Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

I had high ambitions of getting my dive on on a regular basis throughout my three months back in Thailand. Unfortunately, bad conditions and a very low low season resulted in less boats going out, and lots of distractions meant I wasn’t always on them when they did. But when I saw my friends at Roctopus were doing a special locals’ edition of their crazy popular trips, I cleared my calendar immediately. A day out to the premier dive site in the Gulf of Thailand with my favorite dive school and a bunch of my BFF divemaster buddies on board? Um yes, I think I can make some space in my busy schedule of doing far less awesome things for that one.

And so we set off at an hour that I usually only see at the other end of a long night out, to make the hundred minute journey to a certain special pinnacle in the middle of the ocean.

Sail Rock Dive Trip

Sail Rock Dive Trip

Sail Rock

On a bad day, Sail Rock can be grueling. But on a beautiful day like the one we lucked into, the long ride to this deep ocean dive site has a killer payoff. And this was my favorite kind of diving, a kind I’m lucky to do often — diving with instructors and divemasters on their days off.

Sail Rock

Sail Rock Dive Site

Sail Rock Dive Site

I buddied up with Anna, who patiently explored while I snapped away. I hate feeling rushed when I’m behind the lens, and reveled in taking my time to let my fishy friends get comfortable before I came at them with my camera.

Sail Rock Sundays

Diving Sail Rock

Diving Sail Rock

Such life! Such color! It’s no mystery why Sail Rock is on the scuba bucket list of so many divers who make their way to Thailand. The coral is abundant, the tropical fish are varied, the topography inspired. This is why people learn to dive.

Diving Sail Rock

Sail Rock Sundays

Diving Sail Rock

Christmas Tree Work, Sail Rock

While the macro stuff is fun (and easier) to photograph, it’s the big schools that Sail Rock is really known for. There is something almost spiritual about the moment you kick out into an endless school of barracuda, and get swept away for a moment in the bigness of it all. There’s really nothing quite like it.

Diving Sail Rock

Barracuda, Sail Rock

Barracuda, Sail Rock

Sail Rock Sundays

Even in the low season, this is a popular dive site you’ll rarely have to yourself. But it’s also vast, and there’s always a little moment of solitude you can find somewhere.

Diving Sail Rock

Diving Sail Rock

Diving Sail Rock

While I don’t get out there often, I have posted about Sail Rock twice before, and — wow! — it is crazy to see how my underwater photography and my editing skills have improved since I first picked up an underwater housing. Granted, conditions like visibility and brightness play a huge roll, and I really lucked out here with a light-filled day, but it is fun to see how far I’ve progressed over the years.

And I can’t wait to see where I go.

Diving Sail Rock

Sail Rock Sundays

Sail Rock, Gulf of Thailand

Sail Rock Dive Site

Sail Rock Dive Site

Two long dives later, we surfaced with a cheer. Time for a delicious Thai curry — and a drink! While the ride out on Sail Rock Sundays is usually somewhat sleepy (I mean like literally, I napped) the ride back to Koh Tao is basically a floating warm up party for Sunday Fundays on the beach upon return. It doesn’t hurt that Roctopus has somewhat of a reputation for hiring tanned and toned instructors that are not hard to look at.

Some might find this practice vaguely questionable, but guys…. I’M NOT OFFENDED.

Roctopus Dive Koh Tao

Roctopus Dive Koh Tao

Sail Rock Sundays

Roctopus Dive Koh Tao

Sail Rock Dive Trip

Yes, I love me some , and I’m not shy about sending everyone who writes me asking for Thailand dive shop recommendations their way. I was on Koh Tao when these guys were hanging their first shop shingle, and now they’re one of the top shops on the island and just had a glowing write up in the latest edition of . I couldn’t be happier for them — and they truly do deserve every accolade.

And you certainly don’t have to be a divemaster or a local to enjoy . For 2,600 baht (about $80) you get two guided dives, all equipment, two meals… and a whole crew to head to Maya Bar for a drink with afterwards.

Roctopus Sail Rock Sundays

Roctopus Sail Rock Sundays

Sail Rock Dive Trip

Roctopus Dive Koh Tao

Happy Sail Rock Sunday!

. . . . . . . .

Many thanks to my longtime friends at Roctopus for hosting me. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill. Tell them I sent ya and give them a big hug from me if you go!

. . . . . . . .

Curious about my underwater photography setup? Check out my Obsessions page for information on my camera gear, editing programs and more.

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
56 Comments...
  • Camels & Chocolate
    December 21 2014

    Dang, girl, this looks amazing! How do you get your underwater photos so crisp and colorful? Mine never turn out so clear (though it’s also been aaaaages since I had a dive with 100-foot vis, great clarity and sun, so…).
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Well, yeah, good conditions definitely do wonders šŸ™‚ But I also use some great post-processing tools. I have a premium Photoshop plugin called Noise Ninja that is meant for digital noise and does wonders on water with so-so visibility. I then do some sharpening magic to bring back the crispness. All those years of digital arts classes at university, finally paying off!

  • Angelica @BkChickTravels
    December 21 2014

    I’m a diver myself and recommendations always are what I go by! They sound great to go with and the bikinis – you all look great!
    Angelica @BkChickTravels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Me too! If I don’t have someone to ask I usually check Scuba Board — there are always great diver to diver shop recommendations there.

  • Scott
    December 21 2014

    I always love your color, underwater photos! They just take me to another place!

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Thanks Scott! I just want to tempt everyone down underwater with me šŸ™‚

  • Liz
    December 21 2014

    Love this, I missed Sail Rock when I was there, it was not the best week in terms of conditions, guess I have to go back!
    Liz recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Yeah, I have gone out when conditions weren’t great and it was NOT PLEASANT. I don’t normally get seasick but two hours on rough seas… nah thanks.

  • Leah
    December 21 2014

    You’re right, nobody on that boat is too hard on the eyes! Sign me up! Love the fishies popping out of the anemones, so cute.
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      They are little camera hams, those anemones. When they are cooperating, at least!

  • Ashley
    December 21 2014

    These photos are amazing! I love the photo of the fish barely peeking out of the anemone- such gorgeous colours!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Thanks Ashley! It was a really bright and beautiful day, and that was a nice shallow part of the site šŸ™‚

  • Martha
    December 21 2014

    Wow! Your photos make me want to head to Koh Tao right now to learn to dive.
    Martha recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      I encourage you to do just that šŸ™‚

  • Katherine
    December 21 2014

    Your post came in just in time to get me psyched up for my 5 days liveaboard to the Similans in January!

    Really love your underwater photography, hope I could do half as good with my newly bought second hand Canon S110 w/ housing!

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      I’m using an s100 myself — it’s what all these photos were taken with! Love that camera something fierce! And enjoy the liveaboard, wow! I’m dying to do one myself there someday.

  • Caroline Eubanks
    December 21 2014

    My Sail Rock night dive was canceled due to conditions, but went to Chumphon and was pretty impressed. Next time!
    Caroline Eubanks recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Chumphon is also fantastic. They really rival each other!

  • Richelle
    December 21 2014

    Do you mind me asking what camera you use? I’m heading to Thailand this February and learning to scuba dive is at the top of my list! (I’ll definitely check out Rocktopus). I was looking at getting a GoPro, but your pictures definitely look like they’re from a DSLR
    Richelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Hey Richelle, I use the Canon s100 point and shoot and underwater housing — check out my Obsessions page for more info! Hope that helps!

  • Laryssa
    December 21 2014

    Meihoukai!! These are your BEST PICTURES EVER!

    I hope you’re selling these to National Geographic or Frommer’s or the Travel Channel or maybe even to marine science textbooks?…because seriously, they’re amazing.
    Laryssa recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Aw, thank you so much Laryssa! I’ve never really felt my underwater photos were publication level but this batch has me thinking maybe it might be worth starting to shop some around. Really appreciate the kudos!

  • Laura
    December 22 2014

    Absolutely amazing photos! I have heard a lot of good things about Roctopus, I’ll definitely be heading there when I go to Koh Tao next year šŸ™‚
    Laura recently posted..

  • Justine
    December 22 2014

    Your photos are awesome. It must be so cool to see how much your photography has progressed over the years šŸ™‚ I actually have a diving question for you. My boyfriend and I would like to start diving. I mean, we are living in Indonesia so we should probably start taking advantage of the amazing diving here. And, yes, you have helped inspire this decision šŸ˜‰ We were thinking of getting certified in the Gilis next month and I was wondering if you have a place you’d recommend going through for a 3-4 day course. Also, we open to doing a course elsewhere in Indonesia, but since price is a concern we figured the Gilis could be the cheapest and best option. Anyway, if you have any suggestions for us it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks šŸ™‚
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      The Gilis are an AMAZING choice. Perfect conditions for learning. I did my DMT with Big Bubble and I think they run really great open water courses. Since I was there they have changed management and location and I’m sure a lot of the staff so it’s hard to give a really strong recommendation, but I’d definitely check them out! Good luck!

      • Justine
        December 27 2014

        Thanks Meihoukai! We were thinking of going with Big Bubble anyway so I think I’ll give them a try šŸ™‚
        Justine recently posted..

  • becky hutner
    December 22 2014

    I’ve gotta chime in with the others, these photos are SO. AMAZING. I may never set foot in the deep seas so thank you for bringing scaredy cats like myself closer to the experience!
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      You are so welcome Becky! This is one of my favorite sets ever. What a day of diving!

  • Your photos are stunning as always! Roctopus Dive is definitely the place I’ll go when I head to Thailand in the future. Always love your recommendations.

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Thanks Katelyn! Give them a hug for me when you get there šŸ™‚

  • Christie
    December 22 2014

    Wow your photos are so, so incredible – thats talent right there! A friend of mine went diving at Sail Rock when we were on Samui a few weeks ago and loved it. I’ve never dived but am slowly getting more and more tempted to try…we’ll see!
    Christie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      Do it, do it do it! (Said in a peer pressure chanting voice.) You’ll never go back once you do!

  • Leslie
    December 22 2014

    Oooh! It is posts like these that have me trying to convince a friend to go to Thailand next summer. Hopefully, I can convince her. If not, I’m beginning to believe I will go on my own.

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2014

      You can šŸ™‚ Thailand is the perfect place for solo travel! You’ll meet a million friends and have the time of your life. Good luck, Leslie!

  • Jason
    December 22 2014

    Going back to Koh Tao in a couple months. Looking forward to getting my open water license. Pictures look amazing!

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2014

      Thanks Jason! Good luck with your Open Water! Prepare to be hooked…

  • Chris
    December 23 2014

    Sarah and I may still be greenhorns, but as new divers, I appreciate and look forward to these kind of posts just that bit more!

    Can’t wait to dive there one day!! šŸ˜€

    Again, as usual, such stunning photos!
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2014

      Thanks Chris! This was such a fun day to live and relive!

  • Nika
    December 25 2014

    Wow these are some of the best under water pictures i have ever seen! šŸ™‚
    Nika recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 26 2014

      Wow, thank you Nika! That is a huge compliment, I so appreciate it!

  • lisa
    December 27 2014

    Hello,
    I sent you an email on your other but thought I’d post here as well.
    I love your blog! I have been following you recently. Thank you!
    I will be in Southeast Asia trekking in the very North of Vietnam next June. I am looking for a beach/dive destination for the last two weeks. I was considering Koh Tao or The Perhentians. I have read your blogs on both. Do you have a preference? Is the diving on the Perhentians that much better? I am traveling with my 18 & 21 year old daughters who are snorkelers. I am a brand newly certified diver.
    Thank you so much and happy holidays.
    šŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      December 27 2014

      Hey Lisa! First of all, could you tell me when you sent me an email? Because I can’t seem to find one with your name or email in my inbox, so I’m hoping nothing has gone awry with my form. But moving on to your question — honestly, I went to the Perhentians years ago and just for a week, when I was a brand new diver. It really wouldn’t be fair for me to compare it to Koh Tao, where I’ve been diving for years and with vastly improved diving skills. Both however are stunning islands. From my experience (remember this is about five years ago and things change very very fast in Southeast Asia!) Koh Tao is more built up and party-focused than laid back Perhentian Kecil — that might help guide your choice. Sorry I can’t be of more help, but basically, you can’t go wrong šŸ™‚

  • lisa
    December 27 2014

    Thank you so, so much for the quick reply.I just sent the email today!
    It sounds like you go to Koh Tao quite often and have been recently. Is that correct?
    I am going to take your recommendation and dive with Rocktopus!I did my Discover Dive there last year and just got certified this past October in the Dominican Republic.
    Do you feel the corals are still in good shape in Koh Tao?
    I am thinking this island is a better choice for me as I will be in Thailand and it’s easier to get in and out of then the Perhentians. Also since I’m traveling with my daughters the accommodation choices are a bit nicer. I will be exhausted after my two weeks trekking in Vietnam so it will be nice to have some down time, a pool and a spa!
    Do you have a favorite place to stay on Koh Tao? I stayed at Sensi Paradise last time which I loved except for the fact that the beach is not very swimmable. I am considering Haad Tien which looks like it has a better beach with the trade off of not being as convenient. I’d love a suggestion if you have one. I am looking for a quiet place.If you ever need tips on Vietnam I am happy to help as my daughter lives there! I spent a month there last Spring and will be returning this June to trek on the border of China to see the parts I missed.Thank you again!!!Lisa šŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      December 29 2014

      Hey Lisa, unfortunately I still haven’t received your email! But hopefully I can answer your questions here. I do go to Koh Tao often and was most recently there August-November. You will love Roctopus — tell them I sent you! Koh Tao is a great choice.

      I just stayed at Aminjirah recently and really enjoyed it — I recommend checking them out. They have a lovely pool, great rooms at different budgets and killer views. The only downside (well, when you see how peaceful it is at night you might see it as an upside!) is it is not on the beach. Haad Tien is beautiful but you will not have easy access to the dining, nightlife and shopping in Sairee. Aminjirah might be a good compromise. Best of luck!

  • tammyonthemove
    December 28 2014

    I absolutely adore the photo of the fish peeking through the coral. It seriously looks like a Nat Geo shot Meihoukai!
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      December 29 2014

      Thank you Tammy! I think it’s one of my best underwater shots ever.

  • Laura
    January 5 2015

    Looks like a bucket list-worthy site! Some really great photos… sad to see the Sprite bottle on the ocean floor though.
    Laura recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 6 2015

      Unfortunately, marine debris is so common I’ve seen it as a category in underwater photography competitions!

  • Robert
    January 10 2015

    We were in Koh Samui last February and my brother & I did 2 dives out to Sail Rock. A very hot calm day long boat ride out to the Rock. First dive was very murky and strong currents, 2nd dive was beautiful, lot’s of marine life! How did you find the sea lice in the Gulf? We came across quite a bit in Feb! Great pics, thanks for sharing!
    Robert recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 11 2015

      I haven’t had any serious encounters with sea lice anywhere around Koh Tao… but maybe I’ve just been lucky šŸ™‚ It really depends on the day!

  • I just ordered an underwater housing (the one you recommended, except for my S110) and it is entirely thanks to you and your amazing underwater photos! I came back to this post since it is the one that has inspired me most to pull the trigger. I’ve never scuba dived, but I’m signing up for classes and will be diving on Maui next December! Do you have any suggestions for getting good underwater shots with that setup? What iso do you typically stay under with the S100 when you’re underwater?
    Sonja @ Breadcrumbs Guide recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 25 2015

      Hey Sonja! Congrats on the new setup! I typically switch to the underwater setting, leave ISO on auto and set it to -1/3 an f stop. Hope that makes sense — I’m not much of a technical photographer. In terms of underwater photography tips, I once wrote a whole post on the subject for Andi of My Beautiful Adventures — check it out! Should be plenty of good ideas there šŸ™‚

  • Marc
    April 17 2015

    Wow those are some awesome underwater pictures! Really excellent work!

    • Meihoukai
      April 17 2015

      Thank you Marc! That means a lot — this is one of my favorite dive sites.