Koh Lanta refers to the group of three islands situated about 80km south of the city of Krabi in lower Thailand. Krabi is quite a large city that has its own airport and it is the best access point for these Koh Lanta islands – Koh Lanta Yai, Ko Klang and Koh Lanta Noi. These three islands stretch out from mainland Thailand right into the Malacca Strait, which is the area that separates Phuket and mainland Thailand. To the south of one of these islands, Koh Lanta Noi, lies the Mu Koh Lanta National Park which consists of at least 50 tiny islands offering serene landscapes and great scuba diving.
Although Koh Lanta is less touristy than the heavily trafficked islands of Phuket or Phi Phi, Koh Lanta Yai’s beaches are very popular with tourists and have been for a number of decades. Scuba divers have also been visiting this area for a long while, making use of the Koh Lanta islands to visit the Mu Koh Lanta National Park and world-renowned sites at Koh Racha to the west.
Koh Lanta is home to some of the best scuba diving sites on the eastern side of Thailand. As the popularity of these islands has grown, more and more tourist resorts have been established and diving operators are now also plentiful in this area. Most divers make their way to the lower islands of Koh Lanta where there are 9 beautiful sandy beaches and diving operators lining the shore from the north to the south.
Diving in both Thailand and Koh Lanta can be heavily affected by the area’s monsoon season, and so the best time to dive here is between November and April. Heavy rains are prevalent from the late summer months onwards and divers will find themselves limited on dive site options with many of the outlying sites being affected. Some of the dive sites to the north of Malacca Strait are fairly protected from the worst of the monsoon season, and so if you were unable to visit during the best diving months of November through April, diving would still be possible at some of these smaller sheltered sites.
Koh Lanta Dive Sites
Situated on the Malacca Strait, Koh Lanta offers some of the best diving on the eastern side of Thailand. If you are looking to explore the world famous dive sites of Thailand’s Andaman Sea such as Richelieu Rock or the Similan Islands, your best bet would be to climb aboard a liveaboard as many of these fantastic sites are too far for a day trip from Koh Lanta.
Within the Malacca Strait, there are at least 15 great dive sites to choose from around the island of Phi Phi and between Phuket and mainland Thailand. Bida Nok is a wall dive suitable for both beginner and advanced divers, where parts of the wall drop down to 32 meters. The visibility is generally fantastic at Bida Nok – averaging about 20 meters – even though the surface can be rough at times. Once descended, divers can expect to experience calm currents and a wide variety of marine life in all shapes and sizes. The vibrant reef is home to scorpion fish, Moorish idols, leopard sharks and honeycomb groupers to name just a few.
To Koh Lanta’s south lies the minute island of Koh Kraden, well-known for its wreck site of a Japanese destroyer. The destroyer sank to quite a depth in 1944 after it was hit in an air raid, and it now serves as a home to reef sharks, manta rays and a range of seahorse types. The site is only suitable for advanced wreck divers as you need to pass beneath a thermocline to reach the vessel, and the visibility is often quite reduced. For those up for a bit of a challenge, the wreck is a great site to visit.
For beginner divers and snorkelers, the two islands of Koh Rok are very popular due to their near-perfect visibility and shallow waters. The islands themselves are mostly uninhabited save for some giant monitor lizards, but they are truly beautiful with palm trees and mangroves covering the entire island. Beneath the shallow waters, visitors will find black tip reef sharks, gorgonian sea fans, anemone fish and the odd hawksbill turtle. The channel that lies between the two islands of Koh Rok offers beautiful coral species in all shapes, colors and forms. Visitors are best to avoid taking a day trip from Koh Lanta on national holidays as the area can be become overcrowded with snorkelers and divers hoping to enjoy the great marine life.
Dive sites can also be visited from Phi Phi, Krabi and Phuket.
- Weak to strong currents
- Wide rocky area with sheer walls steep slopes.
- Red soft corals (the dive site name).
- Marine life features barracudas, needlefish, fusiliers, sea turtles and rays.
- There are sharks including leopard sharks, grey reef sharks and whalesharks.
- Many small invertebrates and nudibranches.
- Weak to strong currents
- 200m long submerged plateau with purple soft corals (the name of this divesite).
- Huge seafans and anemones, school of jacks and grey reef sharks.
- Good for mantas and whalesharks.
Koh Ha Yai
- Can be strong current
- Several rocky karsts including an underwater cave with a large inner cathedral.
- Soft and hard corals with marine life such as sea fans, sea whips, rays, leopard sharks and sea turtles.
- There is good night diving just outside the cave.
Koh Lanta Dive Resort and Dive Centers
The islands of Koh Lanta are covered in mangrove forests, dense jungle and large hills which has meant that much of the development is right on the coast. There are a small number of resorts allowing the coastline and these are connected by a few roads that do not extend past the coastal area of the island. Diving shops often operate out of the established resorts or can be found scattered around the coastal areas.
Although there are not many diving outfits around Koh Lanta, the operators that are present offer great service and have won numerous awards in the industry for their dedication to the marine environment and diver education. Divers will find everything they need including dive training, equipment rental and shops to purchase well-known dive equipment. Some dive operators offer tailored dive packages and others offer regular day trips to the many great sites in the area.
How to get to Koh Lanta
To get to Koh Lanta, visitors would fly into Krabi airport or Phuket International and then journey by road to Koh Lanta itself. Visitors can make use of Hat Yai airport, but this presents a longer driving stretch than the airports at Krabi or Phuket.
Even though Koh Lanta is in the Krabi region, it is distant away to boast its own section. Lanta will allow divers to access some of the finest diving sites that Thailand has to offer. Krabi has something to offer to everyone; which ranges from calm fringing reefs to the amazing outer rocks. This island also possesses beautiful white sandy beaches, gushing waterfalls and thriving tropical rainforests.
Year round scuba diving with best conditions between October and May.
Koh Lanta vs Koh Phi Phi
The beautiful island of Koh Lanta Yai is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbours, such as diving mecca Koh Phi Phi.
But in many respects, Koh Lanta Yai is the unsung hero of Thailand’s west-coast diving scene.
Koh Lanta’s western coastline is virtually one long beach, stretching over 30 kilometres, punctuated occasionally by rocky headlands. Round the southern apex of the island is a secluded beach. At the northern end of the island is Saladan, which was once a small fishing hamlet. Much of its rustic character has been slowly eroded in recent years by the introduction of modern-day conveniences and tourist amenities such as bakeries, delicatessens, banks… and of course, dive centres.