Diving Off Season at Koh Lanta, Thailand Brings On Smiles

Calm at Koh Lanta during monsoon end.

For anyone looking for an escape from Singapore and a 'nitrogen fix' over the monsoon season in Malaysia, why not head out to “land of smiles”!From the moment you set foot into Thailand you will be overwhelmed with the people's easy manner…. everyone seems to be born with a built-in service ethic!

Although we were warned that we had planned our dive trip just prior to the season starting (beginning October, the season starts 1 November) we were the lucky ones – the very day we arrived the weather cleared, and to our great delight the dive sites were pristine! Our first dive at Ko Ha gave us a breathtaking 30 – 40m viz, which set the standard for a delightful couple of days.

Box fish pouts!

Box fish pouts!

Dives around Phi Phi island were a little less clear, but the fish were as tame and co-operative at all locations. I almost felt like if I stuck in just one spot they would parade past my camera lenses and pose - left view, right view, back three-quarter view. Even the normally extremely shy box fish seemedmore curious about me than I was about her.

Our days usually began early, we met at the dive shop at 8 am in order to make the nearly two hour trip out to the islands, but a continental breakfast and free flow of much needed coffee and tea was provided for our trip. All operators seem to standardize on two dives a day, one around 10 or 10.30 on reaching the day’s destination, and the second after a scrumptious lunch, also usually provided as part of your dive package.

The alternative to the big boats is the speed boat, which may be a better option for the die-hard diver who wants to make three dives a day – a little less comfortable, but certainly a faster ride out to the islands.

Corals ablaze with colour at Koh Ha.

I am a firm believer that any dive with the kind of visibility we were treated to is delightful, but when one is treated to an amazing array of friendly fish it becomes spectacular.Not only was there an abundance of the usual suspects such as coral fish, angels, groupers, anemone fish, sweet lips and batfish, but we were also treated to boxfish, moray, fire fish, some interesting nudibranch and it was my first opportunity to shoot the honeycomb grouper and enjoy the red-tailed butterfly fish.

Meeting Mr Green Moray.

We even enjoyed watching a green turtle snacking on some bulb coral, completely unperturbed by our presence. We were slightly disappointed that many of the other divers had seen leopard shark, some as many as four in one dive, and had put it out of our minds as we did our safety stop after our last dive on the last day.

As usual I lingered about below as my buddy and the dive master surfaced, when a movement caught the corner of my eye – it was a beautiful leopard shark lazily swimming directly at us! Of course my memory card on my camera was full, so I kicked up to the surface, screamed at my buddy who already had his mask dangling around his neck to “look down!!” so that he too could enjoy watching the graceful creature cruise effortlessly by with a mereswish of her long tail.

Lionfish spreads her mane.

After four days of superb diving we reluctantly started our journey back to Krabi to fly back to the real world. However our little adventure was not over – there are two ferry crossings to get from Koh Lanta to Krabi, both of which took a lot longer than we expected, suddenly our two-hour journey turned into four hours, and we found ourselves at the airport just in time to watch our flight to Singapore take off!

Another great thing about Thailand is that hotels are aplenty and reasonable, so we took advantage of our little misfortune and enjoyed our extra day in Krabi, and of course made the most of experiencing more of the delicious local food. Not only is the food outstanding, it is also really cheap! We had dinner for four from a local food court fit for kings for just over US$10!

We think they should nickname Thailand Land of Smiles, Great Food and Delightful Diving.

Photography by Karla Skada.

Where to stay: Numerous places ranging from cheap to pricey. For indulgence, try Lanta Cliff Beach Resort & Spa that has a splendid hill view and walking distance to Kho Kwang Beach. Saladan shopping area is just 2 km away.