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I may not have dove much in my three months back in Southeast Asia this fall, but I did dive well. For my final scuba day of the season, I set off for a morning at Chumphon Pinnacle.

One of Koh Tao’s most beloved dive sites, Chumphon is a deep ocean site about forty minutes from the dock. It’s worth the journey — in addition to the usual myriad of tropical sealife, massive schools of barracuda and batfish congregate here, the pinnacles are covered in thick carpets of colorful anemones and whale sharks occasionally pass through.

Diving with Roctopusobligatory, awkward gear-assembly photo

Diving with Roctopus

Though for most, Chumphon is all about the big stuff, I love peeking under ledges, peering around corners and getting up close and personal with some of the more diminutive residents of the reef.

Stingray at Chumphon

Giant Clam at Chumphon

Clown Fish at Chumphon

Clown Fish at Chumphon

One of my favorite tricks to show new divers? How a colorful garden of Christmas Tree Worms can vanish — just temporarily! — with the wave of a hand. Even better? Sticking around to watch them slowly unfurl again. Everything is alive!

Christmas Tree Worm at Chumphon

Christmas Tree Worm at Chumphon

Anemone at Chumphon

Diving Chumphon Dive Site

Diving on Koh Tao

And it’s just not a dive trip if you don’t make time for a little bit of underwater fun.

Diving on Koh Tao

Diving Chumphon Dive Site

Swimming out into deeper open waters, we began lost ourselves in all the big beautiful schools swarming the pinnacle. My favorites, the batfish, weren’t out to play this day, but the hundreds of long, skinny barracudas that swam by were a pretty spectacular consolation prize.

Diving on Koh Tao

Diving Chumphon Dive Site

Barracuda at Chumphon

Barracuda at Chumphon

Diving on Koh Tao

I love the feeling of getting lost in a school of fish, but I think I might love even more peering into one from the outside — especially when it’s formed a ball as defined and perfectly outlined as this one. Can you even fathom this many fish? I was there, and yet I still don’t know if I can.

For all my fellow aspiring underwater photographers out there — in a dive site as deep as Chumphon, a lot of color gets lost and the resulting images can be very distorted. This is a great time to flex your editing skills — I use the  — and possibly convert to black and white.

Diving Chumphon Dive Site

Diving with Roctopus

Diving on Koh Tao

Diving Chumphon Dive Site

Diving on Koh Tao

Diving Chumphon Dive Site

As always, it was a delight to spend the day out on the water, especially with such a great group. I’m pining for the ocean already, and am already looking forward to my next dive.

Diving with Roctopus

Diving with Roctopus

Happy Friday!

. . . . . . . .

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.

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80 Comments...
  • Jenia from HTL
    January 16 2015

    We got certified as open water divers on Ko Lanta, but now I can’t wait to be bak in Thailand and explore other islands. Ko Tao is high on our list. Wonderful pictures, makes me want to get on a plane right this second )
    Jenia from HTL recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Writing this post makes me want to get back on the plane this second! So I can understand the feeling, Jenia 🙂

  • Nicole
    January 16 2015

    Haha, that pink anemone fish looks so cranky!

    Chumphon Pinnacle is a favorite of mine, even though I only got to dive there twice. The first time it was spectacular, the other the visibility was so bad that we hardly saw the fins of the person in front of us. I really hope I’ll get to explore this dive site more in the future 😀
    Nicole recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Yeah, I’ve definitely seen it both ways as well. If only there was some way to know which you’d get before you left the dock in the morning 🙂

  • Marie @ Marie Away
    January 16 2015

    These are amazing photos–it looks stunning! So much diversity. I can’t imagine seeing all of this in person.
    Marie @ Marie Away recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that it’s all real! Feels like Finding Nemo, sometimes 🙂

  • Adventurous Kate
    January 16 2015

    I’m about to ask a dumb question.

    Do you touch the fish? Do they swim into you? Do you feel them?

    I’m terrified of touching fish while I swim, but I finally want to get PADI-certified this spring…
    Adventurous Kate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Actually not a dumb question — I used to hear Open Water students asking it all the time when I worked as a videographer! There have been times when I’ve come into with sea creatures underwater — I did a manta ray dive where they brushed against us, and I’ve had little one inch wrasse try to nibble on my scabs before (gross, I know) but in general they are extremely adept at not bumping into you, even when you swim into those huge schools. They don’t want to touch you either 🙂

      Where are you thinking of doing your course? Bay Islands, or other?

  • Amazing photos! Especially the one of the ray peeping out from under the coral. Takes me right back to the first time I ever saw a coral reef, on an intro dive in Fiji. I know what you mean about the wonder of everything being alive. Would definitely love to dive some more. Very inspirational – thanks 🙂
    Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      You are so welcome, Katie! I love inspiring people to get underwater. I remember the first time I saw a reef too, in Belize. Nature is amazing!

  • Emily
    January 16 2015

    Holy moly! Incredible photos Meihoukai! I love the incredible colours!
    Emily recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Thanks Emily! It is a gorgeous dive site.

  • Elora
    January 16 2015

    Wow, these shots were amazing! I love seeing your photography, Meihoukai. It’s always a treat. A real encouragement to get out there and see for myself! 😉 And all those barracudas swimming around, and the colorful anemones, etc.–WOW.

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      I hope it does inspire you to get out diving, Elora! It’s a wonderful world down there 🙂

  • Rohan
    January 16 2015

    Awesome & Beautiful Pictures 🙂 So inspirational 🙂

    May i know which cam did you use for these snaps.

    I am planing for my open + Advance PADI course this June. Ahh Finally.

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Hey Rohan, check out my Obsessions page for more info on my camera gear. I have a full review post linked to there! Hope it helps.

      • Rohan
        January 18 2015

        Hey Meihoukai

        Thanks for your response, i have very well read all your pages, I am a big time admirer of you.

        I just wanted to know if you used S100 or gopro. I think we have upgraded version S110 as well in the market.

        • Meihoukai
          January 22 2015

          The s100! I really only use the GoPro for video 🙂

          • Rohan
            January 22 2015

            Thanks Meihoukai 🙂

  • Chris
    January 17 2015

    Gorgeous!

    So what depth did you guys hit here?
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Chumphon ranges between 14m-35m depths. It’s a nice dive 🙂

  • Justine
    January 17 2015

    Your photos are gorgeous. I have no idea what it would be like to be surrounded by a giant school of fish but you make it sound like a magical experience! Although, I’m sure I would be a little terrified of all those fish!!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Ha, they aren’t scary I promise! See my answer to Kate 🙂

  • Dani @ Two Peas in a Pack
    January 17 2015

    I just finished my Open Water SDI course two days ago here in Coron, Philippines.

    At first I was petrified, but after the second dive I was completly obsessed. Now we’ve been to three different wrecks from WWII.Too cool.

    I have to say you and Young Adventuress inspired me to give it a go for sure.
    Dani @ Two Peas in a Pack recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      That’s so amazing to hear Dani! I just got to hook Liz up with Roctopus while she was in Koh Tao — it was so fun for me to see her diving with all my buddies there, even if I was off island 🙂

  • Wow, that looks like an amazing dive site! Definitely goes on my bucket list! Reminds me that I should be diving a lot more, can’t wait to get back to Thailand.

    Just one question: Did you take those pictures just with your Canon Powershot S100 and the underwater housing? They look really awesome by the way!
    Geert @ Inspiring Travellers recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Yup, I did! Sticking with that setup for a while — my gear budget is shot after upgrading my laptop this year 🙂

  • Rahman @ Iran Tours
    January 17 2015

    You’re good at underground photography. Wow! What’s next? Underground blogging? I’m sure you can do it. Those photos are like we’re talking about a different world! Great.

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Ha, if they can get me a wifi connection, I’ll do it!

  • Marni
    January 17 2015

    Once again, your dive photos are beyond amazing. All I could think of in the picture of the giant fish ball was the scene in Finding Nemo. It must be incredible to see them all in person!

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      I love that movie — you’ve reminded me I really need to rewatch it! What a gem.

  • Amanda
    January 17 2015

    When I was in Thailand I couldn’t end up doing my open water certification because I stupidly crashed a motorbike and lost a debit card the week before I was going to go to Koh Tao and I was kind of relieved because I was actually terrified of doing it, but your last two diving posts have pretty much convinced me to let go of my fear and do it. That purple thing. That is amazing.

    Expect some questions about diving on Gili T coming your way this year 🙂
    Amanda recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Check out my Complete Diving Guide to Gili Trawangan — it should be a good place to start! Enjoy Amanda!

  • Jessica @Triple T Travels
    January 17 2015

    I am seriously obsessed with these photos. They are so stunning! The first time I ever tried scuba diving was in Koh Tao (I just did the discovery dive) I’m absolutely kicking myself for not getting certified when I was there. We also saw a big school of fish like that, it is so cool 🙂
    Jessica @Triple T Travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Hey, sounds like a reason to go back to me! 🙂

  • Meihoukaiis Kensey
    January 17 2015

    Every day my list of things to do in Thailand and SEA next year gets longer and longer!!! This looks incredible.

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Tell me about it! Mine is going to take a lifetime to tackle 🙂

  • Phyll
    January 18 2015

    Amazing photos as always!! I just got certified last month & barely got my toes wet… but I can’t wait for another dive!

    xx

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Glad to hear you’re hooked, Phyll! It’s going to open a whole new world up in your travels. Welcome to the water world!

  • Wow the Christmas Tree Worms are so cool! What is the snorkelling like in Thailand? Is it worth it or do you really need to dive to see cool stuff?
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      There’s great snorkeling in Thailand too, Katie! I go snorkeling sometimes too. I still prefer diving, but a day out on the long tail snorkeling in little coves and beaches is really not a bad way to spend a day 🙂

  • 2 tickets to Wonderland
    January 18 2015

    Wow school of fish look amazing. You’re so lucky and to be able to capture them on photo. We’ve only seen a barracuda ring once on Sipadan island in Malaysia and it was an unforgettable experience. It looks like Koh Tao has a lot to offer.
    And Christmas Tree Worms look funny. I’ve never seen them before and I didn’t know that they vanish 🙂 They come in so many colors, no wonder they’re called after the Christmas tree 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      Aren’t they beautiful!? They are everywhere in Koh Tao, so common that sometimes I forget to be impressed by them. That’s why it’s fun diving with new divers sometimes — you remember all the wonder!

  • Charlie
    January 18 2015

    Beautiful photos! I’m so nervous about diving. I’m still not sure if I’ll have the guts to do it but photos like these really make me hope I do!

    • Meihoukai
      January 18 2015

      If I can do it (I was terrified in the beginning!), anyone can. Go for it, Charlie 🙂

  • Miles of Happiness - Marie
    January 19 2015

    The pictures are stunning. It’s unbelievable! I’m so impressed. I miss diving so much…

    • Meihoukai
      January 22 2015

      Thank you so much Marie! I’m missing diving a bit these days too. Hoping to get back out there soon…

  • Aunt Karen
    January 19 2015

    All those amazing schools of fish–so large! Great photographs. Puts that puny shark tank in a fish bowl.
    Can you recall when you did the video of the whale?
    xoxo

    • Meihoukai
      January 22 2015

      I don’t know, that was pretty cool too 🙂 I think this might be what you’re looking for?

  • becky hutner
    January 19 2015

    it warms my heart to see that many fish. i’m always so worried about our poor little fragile ocean. may the abundance forever continue!
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 22 2015

      I know how ya feel :/ You don’t see big schools like this in many places! It is something I love about the diving in Koh Tao, even if diversity and coral may be healthier elsewhere.

  • Carson Ford
    January 20 2015

    These photos are gorgeous and make me want to give diving another chance. I dove in Jamaica a few years ago. It was an amazing experience at first, but during the dive,I panicked and took out my respirator because my goggles were leaking. I would love to build up my courage and try again in waters like Koh Tao.

    • Meihoukai
      January 22 2015

      Sorry to hear that your first experience was a little scary, Carson! I promise it does get better with experience. At some point, you wouldn’t be phased by your mask getting bumped off entirely 🙂 Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make calm and collected under pressure! Hope you find your way back to the water at some point.

  • Serendipity Tess
    January 20 2015

    We will be heading to the islands in the South of Thailand in the next few days and after seeing these photos I’m wondering whether to head to Koh Tao. I’ve done diving at the Great Barrier Reef before but that was ages ago when I was 17. Really want to give it a go again!!
    Serendipity Tess recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 22 2015

      Diving is a sport for all ages 🙂 Koh Tao would be a great place to get reacquainted with the water.

  • When I got my Open Water certification in Koh Tao in 2012 I thought I really liked diving and then I dove at Chumpon and I FELL IN LOVE with diving! It’s one of the most beautiful dive spots I have ever been to!

    Beautiful shots, Meihoukai. I haven’t mastered underwater photography yet. Can I ask what gear you shot these with?
    Oksana | Drink Tea and Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 22 2015

      Hey Oksana, check out my Obsessions page or the “My Camera Gear” icon in the sidebar of this post. All my underwater shots are with my Canon S100. Hope that helps!

  • Erika
    January 22 2015

    These photos are so gorgeous! I’m getting my open water certification here in Southern California this weekend and I’m so excited (albeit a little nervous). Your posts and photos were a huge inspiration to go ahead and learn to dive! (that, and my husband who got certified at the age of 14 begging me to do it for the past five years) Hopefully I’ll see something as pretty as this, though I know the water in California can be a little bit murkier.
    Erika recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      That is so lovely to hear, Erika! You are going to have a GREAT TIME I’m sure of it! With a supportive husband by your side and enough determination, I’m sure you can make it through whatever murkiness the waters throw your way 🙂 Enjoy yourself girl and let me know how it goes!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    January 25 2015

    Whoaaaaaaaa. That is some fantastic diving. *swoon*
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      We’re going to be doing some pretty fantastic diving too this summmmmmmmmer! (Picture me saying this in a really high pitched creepy singing voice.)

  • Lara // the passage
    January 26 2015

    My husband and I are planning a trip to Thailand in March- with lots of diving in the mix…and looking at all of your amazing photos has me wishing I didn’t have to wait so long! Have enjoyed reading your posts/getting/excited/getting more ideas about where we should go…What camera do you use for your underwater shots? Thanks for the inspiration….
    Lara // the passage recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 26 2015

      Hey Lara, check out my Obsessions page, which has all the info on my camera and other gear. Hope that helps — and jealous you’ll be in Thailand in March!

  • Adrienne
    January 26 2015

    I can’t scuba dive for health reasons (severe asthma) – is there good snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand or just diving? Do you have to dive to see things like the clown anemone and spotted ray you have photos of above, or is this stuff visible from the surface? Love your photos!

    • Meihoukai
      January 28 2015

      Hey Adrienne! You probably won’t see rays from the surface — they tend to hide out under ledges and rocks so you’d have to go freediving for them. However there is plenty to see from the surface, including beautiful coral, schools of tropical fish and the occasional turtle!

  • Serendipity Tess
    January 27 2015

    Oh my goodness, i love the photos!!!! I’m planning to visit Koh Tao this year – which dive spot would you recommend of all of them? I’ve done a Diving course back when I was 17 in Australia but my certificate expired – so i want to give it another go and pehaps even do the Advanced Open Water eventually. Can’t wait!!!!!
    Serendipity Tess recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 28 2015

      Hey Tess, my favorite dive site on the island is Shark Island. But really it depends on the weather conditions and where the boats are headed that day. You can’t go wrong 🙂

  • Jay
    January 27 2015

    Another great write up of 1 of our favorite KT dive sites Meihoukai! Thanks so much. Also, your UW photography is very very good. Wish i could say i had a hand in teaching you these skills but alas i cannot. I will, however, continue to lead your dives to the best of my ability and find you interesting subject matter. ps. love the cover photo xx

    • Meihoukai
      January 28 2015

      You may not have taught me… but you are a great model! xo

  • Amy - Toothbrush Travels
    February 1 2015

    As always your photos make me long for the sea!
    I’ll be travelling again properly come 2016 and have been dying to get back to Thailand and find somewhere to do my PADI – looks like i might have to combine the two and go to Roctopus! Seems like you really trust them 🙂 xo
    Amy – Toothbrush Travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 2 2015

      I do indeed — we go way back! Perfect place to get your certification and fall madly in love with diving!

  • Cat
    February 10 2015

    Beautiful beautiful underwater photos! They always make me happy when you post them.

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2015

      Hopefully more coming soon. I miss the ocean!

  • Mikołaj
    April 4 2015

    Amazing photos!

    • Meihoukai
      April 6 2015

      Thanks Mikolaj! It’s a gorgeous dive site with so much to photograph.

  • Stefanie
    May 18 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,

    wow – amazing pictures! I am heading to Thailand next week and will be on Koh Phangan for a while. Doing a dive course is high n my bucket list and your article has inspired me even more now. Thanks 🙂

    Stef
    Stefanie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 18 2015

      That’s great to hear Stef! Definitely give an Open Water course a go 🙂 You’ll love it!

  • Rachel
    January 8 2016

    Hi Meihoukai – beautiful photos!

    You blog has been a bit of a travel bible to me over the last year of dreaming and planning my trip, so thank you!!!! I’m setting off solo for the first time, one month in Thailand with around 10 days in koh Tao in early March. So excited! I see you rate Roctopus highly, have you visited the Roctopus hotel or heard any traveller feedback on their accomodation options? thinking of staying in Sairee while doing my dive course then doing a couple of days in Chalok bay or at the Aminjirah for a little luxury. Would love to hear your thoughts 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      January 9 2016

      Hey Rachel, I haven’t stayed there but I do drive by it all the time! My friend Liz at Young Adventuress did stay there — check her blog for details! I think your plan sounds awesome — Aminjirah would be an awesome spot to wrap things up after a week of diving!