Whilst there aren’t any dive sites on the island of Ko Lanta itself, there are some world-class dive sites nearby – in particular it’s the closest diving base for Hin Daeng and Hin Muang in the far south – around 50km further south. As these dive sites are rated some of the highest in the world for sightings of whale sharks, and also frequently attract manta rays, we decided that we had to take the opportunity to dive them while here.
We looked around at various dive shops – prices vary from around 3100 to 4000 THB for the “local” dive sites of Ko Ha/Ko Bida (still 1.5hrs away on a big boat), and 3800 THB to 5500 THB for Hin Daeng/Hin Muang – the larger variation here also depending on whether a speedboat is offered, whicj reduces the travel time to around 1.5 hrs. Eventually we decided to do two days diving with the largest dive operator on the island – Lanta Diver – mainly because they saved us 1000 THB each vs the dive shop that was on our doorstep on Long Beach, plus they have two big boats and dive on Hin Daeng a number of times a week.
On Thursday we went to Ko Ha, and despite a 40 minute late pickup from our hotel (apparently unusual for them as it was an exceptionally busy day) and 38 divers packed onto this boat, it was actually a very well organised and stress-free experience. They stuck to the 4 divers per instructor/DM, who looked after us extremely well with the most thorough briefings I’ve ever had before diving, plus post-dive fish ident de-briefing. They split the 38 divers into two groups for setting up and then again for getting in the water – so there were never too many people on the dive deck at once – and there was plenty of space on the upper deck for everyone else to chill out and wait their turn.
The diving at Ko Ha was excellent, and fairly shallow resulting in 1 hr dives (max allowed). Whilst we weren’t very lucky with the visibility (~10m), the reefs and walls were superb. It seemed like there were moray eels in every hole, titan triggerfish digging in the sand, lionfish, scorpion fish, and many more. We weren’t lucky enough to see the black-tip reef sharks which also live in the area, but hopefully there will be other chances to see those on Phi Phi in a few days.
This morning we had a very early start (6.30am pickup, on time today) for the long ride out to Hin Daeng. They serve a good sausage/bacon/egg breakfast so between that and setting up, the first 1.5hrs goes by quickly. Between a some napping/reading and another thorough briefing, we are there already. The first dive on Hin Daeng was a little challenging. The currents were stronger than anything we’ve dived in before, and the effect of this was to prevent divers from spreading out to other parts of the site as we had to stay in the most sheltered parts. So it was very busy and challenging to manage swimming into current in some spots and drift in others, whilst avoiding other divers. Ascending on the buoy line was bizarre, with visibility dropping to less than 5m in a big cloud of plankton containing lots of baby jellyfish (which i didnt notice until i started getting stung around my lips). With about 15 divers hanging onto this line and trying to make a safety stop, it was quite an experience! But definitely good experience of diving in current, which we need to build on before we go to Indonesia.
Hin Daeng was much better, visibility still wasn’t ideal but it was improved, and the current was much lighter in the areas that we dived, as there is more shelter provided by the pinnacle, which actually breaks the surface in 3 places, whereas Hin Muang is fully submerged.
The numbers of fish both on and off the reef was very impressive – we’ll list some names with the pictures to follow. No whale shark or manta rays this time, but maybe next time in the similan islands we’ll get lucky!
Our plan now is to head to Phi Phi in the next couple of days to find some good off-beach snorkelling, stay there a couple of nights, then continue on up to Khao Lak.