A jellyfish almost ruined my Christmas

In the December just passed, my boyfriend and I decided to escape the bitter cold by swapping out England’s grey clouds for Thailand’s tropical heat. We were there for three weeks, spanning across Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s Eve. Everything was heavenly. We snorkelled in the clear aqua waters, marvelled at the intricate temples, drank cocktails whilst the sun set, and soaked our toes in the pure white sands. I remember waking up every morning truly feeling like I was witnessing paradise. That is until a jellyfish decided to bring me back down to earth.

It all occurred on the 20th December. We woke up at 6am from our hotel in Krabi in order to get a long tail boat to the Hong Islands. This particular trip involved stopping off at two beaches, one of which had a viewpoint that opened your eyes to wonders of the world and struck awe that nature could ever be so perfect. After the viewpoint, we attempted to cool off in the sea, yet the 30 degrees Celsius temperature of the water felt more like a hot tub than somewhere to refresh from the heat. After the beaches, Captain Bao, our boat driver, continued to tour us around rocks covered in fresh greenery, marking their territories within the vast ocean. At this moment I realised how far from home I truly was, and how I am able to marvel at beauty the majority of the world will never see. I felt so much peace and humility, recognising how wonderful life is and how much of it there is to capture.

We finally arrived at our final destination of the boat tour, the part that involved snorkelling for 20 minutes in the most crystal-clear water I have ever witnessed in the natural world. I eagerly threw on my goggles and jumped off the boat (I have always been a zealous snorkeler and had been impatiently waiting for this day since our flight had departed from Heathrow). The entire time I had been actively searching for jellyfish, as I had witnessed them on our journey throughout the trip, yet I had not seen any near to where we were now swimming, and I trusted that our boat driver would have alerted us if there was any danger. So I kept it in the back of my mind, but was determined to not let fear thwart my favourite activity. The majority of what we saw when snorkelling were the Indo-Pacific sergeant fish – vibrant yellow and blue fish native to tropical waters. Our boat driver was feeding them watermelon and I gleefully watched them devour the sweet treat for which they so longed. Otherwise, I mostly just swam in the warm waters, rejoicing at the ability to breathe under water.

Once the 20 minutes had finished, Captain Bao called us back onto the boat and I felt rejuvenated by the waters, and thankful to have not come across any jellyfish. I was getting ahead of myself. With one leg on the ladder, the other leg had stayed in the water for about half a second longer than the one on the ladder, but that was too long for one jellyfish. It emerged from underneath the boat; I suddenly felt something hard against my leg, like I had hit a rock. I initially thought I had perhaps just hit the boat, but it immediately started to sting and a rash appeared instantly. Once I was on the boat, my boyfriend started exclaiming “did you see the jellyfish under the boat!”, I had in fact not seen it, but I knew at this point that I had definitely felt it. The pain was increasing rapidly and my boat driver poured fresh water on the red marks imprinted on my legs – something I googled 5 minutes later and it immediately said to never pour fresh water on a jellyfish sting because it aggravates the venom. Great. Thankfully this was the final destination of our boat tour and we were journeying back to Krabi; unfortunately, that journey still lasted for almost 2 hours. As we voyaged, the pain was becoming unbearable and I was unable to move my leg at all. It kept uncontrollably spasming and twitching, like it was being electrocuted from the inside.

Finally we were able to get off the boat, and as I was unable to walk, my boyfriend carried me to the pharmacy and showed him the picture of my attacker to indicate what had occurred. The pharmacist immediately poured vinegar on my sting (NOT fresh water) and applied a cream to alleviate the pain and redness. This worked miraculously and I was able to dance later that evening.

The thing to be hugely grateful for is that I was not stung by a box jellyfish – which also exists within Thailand waters and kill you within minutes of being stung. I am also grateful that it happened at the end of the trip so that I had been able to hike to the viewpoint and enjoy the beaches. I felt lucky, not as lucky as someone who has never been stung by a jellyfish, but lucky to have made it out largely unscathed and to have a unique story from my trip.

Featured image: by Joel Filipe via Unsplash.

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