Divers travel to Thailand for some of the best diving in the world on both coasts of the country. The Andaman Sea has one of the most coveted reefs with a world top 5 in Hin Daeng and Hin Muang off of Ko Lanta. The most beginner friendly diving in the world is in the Gulf of Thailand where the island of Ko Tao certifies more divers than anywhere else. Diving wise, what both sides have in common despite different ecosystems, is the opportunity to swim with the elusive, friendly, and very curious giant, the Whale Shark.
There aren’t any reefs that guarantee a Whale Shark sighting, and there are some dive masters that I met in Ko Tao, that despite diving every day, have yet to spot one. That said there is always excitement that grows on the diving boats that this dive might be the lucky one. In that case, abandon the dive game plan, and just hang around the Whale Shark being sure to give it space, especially around its tail.
“There’s an erergy to that island. It’s magic. You have to go to Olkhon.”
That’s all I kept hearing from Siberians when I arrived in Irkutsk. This ain’t hockey so why fight these pesky Russians?
Actually, one thing I learned from being in Siberia and the Baltic states, Ukraine – places that continue to have Russian influence, at least in language – is that a Russian is very much like an African: an over simplified term that can refer to hundreds of different ethnic and cultural groups.
Originally Published for Dispatches International
“Lake Baikal is not such a good place for a restful vacation or a place at the beach because it snows [every] four hours, it’s cold enough in the morning, and mosquitoes [are] everywhere,” says Vladimir Hidekel, a professor of ecology at Irkutsk State University. “[But] it’s good for people who understand the beauty of wild nature.”
Sunset at Ayaya Bay
In addition to his work as an ecologist, Hidekel is an outdoorsman. He works as a project leader for the Great Baikal Trail (GBT), an ambitious project that aims to develop the first environmental trail system in Russia. “People need access to the wild nature and beautiful places,” Hidekel says about the trail network.