Circumnavigate navigate Koh Tao Island, Thailand

CoppermillCoppermill TravellingMember

"Start swimming to end shark finning!" is the motto of Project AWARE's FINathon and that is exactly what we are going to do!

Coral Grand Divers, Koh Tao will be hosting a very special fundraiser event in aid of Project AWARE on the 3rd of June.

Our dedicated volunteer for this mission is Bryan Avery, who is currently taking his Dive Master Training with Coral Grand Divers. Instead of the short 400m swim required in his training, he asked if he could swim 24 km (!!) around the Island of Koh Tao to raise money and awareness for Project AWARE and the important work they do.

Our Course Director, Silvano Cacchione, agreed that Coral Grand Divers would provide support in this truly challenging swim as marine conservation is of great importance to everyone at our dive centre.

This is not the first time for Bryan to swim for a good cause. In 2013 this brave man swam across the English channel to raise money for 'Balls to Cancer’. However, the swim around Koh Tao challenges him on a completely new level. Bryan be abiding by the English Channel swimming rules, which means this will be an unaided swim and he will only be wearing swimming trunks and goggles.

There will be additional risks here too: the extra heat, the water temperature is +30c (compared to a chilly 15c in the English Channel) and with a much stronger sun beating down on his back, there is the fear of sun burn and heat stroke. To help overcome some of this, part of the swim will be in the darkness of night.

The swim will take place on June 3rd starting at 3am. Supported by a boat to aid in navigation and emergencies, Bryan plans to swim around the entire island in 6-8 hours.

All of this is to raise money for Project AWARE so they can continue their good work for the conservation of the underwater environments through education, advocacy and action. One of their main priorities is to fight against shark finning, an industry that is pushing shark species towards extension by overfishing over 100 million (!) sharks per year, having a devastating impact on our environment.

We need to take action now to preserve the wonderful underwater world for future generations. Let us be the generation who saved our oceans - not the ones who did nothing while all marine life slowly disappeared.

Support Bryan - donate - make a difference today!

By Sandra Wahrenberger
Manager / Photographer, Coral Grand Divers

The Swimmer
Name: Bryan Avery
Age on Swim date: 47
Nationality: British
Resides: Wiltshire, England

The Swim
Route Description: To Circumnavigate navigate Koh Tao Island, Thailand
Distance: 24km
Date: 3rd June 2015
Start: 05:01 am
Finish: 12:57 pm
Elapsed: 7 hr 56 min 41 sec

The Route Details
Start: from shore (10° 6' 11.9988'' N, 99° 49' 36.6492'' E)
Finish: from shore (10° 6' 11.9988'' N, 99° 49' 36.6492'' E)
Direction: anticlockwise

Support Personnel
Pilot: Chitkoko ‘Smiley Sandy’ Oo
Co-Pilot: Noi, Assisted by Bom
Vessel: The Princess
Crew: Moïra Benmenni, Richie Adams, Marina Schlageter, Ben Bucket and Sidsel Mohr.
Documentarians: Sandra Wahrenberger & Jody Fry
Observer: Silvano Cacchione (PADI, Course Director)

Rules & Conduct
Swim Category: Unassisted marathon swim (
Standard Equipment: traditional men’s swimming trunks, goggles, & Vaseline.
Feeding: Gatorade (Lemon, Blackcurrant), Banana Shake, Mango Shake, Custard, diced peaches, delivered from the boat on the first hour then every 30 minutes thereafter. Occasional fresh water and mouthwash. With final feed 10 minutes off shore to ensure rehydration before exiting the water.

GPS Data
Using Google Tracks on a Galaxy 4s smart phone
Tides & Marine Weather
Nearest tide table that is available is from Ko Mattaphon (Chumphon)
Low tide: 09:31 0.95m
High tide: 23:33 2.26m
Water Temperature: 27c - 30c
Air Temperature: 30c - 32c
Sunrise 05:49
Sunset 18:42
Day length 12:53

On the Day.....

Our alarm went off early. Very early.

03:34am to be precise.

We made our way to the public ferry jetty where at 04:15 we met with the rest of the crew. We had been a little concerned that the early stat would put one or two of them off - but not this lot - they were all here and raring to go!

And hats off to Jeff - he wasn't even coming on the boat but here he was waving Bryan off too.
Nice one Geoff!

The 7-11 is open 24/7 here so everyone was in there filling up on coffee and snacks for the boat, then we climbed across the two boats moored in front of the Princess and got settled on board. The Thai crew were ready and Smiley Sandy was his usual cheerful smiley self even at that time of the morning. How does he do it?

Altogether on board we had:
Silvano Cacchione, Sandra Wahrenberger, Chitkoko ‘Smiley Sandy’ Oo, Noi &Bom the two Thai boat crew, Moïra Benmenni, Richie Adams, Marina Schlageter, Ben 'Bucket', Sidsel Mohr and me; Jody, of course.

We had had to meet at the jetty rather than at Coral Grand as the low tide is very low right now. Which means that the Princess cannot get near the beach for us to load onto her. So here we are at the jetty instead which has much deeper water.

The Princess made her way north from the jetty, across Sairee beach up to Coral Grand which is almost the furthest point across the Bay! Bryan was going to start his swim back south across the bay (the way we had just sailed) as this being the busiest part of the island for boats is also the most dangerous part of the swim. With such an early start, we are hoping to have cleared the bay again before all the boats get going which will be safer for Bryan.

Also we had been monitoring the tide times for a few weeks now. The currents around the island get very strong as the sea surges in and out of the Gulf of Thailand, so these tide times were crucial. Steve from Hacienda had been to the mainland and taken photos of the charts for us to help us plan the swim. Cheers Steve!

Benny has suspiciously volunteered very quickly to grease Bryan up with vaseline. We were wondering about your motives for a bit here Benny! :-)

Actually the vaseline is another important element for a marathon swim. Bryan can get quite chaffed as his arms come up and over, rubbing his neck and his underarms so well done Benny. You did a great job!

It was still pitch black as we got to the point where Bryan would leave the boat to swim to shore. We could see the sail ship ‘Freedom Fargo’ which would also be accompanying us on the swim, sitting very elegantly in the water in the moonlight.

Bryan entered the water and started to swim to shore - it's still pitch black at this point. The English Channel swimming rules state that the swimmer must start clear of the water and finish clear of the water, so, following the same rules, Bryan had swam to shore before starting off.

We watched the two flashing green lights attached to Bryan’s trunks and goggles get closer to the shore. Then we saw them come up out of the water and disappear as Bryan turned around on the shore to face the sea.

Sandy (or Smiley Sandy as he likes to be known) sounded the horn and the clock started at 05:01.

Frank Joswig from the Freedom Fargo joined us briefly on the Princess - he has come over in his small inflatable dingy to say hi.

Feeds were ready and everyone was primed!

05:15 first stroke count was 52 per minute.
By now the light is just coming into the sky and we can see Bryan more easily now.

05:22 Frank came over to see us again.
A bit of a concern for us was the Lomprayah Ferry which went speeding past us but it was so fast it was ahead of us and pulled into the jetty without us having to stop.

05:45 Second stroke count 50 per minute.

06:00 First feed, 300ml of Gatorade
Bryan gave a 10/10.
We have also just cleared the boulders at the southern end of Mae Haad and heading into Jenson Bay. The Water is a bit choppier here.

06:15 Stroke count is 52 per minute

06:30 Just turning now into Tao Tong Bay
The White Bellied Sea Eagles are out too circling around.
Feed number 2 200ml of Mango Shake
Bryan gave a 10/10.

Frank decided to pop back over on the dingy. Don’t know if Bryan appreciated him buzzing around him so we will have to talk to Frank.

06:45 Stroke 50

06:55 Just entered Cho Leuk sun properly up now.

07:00 Gatorade 300ml, peaches half a punnet
Bryan gave a 9/10

07:05 Shark Alert! 6 in the water beneath him, so we stopped for a few minutes and Bryan swam to the rear of the boat and treaded water until they swam off.
Black Tip Reef Sharks - not dangerous but not really something you want following you when you are swimming!

07:15 Stroke count 54

07:20 Coming into Shark Bay now

07:30 Feed - Mango Shake 200ml,
Bryan gave a 10/10 and wants to change his goggles at the next feed.

"The sun is coming up, I hope I put sun screen on right! :-)
You're doing amazing Bryan!
Keep on going!"

07:44 At Sai Dam Bay now some of the crew are snoozing :-) zzzzz

07:45 Stroke Count 62, as we go between Shark Island and Koh Tao.

08:00 Changed Goggles to tinted ones. Feed 600ml, Bryan gave 10/10
We have started playing music on the boat now.

08:04 As we pass Auo Leuk now, the sea is much calmer - almost flat. Let’s hope it stays like this on this side of the Island.

Hey Bryan
we've just gone past the 3 hour bench-mark. You are doing an amazing job. Thank you for having chosen me to be the manager of the boat, it's been a real pleasure to support you. The feeds are actually a lot of fun!
You gave us a bit of a scare earlier when you were met by six sharks :-)
Keep up the good work"

08:09 Ana is thinking about going in the water for a bit.

08:15 Stroke Count 54

08:20 Moïra’s blocked the toilet!!
Tanote Bay in sight.
Yeahy! Toilet fixed
Richie getting ready to go in the water for a bit now - not Ana.

08:30 Banana Shake 200ml, Bryan gave a 10/10. Richie got in the water with him for a bit too so he has some company now (and someone to chase the sharks away now)

08:38 Richie struggling to keep up with Bryan even though he has fins on! He was getting pretty close too which was a concern as we don’t need an accidental bump into Bryan, it would be game over!

08:40 Richie comes back on the boat. Well done Richie but you are no match for Iron Bryan!

08:45 Stroke Count 58 Crossing Tanote Bay now
"Mate,, What an incredible effort your cruising speed was me pushing it. Sorry I could only stay for 10 minutes. You’re just too damn fast!
You SIR are a LEGEND
all respect"

09:00 Gatorade 250ml
Next feed he asked for water. Also a pot of peaches
Bryan gave 10/10

We have a message from Noi here but as it's in Thai we will have to get it translated!

09:04 At the half way point now. The Freedom Fargo is still with us and has its sail up. Black Sails just like in Pirates of the Caribbean.

"Sitting on the boat since 4 hours and you Bryan, are swimming all this time already :-)
You are doing a great job!!"

09:15 Stroke count 50
Everyone on the boat is nodding off! Well not everyone but a few. Poor old Richie he is knackered!

09:20 The sea is as flat as a pancake here.
Checked the tracker and we are still on thank goodness.

09:30 Mao Bay now. Mango shake 150ml, water 320ml, but some on his head so he didn’t drink it all. He wants tea on the next feed. We don’t have any water to make tea so we have all donated our green tea and put it by the engine to warm up.
Bryan gave 9/10

09:45 Stroke count 62
Coming into Hin Wong now

10:00 Green Tea 300ml
He wants custard next time
Bryan gave 10/10

Message from Steve at Hacienda: - get your finger out or I will have eaten your sticky toffee pudding at the finish line.

10:15 Stroke count 56

10:30 Coming up to lighthouse Bay
200ml flat coke & 400ml Custard given but most of it went all over his face
Bryan gave 9/10

10:44 Benny going to have a go in the water now. Good luck Benny

10:45 Stroke count 52

10:46 Benny in the water now
Passing lighthouse now

“Great job Bryan, we are all very impressed! Let’s see if Benny can keep up with you a bit longer” Sandy

10:48 Long-tail boat came a little close for comfort there!

10:55 Benny keeping up well

11:00 Feed green tea 200ml & Gatorade 400ml. Bryan gave 9/10

“What an amazing challenge! I’m very impressed and proud to be a little part of it. It’s been 6 hours now and you are still going at the same pace and with a smile at every ‘food’ break. That is amazing! Thank you for this ‘once in a lifetime experience”

11:06 Coming into Mango Bay now - watch out for the whale shark Bryan.

11:15 Stroke Count 52

Speed boat came in fast to Mango Bay but don’t worry Bryan we we were watching out for you.

“Gracias poo demostrase lo que una persona puede lograr si uno se lo propone. !Animo! You’re Amazing!!”
Ana KD

11:20 We cut up a banana cake and everyone enjoyed it, none for Bryan!

11:25 Young Bom, one of the Thai crew gives a shout that he has spotted something on the starboard side. We all rushed to look but couldn’t see anything. Shame we can’t understand what he is saying either.

11:30 Gatorade 200ml & Custard 300ml
Bryan gave 10/10
Nang Yuan Island in sight now
Almost there, but we would never tell Bryan that.
Benny exits the water

“Hats off for you Bryan, you’re doing an absolutely amazing job! So amazing to see people put an effort into preserving this planet - Hopefully this will raise more awareness, best of luck to you”

11:45 Stroke count 54

We have a message here from the one and only Smiley Sandy but as it's in Burmese we will have to get it translated!

12:00 Gatorade 350ml
Bryan gave an 8 or 9 /10
“I’m bloody knackered” he said

Everyone on the boat has been brilliant!
Ana, Moïra and Milena have hardly taken their eyes of you, everyone else is completely focused. Sandy and Noi steering the boat, waving off other boats and keeping you safe the whole time. Richie hasn't stopped asking questions about you and about swimming.
The Freedom Fargo has been with us the whole way although across mango bay it did drop back a bit when the wind dropped.
Absolutely everyone here has had your back and has really played their part well.
Respect to them all!
Not far now
So proud of you”

12:09 Your Mum says via Facebook “Come on Bryan! x”

12:17 You got the message she says she is on board with us!!
Stroke count 52

12:30 Water 300ml
Bryan said 1/10 but we think he is joking!

12:48 last feed of strawberry milk
Message from Eric “Swim Bryan Swim”
Dad says “Good Luck”
The small boat is here to take us all off now. See you on dry land again
Go on Bryan almost home

12:57 Bryan exits the water where he started this morning, many people have gathered to welcome him back and someone had even made a banner to put up on the beach for him.
You never got this welcome when you swam to France did you Bryan?

We had a tense moment when one of the Thai staff came running up to Bryan to shake his hand - before he had fully cleared the water. But Geoff was there to save the moment and steered the chap away. He looked very dejected obviously feeling very brushed off. We said later we would make a point of finding out who he was and explaining why he wasn't allowed to shake his hand at that moment. Bryan could shake his hand then!

Bryan sits down for a few minutes understandably and asks for a cup of black tea of all things! Coral Grand had their whole kitchen on stand-by to make whatever he wanted and all he wants is a cup of tea! How very British Bryan!

And yes the sticky toffee pudding was waiting too!

"Hello Bryan.
BIG BIG congratulations to the swim around Koh Tao event.
We @ Sailing Koh have been very happy to be part of this, Your major event.
We had been happy to focus you on Sy Freedom Fargo, to be there for you.
All the Best"

So what was the first thing Bryan did after his cup of tea???

Went and jumped into the pool of course!

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