When it comes to locations that evoke tranquillity, beauty and wildlife, it’s hard to beat Koh Chang (the Elephant Island). Located in the Gulf of Thailand on the border with Cambodia, Koh Chang is part of the rich flora and fauna of the Mu Koh Chang Marine National Park. It is the third largest Thai island after Phuket and Koh Samui. However, it is nowhere near as being as developed and commercialised. In fact, Koh Chang is an oasis to wind down, relax and enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer, from stunning beaches to first-class dive sites.
Koh Chang’s proximity to Bangkok means that it’s accessible all-year-round by air, road and sea. The peace and quiet of Koh Chang is only a hop away from the more bustling places in Thailand.
Scuba Diving in Koh Chang
Because most of the island’s dive sites are sheltered, Koh Chang is an idyllic place to learn how to dive in a clear and controlled environment - ideal for children, beginners or for divers who simply want to refresh their diving skills or continue their diving education. In short: scuba diving in Koh Chang is for everyone!
Fittingly, Dive centres in Koh Chang offer a wide range of dive qualifications from beginner to instructor level with the most recognized dive agencies, from PADI to SSI and RAID. And if you’re interested in tech diving, this quaint island also offers tech diving courses.
With majestic coral reefs and monumental rock formations, scuba diving in Koh Chang will satisfy even the more adventure-seeking divers. While you may be lucky enough to scuba dive with whale sharks, Koh Chang is best known for its wrecks, barracudas and an abundance of colourful coral reef fish.
Best Dive Sites in Koh Chang
HTMS Chang Wreck is not only Thailand’s largest wreck, but it is one of the most impressive ones too. Resting upright on the seabed at 30 metres, HTMS Chang measures 100 metres in length and reaches close to the surface at around 5 metres. While its sheer size is by itself a sight to behold, HTMS Chang is also an artificial reef thriving with micro and macro life.
Hin Luk Bath is by far one of the best dive sites in Koh Chang. Specifically, Hin Luk Bath is a rock pinnacle that attracts a rich and diverse marine life including hard and soft corals, stingrays, groupers and shoals of colourful fish. With a depth between 12-25 metres, the dive site is surrounded by large boulders that create easy swim-throughs and stunning canyons. Watch out for critters hiding in the crevices!
Hin Raab South (aka Hin Laab) comprises three dive sites that create the perfect diving combo. With an average depth of around 18 metres and good visibility, divers can see turtles, as well as pristine coral reefs and a wreck. There have also been spotting of whale sharks in this area.
The first dive site is concentrated around a rock that has turtles, parrotfish, batfish and many other fish. The second one is called Secret Reef, and it has rich coral gardens well-worth exploring. The third dive site, is the T11 Shipwreck, a Thai navy ship home to corals and tropical fish.
Koh Rang National Park sites have many interesting diving options for everyone. If you want to see pelagics, Koh Rang National Park is the place to go. You can see great barracuda, tuna and cobia. However, there are smaller creatures as well, like nudibranchs, sweetlips and stonefish. Dramatic rock formations and a clever play of sun rays filtering through the water make it a stunning place for photographers.
When to Visit Koh Chang
Like most tropical places, Koh Chang has three main weather seasons: a cool dry season that runs from November to December, a hot season from January to May, and a rainy season that lasts between June and October.
Although you can dive in Koh Chang all-year-round, the best diving happens in the dry season (Nov-Feb). This is when the temperatures reach a lovely 27-30 C, the skies are blue, and the water is calm and clear.
During the rest of the year, the climate gradually becomes more unfavourable. The temperatures soar, the water becomes rougher and the increasing humidity becomes uncomfortable. However, visitors still flock to the island between April and May, when Songkran celebrations take place - the Thai New Year water festival. So even if you may not be able to dive, be ready to have water thrown at you. During the low season (Jun-Oct) accommodation prices drop, the vegetation is in full bloom, and you can still relax on Koh Chang’s beautiful beaches.
But to avoid any disappointments and to secure a diving trip, visit Koh Chang between the end of November and the end of February. Book your holiday to Koh Chang in advance and reserve your room and travel tickets ahead of time.
Getting to Koh Chang
There are many travel options to get to Koh Chang, all depending on your budget, time and travelling preferences.
From Bangkok, you can catch a domestic flight to Trat, situated near the ferry terminals that will take you to Koh Chang. Alternatively, if you’re on a budget or enjoy the journey of getting from A to B, in you can either take the bus, hire a car or book a private transfer. It takes around 5 hours to reach the mainland ferry terminals near Laem Ngop.
The ferries operate 365 days a year and depart every 45 minutes. It takes approximately 1 hour to reach Koh Chang.
Because of Koh Chang’s proximity to Cambodia, you can also reach the ferry terminals near Laem Ngop by crossing the border with Thailand. However, be ready for long queues on the border.
Once in Koh Chang, you can get a Songthaews (shared pick-up trucks) to your hotel, or hire a bike.
Being one of the biggest Thai islands means that covering the whole island by foot is not an option, what with its steep hilly roads. There are Songthaews that travel up and down the west coast, but if want to explore the rest of the island you need your own wheels.
Eat, Sleep & Drink
While it may not be as crowded as other Thai holiday destinations, Koh Chang still has a vast selection of affordable accommodation to satisfy everyone, from cheap beach huts to luxurious villas.
Contrary to what you might expect, Koh Chang has much more than just beautiful beaches. There are plenty of bars and restaurants that serve traditional and continental food. The nightlife also offers something for everyone. There are bars, café, as well as nightlife hotspots that stay open well after midnight. For party animals, White Sand Beach, Kai Bae Beach and Lonely Beach are the best options for a night of revelry and fun. These are also the places that attract the greatest number of tourists and where you can find most of the island’s accommodation.
The island’s most prominent feature is its extensive stretch of stunning beaches. But if relaxing on a tropical beach is not your thing, there is are many non-diving activities to keep you entertained.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, the lush mountain jungle is perfect for jungle trekking. However, it is not recommended to adventure into the jungle on your own. There are organised tours with experienced guides that will safely take you on jungle trekking expeditions, right to the heart of nature’s wild beauty.
To see Koh Chang from another angle, why not try kayaking? Paddling on the sea surface is a great way to explore nearby islands, do some snorkelling and to reach otherwise inaccessible places. Some schools run daily kayaking excursions, as well as 3 to 7-day trips.
There are also island-hopping ferries will take you to the vehicle-free islands of Koh Kood, Koh Mak and Koh Wai. And if you want to visit uninhabited islands that very few peoples have set foot on, you can rent a private taxi boat, but this will set you back a few thousand baths.
For more laidback activities, book a Thai cooking class and let yourself be pampered at one of the island’s spa salons.
Important: As a nature reserve for wildlife, both aquatic and terrestrial, please embrace sustainable tourism by minimizing your single-use plastic and pollution. Being mindful of the environment is important to preserve nature and its beauty, giving us all the chance to enjoy it.
Koh Chang is a relatively safe destination, but as all tourist places, be careful of scams and pickpocketers. If you hire a bike, drive carefully as the mountain roads have many hairpin turns. Take extra precaution when driving in the rain, as the roads may be slippery.
Scuba Diving in Koh Chang is safe, and the only real risk is the notorious titan triggerfish. However, titian triggerfish usually stay away from divers and snorkellers, and your local dive centre will probably know where they hang out. Your dive guide will likely brief you on how to behave around them.