Sea Turtles and Sunshine

A few incredible days in paradise.

First off, I’d like to apologize for not posting sooner, but I’ll blame it on the wifi. There is only one place on this island where I can get good wifi (two if you count this amazing restaurant but I’m not about to do work there). So I’m writing this from my resort’s bar which in typical resort fashion is made out of wood with a straw roof, adorned with fun signs that say “it’s five o'clock somewhere” and “welcome to paradise.” I can feel the gentle breeze and if I look up from my computer screen, I’m faced with this incredible expanse of ocean that extends past a white sand beach. It truly looks like something out of a postcard. When the water is calm as it is this morning, you can see the bright aquamarine water turn deep purple in patches where the pristine coral reef sits. Beyond that, the water deepens further into a dark blue and continues into the horizon. Yes, I am in a pretty incredible place, but why?

We found out last week that CNF would be taking a trip to the island of Koh Lipe in Southern Thailand on the Andaman sea. Our chairman Miguel has been working to set up a sea turtle hatchery to preserve the few remaining sea turtles in the area. The islands around Koh Lipe are all national parks and no tourists can stay on the islands, or even go to them without an organized and closely monitored trip. We would be scoping out beaches and talking to local fisherman to gather information on the sea turtles. We left Pai last Thursday and spend the night in Chiang Mai where we wandered the amazing night market. Early Friday morning we awoke to catch a flight that landed us at a big island which I cannot remember the name of. We then took a two hour bus to the sea and from there we took a two hour speedboat to Koh Lipe. When we finally arrived I could not believe it. 

I’ve described the incredible view to you already but not that of the resort. Mali Resort is right on the beach and has these incredible tropical trees of every kind stretching into the sky. The bungalows are clean and luxurious. I fell down immediately on the super-soft bed and tried to pinch myself to see if it was all a dream. And yet, it was not a dream. We were really here and we had work to do. 

The first day we settled into our new accommodations and celebrated Casey’s birthday. Casey and Kelsey are the two other interns here with me on the island and they have made the experience even more fun. Friday night we all watched the sunset from this incredible restaurant where everything was so expensive we could only afford the orange juice. We then wandered around the resort town stopping in at various themed bars and being wowed by the fire dancers. 

The next day we went out to explore some of the beaches at a nearby island. These beaches were strictly off limits to tourists, but we had special permission from the navy to search for sea turtle tracks and find a suitable place for a hatchery.  Miguel, Hippo, Kelsey, Casey, and I waded into the sea and hopped aboard a wooden longboat that would take us to the island. I grew up on boats so I was immediately comfortable at sea. However, I was keenly aware that we all had the ability to tip the boat if we so pleased. It was not quite the same as my family’s pontoon boat back home, As we rode to the island I leaned over the side and saw the coral clear as day with all manner of sea creatures swimming in its midst. It was breathtaking.

Spending the day on beaches that didn’t have a single footprint other than our own was an ethereal experience. The sand was different than the sand on Koh Lipe. Our feet sank deep with each step and we heard nothing but the sound of waves crashing and the rustle of the wind through the palm trees. 

The next few days was a combination of fishing, relaxing, and cleaning up beaches. Unfortunately there is so much trash that washes up on the shores of these beaches because of the tides. Every week a group of locals get together with tourists as part of an initiative called Trash Heroes where they take longboats out to nearby islands and pick up trash. In two hours we collected over fifty large bags of trash. We also spent a few mornings fishing and searching for sea turtles. Although we weren’t lucky enough to catch any sea turtles yesterday morning we caught over sixty fish. I caught seventeen myself and the best part was that we took them to a great restaurant for dinner where Miguel knows the owner and he barbecued the fish for us to eat. 

As much as this detour has been exciting, I am just as excited to get back to Pai where there is still so much to explore. 

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