Koh Lanta is an island group roughly 70km from Krabi Town. The main island is famous for its natural beauty that is yet to be heavily effected by Thailand’s booming tourist industry. Koh Lanta Yai (known as Koh Lanta for short) is the largest island of the Koh Lanta archipelago, which covers an area of approximately 170km2. The island is quite a large one, measuring 30 km long and 6 km wide. It is less know than neighboring Koh Phi Phi and Phuket so less development has taken place.
The main port town Ban Saladan, is at the northern tip of the island and is served by regular ferries from various locations of southern Thailand. Koh Lanta has some amazing beaches, ancient tropical jungles, mangrove swamps and dense forest land to explore in your down time. The island is popular with divers and travellers looking for a more relaxed vibe than they would get on nearby Koh Phi Phi or Phuket. The island has 9 beautiful beaches running the entire length of its western shore, each one is fringed with palms, bamboo bungalows and chill out bars. Even when the island is at the peak of busy season, you will not struggle to find peace and quiet, and the beaches are never full!
Scuba Diving Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta itself doesn’t have any dive sites so all dives require a boat trip. The neighbouring islands have some great diving, and Koh Lanta is the closest inhabited island to world famous dive sites Hin Muang and Hin Daeng. There are conditions to suit any level of diver, from beginner to expert, although a beginner might not find the conditions so friendly during the wet season. Water temperature is around 29 degrees Celsius during the dry season, and visibility can reach over 30 metres.
Because Koh Lanta is a popular tourist destination dive courses are taught in several European languages, as well as some Asian languages. There are many dive shops on the island offering most major European languages as well as some Asian languages.
If you need to become certified, or want to continue your education while on Koh Lanta, then you can do your training here. Dive schools around the island offer a full range of courses and programs, from Discover Scuba Diver all the way to Instructor level programs. The best way to see what Koh Lanta has to offer is by taking a four day liveaboard, but if you would rather spend your night on land then you can take single day boat trips to all of the dive sites.
Koh Lanta Dive Sites
Hin Daeng which means red rock in Thai, gets its name from the stunning red corals that encrust its pinnacles. The site is around two hours by large boat from Koh Lanta, but it is defiantly worth the trip. It is world famous because it is one of the best places to spot not only giant manta rays, but whale sharks also make an appearance every now and then. The giant Mantas frequently use the pinnacles as cleaning stations and often many appear at once, and they are usually not bothered by the presence of divers. Apart from that over 200 species of hard corals, and 108 reef fish species have been spotted here, including a few species of shark. Because of its depth and location, it is recommended for more advanced divers with deep diver training.
Hin Muang is located just 500 metres from Hin Daeng, and the diving is very similar. It is a series of submerged pinnacles that drops very deep. The site is named after the violet coloured coral that covers its walls (Hin Muang translates to purple rock). Koh Haa is a group of 5 islands located roughly 25km west of Koh Lanta. There are a few different dive sites around the islands. Ghost pipe fish, octopus, barracuda and pufferfish can be found around the dive sites and if you are lucky you may be able to see some bigger rays or even whale sharks. There are lots of swim throughs and caverns found throughout some of the sites, and there is even a tall, vertical chimney filled with glass fish to explore.
Koh Rok and Koh Rok Nai are two islands that are popular diving and snorkelling sites for those visiting Koh Lanta. Here you can find a wide variety corals and reef fish species in conditions suitable for a beginner.
King Cruiser Wreck was a car ferry that struck a reef on May 4th 1997. A large hole was torn in the ship’s hull and she sank in only 17 minutes. No one was harmed during the sinking, and now it makes a great artificial reef. She is 85 metres long, 35 metres wide and sits upright in 30 metres of water. The shallowest point is around 12 metres, but due to strong currents, it is for more experienced divers. Unfortunately the ship is deemed unsafe for penetration because the upper deck recently collapsed. Luckily staying on the outside should keep you entertained, as you can expect to dive with barracuda, lionfish, scorpion fish and even turtles.
When to Visit Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta has two distinctive seasons. The best time to visit the island and dive is during the dry season, which is between November and April. At this time of year you can expect hot sunny days with barely a cloud in the sky. Rainy season lasts from May to December. Most of the dive schools are closed during the rainy season. A few do stay open but conditions can get rough and the visibility is not as good.
The island is home to many different groups of people; Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims, Christians and even Chao Ley Sea Gypsies. All these different groups live together in harmony and there are frequently religious celebrations and parties going on. Check before you visit so you don’t miss a great chance to party with the locals!
Getting to Koh Lanta
Fly: The nearest airports to Koh Lanta are Krabi, Trang and Phuket. Air Asia offer three daily flights and ferry service to Lanta from Bangkok via Krabi airport.
Drive: There are no roads connecting Lanta to the mainland, but you can get a seat in a minivan from Krabi to Lanta for as little as 300 Baht, which will include car ferry ticket. These do not offer much room for you luggage, so if you are travelling with all your dive gear then you may need a private taxi. You can expect to pay 2500 baht for the taxi, but you can usually find a few people around who are looking to share a ride with other over encumbered tourists.
Boat: Ferries run from Krabi, Ao Nang and Phuket via Koh Phi Phi to Koh Lanta. During high season there are ferries direct to the island, and during low season the ferries may not go out at all depending on the weather conditions and the demand.
The islands main roads are in pretty good condition, however when you stray from the main roads you can expect the concrete to crumble into dust in many places. You can hire a motorbike for as little as 200 baht a day (plus a security deposit). You can also hire a Jeep style car for 1200 baht a day if you are a multi person party. If you don’t want to drive then both motorbike and truck taxis are available, the prices vary depending on where you are going/coming from.
Eating & Drinking
Being southern Thailand, the food is generally quite spicy. Much of the food has its origins in Malay, Indonesian, Thai and Indian cuisine. Massaman curries are fantastic in the south, and you can get Krabi’s famous wing shell. You can get a wide variety of food from beach front restaurants, but the most common is the open air Thai restaurant, so think banana pancakes, curries and Pad Thai. Many of the restaurants offer seafood BBQs, and the fish is mostly local and fresh.
Koh Lanta doesn’t have much of a party night life, which is one of the reason why the Island is more popular with families and laid back travellers. Because the island has doesn’t attract the bucket drinking twenty something year old tourists, the police are more lenient about the hours that bars are allowed to be open, so they usually close when the last customer is ready to leave. There is always something going on but the parties are much more relaxed than other Thai islands.
For most of the year there is no need to book accommodation in advance, but in peak season you may struggle to find a cheaper room without advance reservation. A basic room on the islands most northerly beaches (near the main town) will set you back about 1200 baht per night, and this will be a basic air con bungalow or hotel room. As you start to head south the rooms get cheaper but transport becomes harder, so it might be a good idea to get a motorbike. As you get near the southern beaches you can find picturesque en-suite beach bungalows for less than 500 baht, making it one of the cheapest and more beautiful islands to stay on. Room’s prices vary depending on the season, and if you travel here during the low season you can get a really nice room for next to nothing.
Non Diving Activities
Cave Exploration: Located in the centre of the island are the Khao Mai Kaew caves. These caves house amazing stalagmites, stalactites and some amazing rock formations. Some of the caves are huge, and one of them contains a pool. You need a guide to go inside the caves, but one is cheap, costing around 200 baht. The caves are slippery so you will need some proper footwear.
Kayaking: The eastern shoreline of Koh Lanta is covered in mangrove forests and caves that are best explored by kayak. You can also kayak in the mangroves at Baan Tungyeepend and the limestone cliff, Koh Talabeang.
Hiking: The size and topography of the island makes it perfect for exploring by foot. The southern tip of the island is National Park land, where you have the chance to explore ancient rainforest, swim in waterfall pools and get a great view of the southern coastline.
Festivals: Because of the mixture of different of religions and cultures that inhabit the island, there is always a celebration of some kind. Festivals take place throughout the year and everyone is welcome to visit and join in the fun. Check ahead about dates before you visit so you don’t miss any of the fun.
Koh Lanta is a very safe island and the different cultures all live together in harmony. The crime rate is very low and law enforcement are stationed on the island. The island was hit by the 2004 Boxing Day (December 26th) Tsunami, and 20 people lost their lives. Since then most businesses are operating normally again, and you don’t really see any evidence that it actually happened. The likelihood of another one happening is very low, however after the 2004 tsunami the Thai government install a warning and evacuation system in all areas likely to be effected by one in the future. This was tested in 2012 when an earthquake occurred near Indonesia, and although no major tsunami happened, everyone was evacuated quickly.