We always knew that we wanted to do our PADI dive course whilst we were in Thailand, we just weren’t sure where or when. After leaving Krabi, we knew we would have a few days to kill before we were going to meet Rich’s cousin Jeanine, so we started looking at the best places to dive. Koh Tao is the place in Thailand that comes up as the spot to get your certificate (as it’s the cheapest place to do it), and we started looking into doing it there. After speaking to a few people and doing a bit of research, it started looking like Koh Tao in November can get pretty rough weather wise as it’s monsoon season, and that means the visibility can often not be great. A few people we spoke to who had done it there also said that it feels very touristy and a bit like a dive factory – they just try to get as many people certified as possible, so you’re constantly diving in water surrounded by dozens of other people learning at the same time. This means that you often see more of the other people than the actual reef, and that the reef itself has become quite damaged from the sheer amount of people that go there. Koh Tao is also on the east side of Thailand, whereas we were in Krabi and exploring the west side, which has much better weather at this time of year.
We also looked into diving off of Koh Phi Phi, but we heard similar stories of it being very touristy and crowded, as well as being known for it’s non-stop partying. We eventually landed on Koh Lanta, which has very few choices for dive schools and is a little but more expensive than Koh Toa and Phi Phi; however, the reviews were amazing. On top of that, accommodation was super cheap and it was only a 2 hour bus ride away from Krabi, so we didn’t have to pay for trains, planes, and boats just to get there. After all’s said and done, it was the right choice for us and I think we had a much better experience on Koh Lanta then we would have had if we’d gone to Koh Tao. That being said, I’ve met many people who have done their diving on Koh Tao and loved it, so don’t rule it out before looking into it yourself.
There aren’t many dive schools on the island, and we’d originally booked with Dive and Relax as they has really good reviews and were close to our accommodation; however, they ask you to pay in full via PayPal, which brings the price up quite a bit with the fees that they charge you. They weren’t willing to do a bank transfer or take payment in cash, so we ended up changing to Phoenix Divers who ended up being great.
Getting from Krabi to Koh Lanta was really easy as pretty much every shop in Krabi sells bus and/or ferry tickets. It was 200 baht and about 2 hours on the bus (with a 10 minute ferry that is basically just a floating platform and you don’t get out of the bus) or 300 baht for a 3 hour passenger ferry. We opted for the bus as there were more options on time, it was faster, and they picked us up and dropped us off at our hotels at each end so we didn’t have to worry about that. It was more of a glorified mini van the the bus, but it did the job and got us there!
There are so many options for accommodation that it was hard to choose which to go for. In the end, we ended up booking so late because we couldn’t decide that our options were narrowed down for us! Luckily, we ended up at Phra Ae Apartments next to Long Beach and they were great. They’re a guesthouse rather then a hostel, and they’ve only been open a few months so they don’t have a ton of reviews, but it was one of the better places we’ve stayed at during our entire trip, and they were super cheap as well. If you’re looking for a slightly quieter place, I would definitely check them out.
We arrived Monday afternoon and had a nice afternoon laying on the beach, swimming, and eating. We had some of the best food we’ve have in Thailand on Koh Lanta, and if you’re near Long Beach, Uncle O’s is the place to try. He had a tiny little restaurant on the main road (conveniently across from our hotel), and everything we tried was hot, fresh, and delicious. We may or may not have eaten there almost every night (don’t worry, we did try some other places too!).
Tuesday we were picked up by our dive school and taken to the office to meet our instructor and fill out paperwork before heading to a swimming pool for our first day. Our instructor, Valentina, was amazing and so so good. If you’re diving with Phoenix Divers and can request her (especially for the PADI course), then do so. I’m sure that the other instructors are good as well, but she really made the week for us.
We spent the day in the pool learning about the equipment, how to breathe underwater, what to do in emergencies, and getting used to the feeling of diving. Wednesday we were again picked up and taken to the harbour where we joined a boat with people from a few different dive schools for the day. In high season, a lot of the schools have their own little boats they’ll use, but in low season when each school only has a couple people a day they’ll quite often use one, larger boat for everyone. It was nice, because we were the only ones from our school so we got to meet some new people and it wasn’t just the 2 of us all day. Although you stay with your school and instructor for the actual dives, but you were free to interact with everyone once back on the boat.
If you’ve done the course you’ll know how amazing it is to dive already, and if you haven’t done it then I would suggest adding it to the itinerary because it really is mind blowing. Our first two dives were in a place called Koh Bida (Nai and Nok), which has some amazing reefs around that you get to explore. It was nice, because there weren’t many other boats and not many people in the water, which meant the water stayed nice and clear and we could explore without feeling like we were just bumping into other people. Thursday was a similar set up except that we went to Koh Haa. It also has some amazing reefs; however, the big draw for here is the fish and other wildlife. We did two more dives there, hung out with some fishes, and were officially certified. Too easy, as the Aussies would say. As we’d dived at the 2 major dive spots off Koh Lanta already, we decided to not do another dive on Friday and instead we’ll do some more next month when we go to the Philippines. We rented a bike for the day and went off to explore the island.
Koh Lanta is pretty small and the roads are mostly paved, so it doesn’t take long to get anywhere. I think normally all of the roads are paved, but when we were there they were redoing some of them, which meant you had to drive on a bumpy dirt road instead. It wasn’t too bad, although everyone went really slow so it did mean slightly longer to get places, but I’d rather go slow and get there in one piece then go fast and not at all! We headed down to the southern tip of the island first, where there is a national park. It’s got a nature walk and a light house you can climb up so, but other then that there isn’t much there. The drive to get there is probably the coolest bit about it, but it’s not a terrible thing to do if you’ve got some time to kill.
We stopped for lunch and then drove to the trail head for Khlong Chak Waterfall. It’s a pretty easy walk in, takes maybe 30 minutes if you stop at the cave about halfway there. The cave is pretty neat as its got tree roots that have grown into it and look like they’re holding it up.
We were so mesmerized by the waterfall, we completely forgot to take pictures, so you’ll just have to go there yourself to see (mostly though it’s because there were a lot of people there and it was super hot and I just really couldn’t be bothered to)!
It was afternoon by that point, so we headed back to the hotel to cool off in the A/C, and then headed back out again to the Old Town to check it out and get some dinner. We knew the Old Town was quieter and a bit more of a shopping area then Long Beach; however, we were really surprised by how nice it was. It wasn’t your typical market type stalls, instead it was little independent shops with lots of hand made items as well as various other knick knacks and trinkets. We wandered around before finding a nice little place right on the water to eat, which, surprise surprise, had super delicious food.
We were lucky that it worked out to meet up with Rich’s cousin Jeanine on Saturday and Sunday, as she is also doing some travelling. Jeanine was coming from Malaysia, so we spent the morning on the beach whilst we waited for her ferry to arrive. Saturday afternoon and evening we spent catching up with Jeanine, eating (more) great food, and indulging in a few beers. It was a great last day on the island, and it was so good to be able to catch up with family (it’s been a while!). Sunday we packed up and caught a bus back to Krabi, where we spent the night before flying to Bangkok for a few days. More on that in the next post!