It is generally accepted that the diving on the west of Thailand is excellent, as the waters are generally clearer, the corals and reefs are in good condition and there are much fewer divers. The Andaman Sea hosts a variety of aquatic life, including manta rays, turtles, leopard sharks, whale sharks, whales, dolphins as well as a wide variety of reef fish and other aquatic life.
Koh Lanta itself has mainly sandy, shallow beaches that are good for training but you need to hop on a boat to find the best reefs. The conditions for diving are almost always good to excellent with warm, clear waters and very little current and waves. This has made Lanta a fantastic place to learn to dive but it also has caverns, caves and deep waters to appeal to the more experienced.
There are four key diving destinations from Koh Lanta, Koh Bida/Phi Phi, Koh Haa, King Cruiser and the ever popular Hin Deang and Hin Muang. Most dive trips leave at around 08:00 and return to Koh Lanta at about 14:00 to 16:00 and they include lunch and at least two dive sites. Longer liveaboard trips can also be arranged to allow you up to three or four days to explore the fantastic diving off of the island.
Dive Sites near Koh lanta
Koh Haa means ‘five islands’ but there are actually six and the destination is a real favourite for both new and experienced divers as there is plenty to see and do here. The beautiful sandy lagoon is surrounded by reef, a pretty little beach and being shallow is ideally suited for training dives and snorkelling. The caves of Koh Haa Yai (Big Island) have swim-throughs and a cathedral-like roof and Koh Haa One is mostly well known for its chimney-like swim-through. Maximum depth is 35 metres with visibility of 20-25 plus metres.
Koh Bida and Koh Phi Phi offer a plethora of aquatic life and are extremely popular with guides as there is always something to show their guests. Leopard sharks are common, as are turtles, black tip sharks and large schools of fish. The water is much greener here than Koh Haa and this attracts the fish and their predators. Maximum depth 30 metres with a visibility of 15-20 metres. King Cruiser is the only wreck in the area and is just north of Koh Phi Phi. This ferry, accidentally driven into a very well known reef (Shark Point), killed no one in the process, but the boat sank making an excellent home for aquatic life. Maximum depth 30 metres with a visibility of 15 metres.
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang (Red Rock and Purple Rock) named after the colour of the most common corals found on them are the most well known of Koh Lanta dive sites. These sites are only for the experienced as they are deep (maximum depth 60 metres), the currents can be strong and Hin Muang is completely submerged underwater. The journey is long but these dive sites offer a good chance of seeing manta rays and whale sharks. Expect visibility of 25 metres or more.
Snorkeling around Koh Lanta
The snorkelling on Lanta itself is limited, so if you want to snorkel, take a boat trip to one of the southern islands. Tours are offered on speedboats, big boats and long-tails. Speedboats offer the fastest service and are the ideal way to get to the islands further south, i.e. Koh Rok and the four islands. Long-tails, the traditional Thai fishing boats, provide a more intimate experience, if a little noisy and the big boats offer the cheapest and most comfortable ride but can often be very busy. With all these trips, please be sure to take protection from the sun as there is not always shade.
Koh Rok is actually two sister islands, Nai and Nok (‘inside’ and ‘outside’) separated by a narrow channel, and quite far south of Lanta. The diving between the two islands is quite stunning and sheltered, making the waters very clear and ideal for snorkelling. Turtles and black tip sharks are common.
The Four-Island Trip is a very popular tour as you get to see the beautiful islands, do some snorkelling, eat lunch on one of the beaches, and visit the wonderful Emerald Cave. This cave is definitely worth a visit but is reachable only by boat. You can only enter it at low tide but swim through the 40-metre cave and you will find a magnificent beach entirely hidden from the outside world and home in the past to smugglers (some say this was the real inspiration for the book ‘The Beach’).
If you want to get close to nature, mangrove tours travel between the inner islands on either a long-tail boat or with kayaks and offer the opportunity to see the native monkeys and other wildlife.
Phi Phi tours enable you to see some of the many beaches around the Phi Phi islands, including Maya Bay (where ‘The Beach’ was filmed) as well as stopping on Phi Phi Don for lunch and shopping. There are a number of companies offering these tours, but in general the larger companies tend to provide a more professional service.