The thought of visiting Thailand conjures up images of white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, delicious food, and fantastic diving. And the west coast of Thailand offers the best diving in the region, with regular manta ray and whale shark encounters…
Koh Lanta is situated in the middle of Thailand’s west coast – a short drive from the international airport at nearby Krabi Town. Its warm, clear waters and stunning beaches make it a great choice as a holiday destination, and with such great diving, it’s a top diving destination in the region – arguably Thailand’s best land-based diving.
Suitable for diving levels, Koh Lanta offers a nice variety of dive sites, and has something for everyone to enjoy – shallow, colourful reefs; deep drop-offs; small critters; large pelagics; and a couple of wrecks. Let’s have a look at the dive sites on offer:
Hin Daeng / Hin Muang
The twin-pinnacles situated to the south of Koh Lanta are perhaps the biggest draw for experienced divers. Famed as Thailand’s best wall dive, Hin Daeng (and neighbouring Hin Muang), provide divers in the area with great chances of watching numerous manta rays circling the cleaning stations on the shallow parts of the reefs. The two dive sites take their names from the abundance of soft corals covering the rocks – ‘hin’ is the Thai word for ‘rock’, ‘daeng’ translates as ‘red’, and ‘muang’ means ‘purple’.
The two sites are just a couple of hundred metres apart, and a dive trip here usually includes one dive at each site. Hin Muang is a submerged, elongated pinnacle, with the shallowest section just below the surface, and the sea-bed a little deeper than sixty metres. Hin Daeng resembles an underwater mountain, again rising from around sixty metres, with its summit protruding a few metres above the surface. The pinnacles offer oases of life in the middle of the open ocean, and can present lucky divers with some great marine life encounters, both big and small.
Marine life: whale sharks, manta rays, ornate ghost pipefish, leopard sharks, seahorses, schooling trevally and barracuda, ribbon eels, spearing mantis shrimp, and octopuses.
The name of this cluster of islands translates to ‘five islands’, and they offer a number of different dive sites at one location with varying topography. Koh Ha #1 is famed for its chimney – a vertical swim-through suitable for experienced divers – that is often teeming with fishes and life. the chimney is a nice way to end the dive as it takes you up to five or six metres – perfect to start your safety stop.
In the middle of islands #2, #3, and #4 is the lagoon area (as seen in the photo above). this is great dive site for students and experienced divers a like. Divers can start in the middle of the lagoon, at a depth of around six metres, and then follow the sandy slopes between the islands down to a maximum of thirty metres. The outside of the islands are covering with a rainbow of soft corals, and are home to many cool and amazing creatures.
Koh Ha Yai – the biggest island of the group – is another stunning dive with the chance for experienced divers to enter ‘the cathedral’. A natural hollow within the island that allows divers a unique experience – surfacing inside an island !
Marine life: whale sharks, black-tipped reef sharks, harlequin shrimp, seahorses, turtles, ornate ghost pipefish, peacock mantis shrimp, spearing mantis shrimp, and nudibranchs.
The two Bida islands – Bida Nok & Bida Nai – are two limestone rocks jutting out of the water to the south of the Phi Phi islands. Both sites are covered in beautiful soft corals, and are home to a myriad of varying species of marine life. Diving at the Bidas is a great spot for shark enthusiasts, with regular sightings of leopard and black-tipped reef sharks, and also the occasional appearance by the world’s biggest fish – the whale shark.
The Bidas are also a great place for the smaller critters. A nice relaxed swim along the reef usually allows divers to find nudibranchs, ornate ghost pipefish, seahorses, and cuttlefish hiding beneath the sweeping school of yellow snapper that frequents the reefs.
A trip to the Bidas from Lanta usually involves the first dive at Koh Bida Nok, and the second dive at the slightly shallower Koh Bida Nai. If you are on a three-dive trip, then the chances are you will do a third dive at the nearby Hin Bida – a submerged dive site on the way back to Koh Lanta, and a favourite resting place for the leopard sharks.
Marine life: leopard sharks, whale sharks, ghost pipefish, nudibranchs, yellow snapper, barracuda, turtles, seahorses, frogfish, black-tipped reef sharks, and bent-stick pipefish.
Kled Kaew Wreck
The HTMS Kled Kaew is a former naval gunship in the Royal Thai Navy. The Kled Kaew was built in 1948 for the Norwegian Royal Navy, being launched initially as the RnoMS Norfrost. Eight years later it was acquired and renamed by the Royal Thai Navy. In 2014, she was brought to her final resting place near Koh Phi Phi Ley and purposefully sank. The wreck sits in around 26 metres of water, with the shallowest section of the wreck reaching about 14 metres. As is so often the case with wrecks, the ex-naval launch provides shelter to many different species of marine life, and has large schools of fish circling just above the structure.
The 47-metre long wreck is a nice easy wreck, with some occasional current at certain times. She’ s a great wreck to dive as part of your PADI Advanced Open Water Course, or a perfect dive for Nitrox, with the reduced nitrogen levels affording a longer bottom time on the decks.
Marine life: barracuda, trevally, lionfish, scorpionfish, frogfish, nudibranchs, moray eels, batfish, and catfish.
All the above dive sites are easily accessible from Koh Lanta. Lanta Diver offers regular trips to these sites on one of its three dive-boats. If you would like to know more about the dive sites and the trips from Koh Lanta, please email Lanta Diver – email@example.com.
Photos taken by Narcosis Nick U/W Photography, Richard Reardon, and Steve Branson.