Tag - paradise

Animal Rescue – THE BEACH DOGS

Animal Rescue the Beach DogsKoh Tao is a small island surrounded by the calm expanse of the Gulf of Thailand. This may be a tropical paradise for visitors but for the many ownerless dogs that live there it is far from paradise. Ravaged by mange, hungry and often frightened, they parade the beach in packs each tribe fiercely protecting their self-designated territory. This is a place where the law of the jungle pervades, survival of the fittest. But the only food source is that provided by humans – the scraps from the restaurants. The dominant male pecking order often means that the weakest get no food at all. In fact these dogs at the lower end of the scale are often cast out from the tribe.


Noi’s story

In April of this year myself, my friend Miranda and her eight year old son Jordan visited Koh Tao. On our second day we met a small black mongrel that we later called Noi – which is Thai for little one. She had been rejected by the pack because she had weak back legs and a clubfoot, she was starving and infected by maggots. We fed her up and managed to enlist the help of the pharmacist to procure some anti-biotics from the nearby Koh Samui island. After I jabbed her she ran off and we didn’t see her for three days. We thought she was dead. Then one evening when we were walking along the beach in the sunset she appeared from nowhere. At first we weren’t sure if it was the same dog because she looked so much better. She followed us around faithfully from then on and spent the nights on our balcony. By now we were completely hooked and wanted to take her home with us but it seemed impossible. We would have to leave her behind.

When we came back to the UK we couldn’t stop thinking about Noi. I discovered that there was a Dog Rescue Centre on the nearby Koh Samui island and we made contact with Bridget and her husband Hans who run the centre. After another month of deliberation we decided that the only thing to do was to go back and get Noi. Bridget put us in contact with another Brit who had done the same thing – Roger Cooper. Roger had had a similar experience with his dog Gypsy. He had become attached to her during a holiday and when he and his family returned thirteen months later the dog recognised them instantly. The clincher was when they got into a taxi for a sight seeing trip and the dog ran after the taxi for a mile and a half and then sat in the road howling.

Miranda can speak fleunt Thai which was to be a great help. When we arrived there we took the photo we had taken of Jordan and Noi around to the different restaurants but no one had seen her. There were a few heart stopping days when we thought she was dead. Then she suddenly turned up but she was in a pretty bad state. She was sicker than before and was covered in mange and wouldn’t eat. Over the next few days we fed her up and gave her some anti bioitics and Vitamin C. But now there was another problem. Whilst they were looking for Noi another outcast had attached himself to us another black mongrel who we called Star. Since we’d first met Star someone had thrown stones at him and he was now hobbling on three legs. We decided that we would take him with us to the vet at the dog’s home in Koh Samui, fix him up and return him to the island.

The only way from Koh Toa to Koh Samui is by speedboat and it’s a pretty rocky journey. The journey by jeep to the jetty and then the crossing to Koh Samui with two dogs, a kid and luggage was a challenge particularly as the dogs wouldn’t walk on leads and had to be carried. But probably most challenging of all was the continual vomiting of little Star on the speed boat that reached such a pitch that we wanted to throw him overboard!

Arriving at Koh Samui we were met by the motorbike and sidecar from the dogs home. The dogs were loaded up and Star howled all the way the rescue centre. We had to go between two different vets to get the dogs injected, get their vaccinations and get Star’s leg fixed and then take them back to the rescue centre. By the time we arrived our hotel we were exhausted. We stayed on Koh Samui for the next few days visiting Noi and Star and generally helping out at the rescue centre. By now we had another dilemma. Star was really attached to us how could we take him back to the life of a beach dog where anything might happen? After much soul searching we decided to bring Star home.

To prepare for the next leg of the journey – the flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok, the airline had insisted that the dogs be sedated until they were asleep. The quarantine kennel here in the UK had expressly said not to sedate them because of the danger of hypothermia. A double dose of tranquilliser was administered to Noi because the first one didn’t seem to work.

When we arrived at Bangkok the dogs were actually sent out on the conveyor belt with the luggage!!! Miranda and I went off to sort out some documentation and whilst we were away Jordan, thinking that Noi didn’t look too good, put his hand into the cage and in her drugged state Noi bit him and wouldn’t let go. He started screaming. It took a security guard to prise her off. We came back to find Jordan in tears and blood all over the floor. We had to bundle the two dogs, still in their cages, Jordan and the luggage off to the nearby private hospital where Jordan had to have rabies and a tetanus injection and get his wound cleaned and his arm bandaged. We dropped the dogs off with Tai – the contact in Bangkok that Bridget from the rescue centre had arranged and dragged ourselves off to the hotel.

At nine o’clock the next morning Tai rang the hotel. There was a problem. The excessive dose of the tranquilliser may have caused Noi to go blind. We rushed to Tai’s. Things didn’t look good. Noi’s eyes were completely blue. Thankfully over the next few days her sight returned.

Noi and Star came out of quarantine in February and there were quite a handful – to say the least! But now they are house trained and understand basic commands. Star is very nervous of other dogs and this makes him quite aggressive to them but both of the dogs are great with humans. Soon they are going off for an intensive four week live in training course with Brian from Just For Dogs. He has a fantastic reputation for non aggressive training methods with amazing results.

This experience has led me to start a charity the Noistar Thai Dog Rescue to help the hundred of dogs still on the island. The Noistar Thai Dog Rescue intends to introduce a neutering and education programme to bring the dog population under control and thereby improve the quality of life for both the humans and the canines who inhabit the island. We will involve local people directly in this programme as well as targeting tourists to act more responsibly.

There will be a clinic on the island, which is already running with a bare staff of volunteers, this will be the focus for the medical and educational activities.

Koh Tao should be a refuge for the beach dogs that live there. With help they would be able to exist in harmony with the islanders and the many thousands of visitors that go there each year. We may not be able to change the world but we can change an island.

If you are interested in helping out contact Laura at laura@hummingbird-films.co.uk

Savannakhet, Laos

Savannakhet, Laos
Savannakhet, Laos
Savannakhet, Laos

Located in the southern section of Laos, Savannakhet province is bordered by both Thailand in the west and Vietnam in the east. Many travellers pass this way on their way in or out of Thailand as the Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge spans the mighty Mekong River, connecting Savannakhet with Mukdahan in Thailand.

Another way to reach the town is by boat from northern Lao areas such as Vientiane and Tha Khaek or from Pakse in the south. Travelling through Laos by boat can be very relaxing and a great way to see the countryside at a leisurely pace.

The name Savannakhet means ‘city of paradise’ in the Laos language and this is Laos’ second-largest city. This is a good place to pause for a while as the town has a lot to offer tourists and there are a good number of guesthouses, hotels and restaurants serving international food. You will also find plenty of Asian delights such as curries and spicy salads from Thailand and Vietnamese noodles.

Savannakhet’s close proximity to Thailand and Vietnam means that you will discover a number of different styles as you explore. Take a look around the city’s old Vietnamese temples, French colonial quarters and Buddhists temples. Among the most popular temples are Wat Inghang and Wat Xayaphoum, while the large Catholic church provides an interesting contrast.

If you are interested in the history of this unique area, take a day trip to Heuanehine or Stone House. This rocky house was designed by the Kham people and is thought by many to be one of the most important and interesting sites in the province. The house was built somewhere between 553 and 700 AD and contains a collection of Khmer artwork.er important site is the That Phon stupa, which was built around the same time as the Stone House. Unlike most of the religious shrines and temples in Laos, this stupa is Hindu in origin and dedicated to Phra Shiva and other Hindu deities.

Before you leave Savannakhet, drop by the Dinosaur Exhibition Hall in the town of Khanthabouly at the heart of the province. Here you will find a collection of dinosaur remains that were discovered by an intrepid French scientist in the 1930s. This is one of the few collections of dinosaur remains in Laos and they make an interesting break from exploring the country’s temples and jungles.

 

Ngapali Beach, Burma

Ngapali Beach, Burma
Ngapali Beach, Burma
Ngapali Beach, Burma

Myanmar’s first and foremost beach destination, Ngapali Beach is the perfect seaside paradise with white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. The restaurants that line Ngapali Beach offer some of the best food in Myanmar, and this is a great place to dine on deliciously fresh sea food as well as a range of traditional dishes and Western fare.

Although there are plenty of places to stay, don’t expect to find cheap and cheerful beach huts like in many other tropical countries. However, Ngapali Beach is perfect for those with a slightly larger budget who want to stay somewhere truly unique and make some memories.

The activities are endless here and many people come to play water sports such as kayaking, sailing and snorkelling, while others simply relax on the beach and work on their tans. Pony rides along the beach are an interesting option for those who want to do something a bit different, and the beach stretches for two miles along the coast.

This is the perfect play for simply relaxing as the loud beach bars and vendors that plague so many of Asia’s most beautiful beaches are absent and there is little to spoil the tranquillity. The beach is spotlessly clean and sun worshipers can stretch out without having to worry.

Those with a strong sense of adventure and extra energy can go on a boat trip and explore the collection of nearby islands such as Pearl Island, the intriguing black sands of Zalat Htone Island and visit a nearby fishing village.

A good way to see the area is by hiring a bike, and as you peddle along the narrow sandy lanes you will discover a number of interesting villages such as Kinmaw village with its clay pottery works and the hand weaving village of Thandwe.

If you can bear to tear yourself away from the beach for an hour or two, explore the range of small hills, where you will find a peaceful lake, which is a good place for fishing or simply sit and watch the birds messing about in the water. 

Ngapali is undoubtedly one of Myanmar’s most romantic destinations. Couples can walk along the palm lined beach as the sun slowly sets into the Indian Ocean before enjoying a candlelit meal of lobster and prawns on the beach by candlelit. Pure heaven. 

Kep, Cambodia

Kep, Cambodia
Kep, Cambodia

Often overlooked by visitors to southern Cambodia, the sleepy town of Kep is a great place to spend a little time. The town is surrounded by the intense natural beauty of dense jungle, rolling hills and stretches of golden sand, and nature lovers are sure to be in their element here.
Known as the ‘Riviera of Asia’ when it was established at the turn of the 20th century by French colonists, Kep served as a vibrant beach destination for several decades, before the Khmer Rouge arrived in the area and turned things on their head. However, Kep is slowly and surely being restored, and this is the perfect time to visit the area.

Those who can bear to tear themselves away from the beach for an hour or two will want to take in the stunning views from the summit of Kep Hill. To get there, visitors simply need to wander along a gently looping trail through the jungle, perhaps pausing to gaze at wildlife such as playful monkeys along the way.

The pretty tropical Rabbit Island is situated five kilometres off the coast of Kep, and can be reached by hiring a boat. Those who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life can spend the night in a tiny wooden hut on the island before returning to Kep the next day.

Water sports such as snorkelling and scuba diving are popular activities among those who visit Kep, and a large number of companies offer to rent out equipment, while those who like messing about on the water should rent a speedboat or a catamaran from the Sailing Club.  

Kep is a great place to eat, with fresh seafood being top of the menu. Fresh crab is particularly popular here and Kep to offer to tastiest crab in Cambodia. There are a good number of restaurants and bars here, most offering a variety of international dishes as well as traditional Khmer cuisine. Grab and good meal and a drink or two and watch as the sun slowly slips behind the horizon. Pure perfection.

Diving in Thailand

Diving in ThailandSawadee Krap!

Welcome to Thailand the land of smiles. Rich in culture and abundant in natural beauty, this tropical paradise is a SCUBA divers dream. We will take you to the warm clear waters in the gulf of Thailand where you can explore coral infested pinnacles and immerse yourself in shoals of barracuda and batfish or quietly seek out Nemo amongst the flourishing anemone gardens. We will take you to the west coast of Thailand to the Andaman sea where you will find some of Thailand’s most stunning dive sites. Here, the heavily protected marine parks contain luxurious, multi coloured, coral quilts teeming with life. Manta rays, leopard sharks and turtles are not unusual here and in the right season expect to come face to face with gentle whale sharks as they migrate along Thailand’s coastlines feeding on plankton. Whether you are a qualified diver or a total novice, there are experienced, multilingual instructors and divemasters eagerly waiting at PADI dive centers throughout Thailand, ready to lead you into these beautiful waters and teach you new underwater skills.


Welcome to Thailand and the underwater beauty it has to offer!

diving_in_thailand_2 diving_in_thailand_3 diving_in_thailand_4

THE WEATHER IN THAILAND – What’s the weather like? Is it good for diving?

Generally the weather in Thailand is hot, and the dive seasons are dictated by the monsoons. On the west coast of Thailand there is a long monsoon, that runs from May through to October. Dive operations to the Similan and Surin Islands and the Burma Banks cease to operate during this time. Koh Lanta closes down! On the East coast of Thailand, the monsoon runs from November until mid January. Dive operations on Koh Tao will still continue during this period, but the visibility and weather can be unpredictable.

PADI DIVE COURSES – What sort of courses are available in Thailand? 

PADI OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandWelcome to the underwater world! Over 4 days we will teach you basic dive theory and techniques to make you into a safe, happy and competent diver. There are many beautiful, shallow and protected bays or custom built swimming pools ideal for learning all the basic dive skills and adapting to breathing underwater in a gentle and controlled environment. Once these skills are mastered, we will take you into the sea for 4 `open water` dives – the real deal! Prepare to come face to face with cheeky turtles, immerse yourself in shoals of curious batfish and marvel at nature’s treasure trove of colour amongst all the beautiful coral. We will take you to a maximum depth of 18 metres and the PADI open water license is internationally recognized – your passport to the underwater realm all over the world!

PADI ADVANCED OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandNow you have your open water license, we want you to explore even more of the underwater world as you make 5 more dives over 2 days to attain another PADI license to add to your collection. We will take you deeper to 30 metres on the Deep Dive to get close to those bottom dwelling leopard sharks. On the Navigation Dive, you will learn how to use the compass, which will allow you to navigate around the vivid red fan coral to the nearby bright yellow table coral. You can also choose 3 more dives from the following – Night Dive – its like being on the moon! Watch everything glow when you turn off the torch and wave your hands about, Photography Dive – learn how to use an underwater camera to take pictures of all your favourite fishes! Multi Level Dive – use the wheel to plan your dives so you can say hello to the giant moray eel at 26 metres, pop up to check out the clown fish dancing in their anemone homes at 16 metres and then glide around at 10 metres with a graceful manta ray! Naturalist Dive – I spy underwater as you get to see and learn more about all the magnificent marine lifearound you ! Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive – practise your underwater balance using breathing control as you cartwheel above the coral and levitate like a leopard shark!

diving_in_thailand_6PADI EFR COURSE (EMERGENCY FIRST RESPONSE)

The EFR course takes 1 day and you will be taught resuscitation and heart massage as well as basic first aid relevant to many different situations. You will learn how to deal with a variety of emergency scenarios including choking, shock, hyperthermia and, bleeding as well as marine life and diving related injuries. This is a recognised first aid course and is valid for 2 years.

PADI RESCUE COURSE 

During this course, we will teach you how to anticipate and respond to problems to take care of other divers and yourself. We will return to the shallow bays close to the islands to learn underwater search patterns for missing divers. If your buddy starts to panic, don’t worry! We will teach you how to rescue them above and below the water. We will show you how to rescue unconscious divers from the bottom and how to bring them to the surface and then how to use different lifting techniques to get them out of the water and resuscitate them. We will teach you to be a confident, aware and prepared diver.Lets keep the sea a safe place for us all!

Diving in ThailandPADI DIVEMASTER COURSE

The divemaster course usually runs as an internship and has unlimited time and unlimited dives depending where you make your course. ou make the DM course at your pace and will have theory lectures on physiology, physics, decompression sickness, skills and the environment, equipment as well as divemastership. You gain experience with instructors assisting OW, AOW and rescue courses as well as with our divemaster guiding certified divers.

You will map a dive site, make swim tests, an underwater equipment exchange, perform a skill circuit and another rescue scenario. Anytime during the course you can make fun dives. It is like being in your very own diving university! There is a great social atmosphere whilst you make the course and there will always be a lot of people diving of some sort and usually a big bunch of divemaster trainees all at different stages of their courses so you are guaranteed a lively atmosphere. Everyone is interested in diving and you are all living in a tropical paradise so you will find that many of these people and the instructors will become good friends for life.

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) 

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) For the IDC we work directly with BUDDHA VIEW 5 star IDC RESORT on Koh Tao. BUDDHA VIEW has a very experienced course directors- Mark from Brisbane who works with his team of staff instructors to hold an IDC every 2 months and sometimes every month. What makes these guys so successful is that they are very experienced and have been holding IDCs for many years so that whilst you learn in a professional atmosphere they are relaxed and you will have a lot of fun. The big plus for BUDDHA VIEW is that they have their own separate IDC center for the IDC candidates only, with air con lecture theatre, digital projector, surrounds sound and all the materials you will ever need during your IDC. It is the only IDC center in Thailand and means you will not be disturbed by open water, advanced courses etc being conducted nearby. During the IDC you will go through the divemaster theory exams again and you must simply get a higher percentage of questions right than in the DM course.Mark and the team will teach you how to instruct PADI dive courses the way PADI wants you to instruct and you will give lots of presentations so you know how to conduct the academics of PADI dive courses. They will show you how to brief on the dive boat before diving and how to debrief after dives with your students and they will show you how to problem solve underwater.You will also learn how to navigate the PADI standards and procedures manuel or CD ROM that every instructor uses. Well done you are now a PADI dive instructor !

Diving n ThailandEAST COAST DIVING – KOH TAO

Koh Tao (Turtle island as it is otherwise known) is Thailand’s most popular diving island. Located 500 kms south of Bangkok in the gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is tiny, beautifully natural, charming and most importantly close to a myriad of lovely dive sites. Koh Tao has rapidly developed in popularity since it was ‘discovered’ by backpackers in the late 1980’s. In those days when the first backpackers arrived they were greeted by a few local fishermen harvesting coconuts. The word spread quickly amongst travelers around Thailand about this tiny island with beautiful beaches, lush jungle interior and surrounding crystal clear waters bursting with tropical marine life.

As more travelers arrived so did the first SCUBA diving sets of equipment, the first PADI dive schools commenced operations and Koh Tao’s underwater secret was out! Today, there are now more than 30 dive operations on Koh Tao and the island boast more than 25 dive sites within close proximity that can suit every standard of diver with shallow protected bays for total beginners to deeper world class rocky pinnacles for experienced professionals. Expect to see shoals of barracuda, batfish, snapper and butterfly fish around the coral covered boulders. Small rays, moray eels and boxfish hide amongst the many cracks and crevasses whilst the titan triggerfish graze on the coral. Giant groupers and turtles are not uncommon and Koh Tao is famous for one giant seasonal visitor, the whale shark, which often appear around March and April. We work directly with BUDDHA VIEW dive resort who are based on the quieter Chalok Ban Kao beach in the south of Koh Tao.

Diving in ThailandWEST COAST DIVING – KOH LANTA

Koh Lanta is a bigger island just to the south of Krabi off the west coast of Thailand. Long rolling beaches with a dense vegetative interior make this getaway a nature lovers delight. Koh Lanta is a very tranquil island where peace and quiet is not hard to find and nestled in the Andaman sea is close to some superb dive sites. There are many lovely dive spots close to the island with beautiful corals and teeming with tropical aquarium fish.

Two of the best dive sites near Koh Lanta are the famous Hin Daeng and Hin Mouang which are world class dive sites. Deep pinnacles embalmed in spectacular soft and hard corals, they attract huge shoals of tropical fish and graceful Manta rays. Here, you will find exciting swim throughs and caverns festooned in dazzling gorgonian fans and soft corals. As you quietly drift through don’t be surprised if you come face to face with a giant potato cod. We have teamed up with the excellent Scandinavian run LANTA DIVER who are a PADI 5 star IDC center.

Diving in ThailandTHE SIMILAN AND SURIN ISLANDS

The Similan islands are an uninhabited isolated tropical chain of islands located north east of Phuket in the Andaman sea. Just to the north of the Similan islands are a cluster of superb dive sites including the world renowned Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu rock famous for Manta rays and whale sharks. Further north, just before Burmese waters, await the Surin islands. This whole area is nestled like a cluster of jewels in heavily protected marine parks and offers the finest diving in Thailand without a doubt. The turquoise Andaman waters reveal 30/40 meters visibility in high season and contain luxurious coloured blankets of soft and hard corals that hug the rocky outcrops and granite pinnacles.

This whole area is a cosmos of marine life with huge shoals of roving assorted tropical fish. Manta rays are normally seen around the deeper dive sites and whale sharks often feed on plankton around Richelieu rock during March and April. Everywhere you will see leopard sharks, turtles and giant morays but keep an eye out for the small animals like seahorses and ghost pipefish. Diving in the Similan and Surin islands is conducted on specially modified dive boats that operate 3, 4 and 7 day liveaboard cruises. We work closely with 2 PADI dive centers that run cruises to the Similan and Surin island marine park. SEADRAGON DIVE CENTER who are based in Khaolak just north of Phuket and they have 3 boats that run 3 or 4 day dive cruises. WORLDWIDE DIVE AND SAIL who are based in Phuket and operate 7 day/7 night dive cruises aboard their boat the SY Sampai Jumpa that incorporates sailing as well as diving, kayaking and snorkeling.