I salute those of you who can post photos of yourselves snorkelling and diving with your face of waterproof make-up intact and your silky locks, floating graciously in the water as if they have a heartbeat of their own. Me? I have no photos like that. I’m also mellowing as I get older – I don’t trot half way across the world just to sit in front of the dressing table for hours. I used my hair straighteners a grand total of zero times on this trip (and it was liberating.) So in that spirit, I kick off this post with a natural, make-up free, snorkelling look. I have Pumpkin to thank for that unexpected, impulsive and rather unflattering capture! Note how my little finger appears to be under the delusion that it is gearing up for afternoon tea at a posh British hotel…
And now we’ll move on to some prettier fish photos.The post was originally entitled “snorkelling in Ko Lanta” before Louise, a resident dive/snorkel master and close friend whom we were visiting told us there is actually very little snorkelling to be enjoyed in Ko Lanta itself. To immerse yourselves in the best of the underwater world, you need to hop on a boat and head towards the surrounding islands such as Ko Rok or in our case Ko Haa.
Snorkelling in Ko Haa
Undeterred by the 7am start and plied with a light bowl of fruit, we commenced our day trip to this cluster of five bite-sized but beautiful islands, visible from the shores of Ko Lanta, joining a group of divers, one fellow snorkeller and the Scubafish team.This was my fourth time snorkelling, having previously tried it in Zanzibar, The Maldives and Mexico and I was relieved to say that I’ve finally cracked the breathing! It’s all about the small accomplishments.The journey to Ko Haa took nearly an hour by boat and throughout the day, we enjoyed three stops at different locations. Our last snorkelling destination was the Maldives so we have been utterly spoilt with stunning corals and colourful fish and Louise warned us about having realistic expectations.But that said, I was pleasantly surprised with how pretty and diverse the Ko Haa marine life was. We saw clusters of clown fish, shoals of tapering pencil fish and everywhere I turned, there was a blue starfish almost imprinted onto the corals – they lay so still that it was hard to believe they hadn’t been stuck down with adhesive.A whale shark had been spotted the previous (and next) day but unfortunately took a day of annual leave from strutting his stuff on our snorkel trip but we were lucky enough to see this large reef shark instead. (Apologies for some of these blurred photos – our underwater camera is about seven years old now, not long in human terms but a shrivelled antique in technology years!) We learned that you can spot when a shark appearance is looming by the countless shoals of fish that scurry through the azure waters, frantically trying to escape their inevitable fate.I squealed with delight (as much as you can squeal when you’re underwater with a snorkel in your mouth anyway) when I saw a jellyfish for the first time and despite longing to get a clearer photo, I remembered that episode of friends, where Monica got stung by a jellyfish; needless to say, I had no desire to be in a similar situation so kept a safe distance.Where I was less wise, however, was when we saw this stunning, beaded water snake. Marked with an obsessively symmetrical black and white banded effect, this intriguing creature looked more akin to a piece of jewellery performing a calisthenic routine and I wasn’t going to let it pass without a photo. Normally one to be rather phobic of snakes, somehow in the water, that fear escaped me transiently as I swam closer to photograph it. It was only as I resurfaced that Louise stared at me in bemusement at my “bravery” for going so near a creature which is one of the most venomous in the ocean. There’s a fine line between bravery and ignorance…
All our previous snorkelling experiences have involved short one to two hour trips or swimming independently around house reefs. We were unsure what we would make of a full day trip but loved every minute. This was island life at its very best, floating in warm teal waters, exploring the explosively energetic world that goes on beneath our feet, snoozing in between trips on the boat, engaging in stimulating conversation with interesting fellow travellers and living life at a pace incompatible with London life. In fact, I couldn’t think of a more relaxing way to round off an incredible year in travel.
Practical tips for snorkelling at Ko Haa with Scubafish
- bring a sarong or something to cover up with and plenty of sun cream
- breakfast, lunch, drinks and snacks provided on board
- toilet facilities available
- equipment provided
- tips discretionary but appreciated
- 2 dives included and optional 3rd
- payment in store at the end of the trip by card or cash
- includes hotel pick up and drop off
- a professional underwater photographer joins the trips in case you want a photographic memento but usually more time spent with divers than snorkellers
Where in the world do you recommend for snorkelling?