice noodles, twirled around my camera and to my horror, my hand. I was flailing like a madman until I was outside the length of the tentacles (about six feet!). The guide helped me untangle those few strands and to my amazement and relief there was no reaction. No stinging. No marks. VERY lucky. I was already envisioning how impossible a trip to medical assistance was going to be. The head of the jellyfish was about the size of a beach ball and pink. Not all jellyfish sting and sometimes it depends on a person’s skin sensitivity. I was also wearing my usual long-sleeve snorkeling shirt which may have spared me being touched elsewhere.

Chalk this one up for dumb luck.

I decided to skip the last photo of the lion fish.

The photos weren’t blurry. Suitable for framing.

Kevin Revolinski

Author, travel writer/photographer, world traveler. Writes about travel, hiking, camping, paddling, and craft beer.

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