With first light we’re up and boy are we greeted with a beautiful sight. The island we’re anchored at has two white sand beaches separated by a rocky outcropping. Sara and Jonathan have already taken one of the kayaks already and have it on the northern beach. Jenn and I suit up and grab the second of the two kayaks and make for the southern bit. We have our stretch of sand all to ourselves, the first footprints in a long time sinking in deep into the white soft sand. The jungle that comes down to the beach is a verdant green. We walk the length as the sun is coming up collecting shells before going for a dip. The water is warm and all is right with the world. We see the other kayak is tied up back at the boat, and we don’t want to miss breakfast so we head back and rinse off.
Na can sure cook. Breakfast is more of an American affair with our style of bacon with croissants and toast, yogurt etc.
Jane is apparently sick and is in bed. God help us, we can’t get sick again. I’m just now seeming over this cold with a little residual congestion all that’s left.
After breakfast we pick up anchor and move off to the west, further from civilization a couple of hours sail and find ourselves tucked between two islands. It’s a nice short trip, and everyone is in good spirits.
We’re given our choice of snorkel gear and I find some nice long fins my size. We’re warned to wear rash guards if we can because there are jellyfish around. We load into the dinghy and head off around one of the two islands and are told to drop in. I’m first in anxious to get snorkeling. The coral isn’t constant, mostly in boomies, but they look pretty healthy and I don’t see any that are bleached. The coral is also pretty lively, nothing very large, but fairly dense with all sorts of fish. I spot a really odd fish and manage to get a shot with my camera. It has small eyes and a broad head, and a tail that looks epocs old. Back on the boat I try to find it in the fish book, but nothing even close. This part of the world though has an amazing diversity of fish species, so I’m not surprised I fail to find it.
AK asks us if we’d like to take a short trek, and we’re all mostly game. Rob and James who have come fast friends stay behind. There is a bit of messing about getting shoes and what not, and we’re off to the other of the two islands we’re anchored between. Another pleasant white sand beach. We take a walk on a trail through the jungle to the far side of the island. The plant life is very dense, and we often have to watch out for this cane plant with sharp spikes. AK has brought his camera as well. As we get close to the other side of the island we can hear soft waves breaking, and when we pop out, it’s pretty stunning. Beautiful white sand broken up on occasion with rocks going down to the water. Little hermit crabs scurrying around. I show Jenn and Emily how fun it is to put them on your hands and watch them as they come out of their shells. Emily is infatuated with it, and shows her parents.
AK as it turns out besides being a bit of a conservationist, is quite the amateur ornithologist, he’d brought his camera to take pictures of the local birds. He gets us to be quiet and we see a Hawk with an orange-brown body and white head, a kingfisher, and a bluebird that really looks like our bluebird. It makes me wish I’d brought my telephoto his enthusiasm is infectious. Sitting here writing this I think he’d enjoy the movie the Big Year.
The beach though is covered in plastic and glass litter and a few crab pots. It’d probably take just a day to clean it up and would make such a difference, but there doesn’t seem to be much motivation to do that. I’m sad about that. I’d be nice if they were able to somehow organize people to do a beach cleanup. In the States it’s not uncommon for young people to do vacations where they do ecological projects are part of their trip, and if they could get it organized, I could see that being something they could do here, perhaps with local kids, island hopping to different beaches cleaning them for a few hours then going snorkeling and what not.
Going back across we stop for a while to try to catch a shot of a bird we hear in the trees, he’s calling to it to make it come down towards us to check out if we’re another bird encroaching on its territory, but it flies off.
Na does it again, a great lunch. Delicious pad se ew and chicken sate with another disk I don’t recognize of ground chicken. I’m loving the Thai food, and she has the spiciness dialed in pretty perfectly for me.
Then we’re off to our final spot for the day, maybe a 2 hour crossing. Jenn slept the entire way, it really was quite relaxing.
A bunch of us went snorkeling again. Nothing particularly stands out, but it was quite good visibility, healthy coral and tons of fish. However we also saw a lot of destructive species like urchins and crown of thorns that can destroy reefs. Plus two blue spotted sting rays hiding. We called James over to show him the first one, but by the time we looked back the sting ray had ghosted off. Luckily after Emily came to see what all the fuss was about we found a second one! I had a hard time staying down close enough to get a good shot. I had brought a dive belt with the intention of putting a couple pounds of rocks to compensate for my buoyancy. I should be 5 lbs positive so 2 would help me be more neutral while still being conservative, but I haven’t taken the time to pick any out.
James, AK and Suchet all went ashore to build a bonfire for tonight to celebrate the New Year while we all had tea. Then we heard some screaming from shore. The parents became worried, but nothing seemed particularly rushed, maybe a splinter or a bug bite? Then they came back to the boat with the dinghy. Apparently James had been stung by a scorpion. Suchet looking at what happened also got stung. Apparently the big brown scorpion was under a piece of wood they were moving. Everyone is ok though, and before too long it doesn’t seem to bother James.
As the sun goes down we go ashore and set the bonfire, pop a bottle of champagne, and light some of those hot air balloon lanterns. Jenn makes a remark about where is the dinghy? We all look around and sure enough it’s gone. We spread out with our cellphone flashlights down the beach but no luck. AK had the VHF with him and called Suchet who grabbed a flashlight and set out on one of the kayaks looking. Sara I think started to panic and told AK “perhaps it’s time to start thinking about getting everyone back to the boat.” From the direction the boat was facing I would have guessed it would have gone to our left and sure enough that’s where he found it. This reminded me of a time when we lost the dinghy in Bora Bora. Apparently the anchor hadn’t been tied on correctly by Paul. We did a bit more celebrating before heading back to Meta IV.
One last thing to chalk up to 2016!
Heading back to the boat we had some phosphorescence lighting up our wake. Jenn put her hand in the water and watched them swirl off her hand. The boat didn’t bring fireworks, but it seems the sea did.
Na had another amazing dinner set out for us when we arrived with BBQ squid, duck and beef, plus crab, salad and mashed potatoes. We’re being spoiled and not exercising enough to make up for all of the food we’re eating. Dinner discussion didn’t improve. Rob continues to push things uncomfortable and again Jenn and I feel singled out. But now they’ve also started haranguing AK and the crew about being incompetent which I don’t think is fair. They say it’s just British humor, but I work with a number of Brits who would never act poorly like this. It’s not laughing with someone if they’re not laughing. And to me it’s worse if their job is service. They act as though the crew can’t tell what they’re joking about, and it bothers me to see James joining in, taking his cue from his father and new friend Rob. Sara I think can sense our discomfort.
We’re unable to stay up until midnight, though everyone else partying makes it hard to go to bed much before midnight. Jenn is having some heartburn which isn’t helping.