Snorkelling at Ko Haa Islands, Ko Lanta 

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. snorkelling near koh lanta blogI’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.Koh Haa snorkel fish blue yellow stripedThe 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.Koh Lanta Beach sand 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.Koh Haa Islands

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.Scubafish snorkel Koh LantaThis 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.grey black fish snorkel Koh LantaThe 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.Koh Haa snorkel black yellow fishBut 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.blue white starfish diving Koh HaaA 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!)reef shark near Koh Lanta 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.snorkelling Thailand pencil fishI 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.jelly fish Koh Haa Koh LantaWhere I was less wise, however, was when we saw this stunning, beaded water snake. beaded water snake Thailand snorkelMarked 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. coral photos Thailand LantaThis 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.Koh Haa islands In fact, I couldn’t think of a more relaxing way to round off an incredible year in travel.Scubafish Koh Lanta boat diving

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?

42 thoughts on “Snorkelling at Ko Haa Islands, Ko Lanta 

  1. This must have been a pretty great trip! Especially with seeing such a varied amount of sealife 😊 I snorkelled in Crete many years ago and got to see the wreckage of an old war plane which should have been cool but I don’t know why, looking under the open water kind of freaks me out. Maybe I should give it another chance sometime – this trip sounds like great fun!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 14, 2015 — 8:49 pm

      Thanks so much! It was a great snorkelling trip – it’s always helpful having a guide too to help you spot creatures that you might have missed otherwise – many of them just camouflage so well! I know what you mean though – each time I go snorkelling, I have to psych myself up for it again as I still get a little apprehensive doing it now & then! I’d definitely recommend giving it another try though one day – thanks so much for reading ☺

  2. Sharks, jelly fish, and snakes? You are so brave! Looks like a lovely place though 🙂
    Ash

    http://www.liakadatravel.com

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 14, 2015 — 8:55 pm

      Haha thanks Ash – I can assure you I never feel that brave but reef sharks are usually harmless unless they feel under threat & I’d seen them once before; the jellyfish and snake on the other hand did come as a bit of a surprise! ☺

  3. Brings back happy memories of my Thailand trip, looks incredible there!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 14, 2015 — 8:57 pm

      Thanks Becky! Did you go to the islands in Thailand too? My first trip there was only to the mainland so it was lovely having a chance to enjoy the island life this time round ☺

  4. Wow, this looks incredible! (Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your first paragraph – I would be exactly the same!) I’ve never actually been diving yet but I’d love to really get up close to some incredible creatures. I would definitely run a mile if I saw that snake though – even looking at the picture makes me want to weep!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 14, 2015 — 9:02 pm

      Aww thanks so much for your kind words Emily! I hate snakes usually too – I don’t know what came over me this time! I’ve never dived either – so far, snorkelling is as far as it’s gone with me but I must admit the more I do it, the more tempted I get to give diving a go one day!

  5. I am the same way whenever I travel! I would rather spend time out exploring than trying to get my hair perfect. I have such crazy hair that I know it will only get messed up anyway. Looks like you had an amazing adventure! I have only been snorkeling once in my life, shameful I know for someone in Hawaii…. But you have really inspired me to want to go again!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 14, 2015 — 9:07 pm

      Oh Carolann, if I ever want to Hawaii, I think I’d be in the water the whole time – I really hope you do get a chance to go snorkelling there soon again & that you’ll tell us all about it once you do ☺ my hair is the same – even when I did used to spend ages trying to make it presentable, it would only take 5 mins in the rain or humidity to completely undo it so now I’m done wasting valuable travel time on it!

  6. Oh no no no no no. I have a totally irrational but very strong fear of sea snakes. It’s pretty much the only thing that absolutely scares the shit out of me. So I’m scrolling through your pictures…no wait…it can’t be…she can’t have taken that photo…please tell me it’s a stock photo she grabbed as an example…because…no…there is NO WAY she would get that close to a sea snake.

    I cannot believe you got SO CLOSE! Like, I don’t think I’ll ever be snorkeling there. And I love snorkeling. So much. Bring on sharks and jellyfish. But I don’t do sea snakes.

    (Also, totally with you on the hair thing…I’m way to lazy/have other priorities for hair-doing when traveling).

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 14, 2015 — 9:35 pm

      Hehe, Heather to be honest, if I’d actually known there was a snake down there, I probably wouldn’t have gone either as I normally really don’t like snakes – I think I was just so intrigued when I saw it that I became preoccupied with getting a picture and just somehow forgot about how scary it was! I also genuinely had no idea how poisonous the venom was till afterwards! I’m so glad to hear so many people are with me on this whole not-wasting-our-lives-on-our-hair thing! Thanks so much for reading ☺

  7. Wow! What a amazing trip you had! The underwater pictures you captured are absolutely fantastic. The beaded water snake definitely caught my attention. Your trip and photos reminds we of the times I went snorkeling in Thailand. There is nothing better than spending the day on the boat and in the water.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 14, 2015 — 9:45 pm

      Thank you Constance! So pleased you like the pics ☺ I completely agree about being out on the water – it’s such a lovely way to spend the day!

  8. Your underwater photos are fantastic, what camera did you use? I also loved the beaded water snake!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 11:43 am

      Oh thank you so much Suze – that’s a huge compliment coming from you, as you take such beautiful photos! It’s an Olympyus 1050 SW digital camera from a few years ago – ironically, we hardly ever use it nowadays but because it’s waterproof, we take it on beach/pool holidays. I’m sure there are lots of great, newer cameras out there for that but it seems to serve the purpose so we’ve stuck with it for now 🙂

  9. Ha! I haven’t owned hair straighteners since the time I moved country and plugs got weird! Have never been snorkeling either – it looks fun yet scary. Is it scary?

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 11:47 am

      Yeh I think my hair styling tools are rapidly approaching redundancy 🙂 It’s not scary as such – it can feel a little uncomfortable when you’re first trying to get the breathing right, face down and water often gets up your nose leaving you lifting your head up and trying to spit it out – all very glamorous! It took me several attempts before I finally managed to get the breathing right but once you do, it’s just magical!

  10. The best spot that I have even been snorkling was in Australia. The great barrier reef… wow, that was a day i’ll never forget. Thanks for linking up with us for #SundayTraveler

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 11:55 am

      Wow! I would love to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef one day – definitely one for the wish list – it must have been amazing SJ!

  11. You got some amazing pictures!!! I love the picture of the water snake, and thank god nothing else happened! I’m not a huge fan of snorkeling… I’ve done it twice and I freak out when water gets into the nose piece, but I’m looking forward to doing some on Boracay next month (we don’t have an underwater camera, so there won’t be pics)! I assure you, your candid snorkeling picture is way cuter than the ones I have of me. I no longer use a hair straightener now that I’m traveling, but that’s the one beauty appliance I really miss :(. My hair is so naturally wavy (and frizzy in humidity) so that’s why all the pictures you see just have my hair pulled back in a ponytail now. Sigh.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 11:57 am

      My hair’s exactly the same – it’s seriously HUGE in the humidity and you’ll see when more of my Singapore come up on here that I also conveniently tuck it away in a big bun at the back of my head and I only recently discovered the ease of having it plaited on holiday! I’m so jealous about Boracay – I wanted to go to the Philippines so much on this recent trip but it was too ambitious trying to squeeze in a 4th country in just a 2 week trip so we decided to leave it but I really would love to go there one day. I can’t wait to see your pics and posts from there 🙂

  12. Ah, this looks amazing! Beautiful pictures, and that’s such a shame about the lack of whale shark (to swim with one is one of my dreams!) but a reef shark and everything else you saw looks awesome 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 11:59 am

      Aww thank you Kirst! Yes, I was gutted about the whale shark, especially when I was doing some snooping on Instagram the next day and realised that one had been spotted just one day later – I hope you’ll get to swim with one one day! But I was quite excited to have seen the snake and jellyfish and snorkelling is always magical so I’m happy! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  13. Sounds like you had a really great time and I’m very glad you didn’t have a full face of plastic make-up or somehow manage to keep your hair straight! It would have ruined the post for me, I much preferred the pumpkin look! Apparently those sea-snakes are hugely more venomous than any land snake, but their mouths are so small they cant bite you very easily. They aren’t aggressive either, but I was still pretty scared of them! Thank-you for sharing!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 12:03 pm

      Thanks so much Katie 🙂 I’m so glad to read that I’m not alone with being totally un-bothered with my appearance in the water! I don’t know why I just assumed the snake was perfectly safe just because it’s in the ocean – so silly of me!! When I got back on the boat, the guides did tell me that they don’t usually harm you unless they feel threatened which is reassuring but I’ll certainly be more clued up next time! Thanks so much for reading!

  14. Love the pics! The underwater ones are SO good. My hair, too, behaves badly when it’s humid, and too much frizz = ponytail pics. I’d love to have a glam-hair beach pic someday, but given how difficult it is, I don’t even try! 😀

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 12:05 pm

      Hehe, thanks so much Ami! Reading all these comments has really made me feel better about my own huge and frizzy hair – I figure it’s just not the worth the time and effort as it’ll frizz up again within 5 minutes of being outdoors! Thanks so much for the kind words about the pics – I’m so glad you liked them 🙂

  15. The first time I saw a sea snake I was so scared – there’s something so wrong about a snake swimming through the ocean towards you (in my opinion anyway). The best snorkelling I’ve ever done hands down was in the Belizean Cayes. Amazing!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 12:09 pm

      I’m terrified of snakes normally – I don’t know what happened to me in the water that day, I think I was just so focused on taking a pic that it didn’t occur to me that this is actually a snake not just a benign little fish!! I would LOVE to visit Belize Claire and I’d heard that the snorkeling is amazing – in fact, I’m looking at it as a possible destination for later this year or next year perhaps so I’m really glad you’ve said that!

  16. This looked like such a great snorkeling trip. What a wonderful variety of marine life you were treated to. Although, I would have stayed far away from that beaded water snake. 🙂 I’m so like you when snorkeling – I have no makeup and the hair is in a ponytail. Beautiful underwater photos! We highly recommend the Great Barrier Reef and Hawaii for snorkeling.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 16, 2015 — 12:16 pm

      Thanks so much Mary for the kind words – I’m thrilled that you like the photos as the camera is quite old so I’m pleased that some of these came out as nice little reminders of our snorkel trip 🙂 I would LOVE to visit the Barrier Reef and/or Hawaii one day – I imagine the snorkeling there must be utterly breathtaking that I keep dreaming of visiting one day – they’re both so far from home here in England that I don’t know but fingers crossed one day!

  17. Awesome pictures. I LOVE Koh Lanta. I think a lot of people miss it out which is kind of good for us that do visit 🙂 I love it.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 23, 2015 — 11:21 pm

      Thank you so much Sally ☺ I loved it too and truthfully speaking, I only really learned more about it because the friend I mentioned in this post lives there. It certainly is underrated compared to some of the more mainstream coastal areas but like you say, that seems to keep it less crowded and touristy and more unspoilt and charming!

  18. Wow you saw so many cool marine animals! I still haven’t seen a snake while snorkeling or diving. Sad that you didnt see a whale shark, I am so in love with them, I am dreaming of the day I will see one ❤
    By the way, I love the way you began the text hahaha… while I am on a diving trip I dont care much about beauty, my hair or anything… hahaha. I like that!
    I would highly recommend snorkeling at the Galapagos islands and the Maldives ❤

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 27, 2015 — 8:16 pm

      I’ve never been to Galapagos but completely agree about the Maldives – the snorkelling there was magical! I never would have swum close to the snake if I’d known how poisonous they are but it was beautiful & yes perhaps we’ll both spot a whale shark on one of our future snorkel/dive trips! Thanks so much for reading ☺

      1. Awnnn I really do hope we see a whale shark sometime soon ❤

        Oh well, and if you get the chance, do visit the Galapagos, is a dream!

  19. I think I’d be pretty freaked out to see a water snake, but it looks very cool! Love all of the great photos of jellyfish and other sea creatures! Sounds like a very exciting underwater adventure.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:04 pm

      I was so freaked out when I came to learn just how poisonous they are! Certainly won’t be rushing towards one ever again! The Ko Haa islands were a beautiful area to snorkel as around the shores of Ko Lanta itself, I think it’s much harder to find good snorkelling. Thank you so much for reading ☺

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