On Saturday, 23 June 2018, a football team of boys in Thailand, aged 11 to 16, finished practice under the watchful eye of their 25-year-old coach, Ekkapol Chantawong. The group then cycled to and entered a popular tourist attraction, Tham Luang Cave. Some of the boys had never visited it before and were curious to know what it looked like. They explored the cave for about an hour before turning around and retraced their steps.
Situated in the Andaman Sea just north of Phuket, Koh Tachai island is part of the Similan National Park and popular with tourists and divers. While the majority of Thai marine national parks close from mid-May to mid-October during the monsoon season, KohTachai will not reopen.
Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is closing the beaches, the reef and a tourist area on the islands “to solve the environmental and natural resources impact which is caused by tourism,” according to an announcement on the department’s website. The order was issued on May 10.
My dive buddy, Kate, is trying to get a shot of a purple sea fan but she’s having trouble with her strobes and my ADD is kicking in. This happens occasionally. I try to be a good buddy, I really do, but there’s just so damn much to see underwater and I get antsy if we stop too long for a photograph.
If anyone was to mention diving in Thailand to you, then you would most likely think of one of the west coast destinations. Hardly a thought would be given to the small island of Koh Tao, which lies off the east coast in the Gulf of Thailand. I live and dive here, so I find this lack of attention a little unfair.
The entrance of the Sra Keow cave, north of Krabi, Thailand, is dark and quiet. All the local kids who use the pond as a playground are now back home for dinner. The only three people still there, closely watching the motionless pond, trying to see any bubble or glow that could reach the surface now start to worry. The divers were supposed to complete their dive within four and a half hours...
Still nothing after six long hours.