We spent yesterday exploring some islands relatively close to Koh Lanta. It's a must when visiting. We chose a small, family-owned outfit that takes small groups out for a 1-day tour of Ko Ngai, Ko Maa, & Ko Mook while visiting the Emerald Cave. You can find them here.
A song tao was sent to pick us up at our place. From there, we picked up other trip-goers on our way to old town pier where we boarded the Freedom-Adventures' boat. We climbed down a steep, make-shift ladder to board the boat and were greeted by the very friendly, 3-man crew. There were 14 patrons on our trip.
Our first stop was Ko Ngai, a 1.5 hour boat ride. Fresh pineapple, oranges, papaya, watermelon, and bananas were provided throughout the day. A variety of drinks were provided as well. As we made our way towards our first snorkeling destination, we met some of the other guests. 3 were from Florida, 1 from the state of Washington, 2 from Germany, and 2 from Australia. The best part of traveling for us has been the people.
Our new friends from Florida were from Gainesville and were fellow SEC fans, although bearing the wrong colors. They were on a 3-week holiday in Thailand spending most of their time in the South.
Willow, from Washington, is a firefighter and a small business owner of a hand-made chocolate company, Yeti Chocolates. She's traveling in Thailand for a month. We enjoyed our visit about traveling, the joy of meeting fellow travelers, desirable destinations, entrepreneurship, taking risks, the tragedy of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and of course...chocolate among many other topics. The conversations that you have with other travelers is always enjoyable and always a learning experience.
Germany provided 2 travelers as well. Some of the nicest, most enjoyable people that we've had the opportunity to meet have been from Germany and Austria. We thoroughly look forward to visiting both of those countries. This young couple gave us advice on traversing Europe by car and told us how much we'd enjoy how close in proximity European countries were and how that translated to a wonderful travel experience. We also discussed the recent decline in the Euro and how European leaders embrace this as an opportunity to welcome tourists. Both had recently spent time in New York City on work assignment. They were able to see some of the surrounding states but told us they look forward to seeing the 'real' USA after we told them that we were from The South.
In planning for our travels, we had to make some choices. One of those choices was to visit New Zealand and not visit Australia due to budget constraints. We made the wrong choice according to Alex and Harriet, a young, university couple from Melbourne, Australia. They had saved money for a 1-month trip in Thailand. Alex has lived in a variety of places including multiple cities in China and Bangkok. He had also spent some time in Europe. Turkey and Greece were high on his recommendation list as was Australia, of course. The kids spent more time visiting with Alex and Harriet and enjoyed every moment of their visit throughout the day.
Now back to our journey...
Our first stop was Ko Ngai. This was a beautiful stop for snorkeling as the water was exceptionally crystal clear. A 1000 variety of fish and sea life were on display. It was sad to see some of the coral that had been killed by various means. However, the location was exceptional for snorkeling. One of the positives was a lack of jellyfish as often jellyfish make snorkeling challenging and unenjoyable.
After about an hour of snorkeling, we moved onto our next stop on Ko Mook (Ko Muk). Ko Mook is a unique and beautiful island and is home to Morakot Cave (Emerald Cave). We jumped in the water about 50 yards from the cave entrance. As we swam towards the cave, there were fellow cave explorers exiting the cave while clinging to a rope that guided their route. Our guide was more adventurous. We simply followed him by swimming through the cave, unable to see what was in front of us about 80% of the time. He did wield a flashlight that gave us some sense of direction. The length of the cave swim was about 80 meters but felt a bit longer as we moved quite slowly through the cave due to lack of visibility and a bit of a traffic jam as visitors found their way back out to the sea in the other direction.
As we began to see daylight again, the water was a beautiful emerald color as we descended upon the small beach inside the island. As you looked up, you felt as though you were looking up from the bottom of a volcano. We were surrounded by sheer cliffs covered with lush greenery on all sides. The sand was soft and the water warm. In much earlier days, the cave had been previous home to pirates in an attempt to hide stolen goods and treasures.
The cave is only accessible and beach reachable, when the tide is low. In fact, as we exited the cave, we could see one of the routes we took upon arrival was no longer available due to the rising tide. As light found it's way from the sea into the cave upon our exit, the water was breathtakingly gorgeous. The opening to the cave itself had diminished greatly in size in the short time that we spent inside the cave beach.
After leaving Morakot Cave and Ko Mook, we headed toward Ko Maa. Before reaching Ko Maa, we stopped to have a home-cooked Thai meal as we enjoyed the stunning beauty of the Andaman Sea. The meal included a spicy Thai squid dish, eggs, fried chicken, cabbage and, of course, steamed rice. It was cooked on board and very good.
Upon reaching our next snorkeling destination, Ko Maa, we arrived to a long-tailed boat with three occupants. One was slapping the water with a long, flexible, fishing-pole like stick. There was a huge fishing net in the exact area where we were to snorkel. The 2 main guides from our boat began speaking loudly to the other boat. It sounded friendly enough but I inquired further. Our main guide told me 'no good, not good at all, what they are doing is wrong, what they are doing is illegal' and they proceeded to call Thai national park authorities. Apparently, these men were 'fishing' illegally in a protected, national park in an effort to catch the beautiful, exotic fish they we had come there to see. Our guides took many pictures of the perpetrators and openly told them that they took their picture. One of our guides gave them an earful from the time we arrived until the time that they left.
So without say, our guides were not happy. They were unhappy for several reasons: #1 the long-tailed boat was illegally capturing fish #2 it delayed our snorkeling time by about 30 minutes #3 many fish were either taken or swam elsewhere to safety #4 their action disturbed the natural environment distorting our view and causing murky waters #5 the national park officials chose not to show up.
It did not stop us from having fun or enjoying the area. I found it cool that our guides cared so much for the natural area. Obviously, men like the ones that we encountered have the potential to harm our guides' business but it was much more than that. Our guides truly care for the sea life of the area and that was enjoyable to witness.
Our favorite part of this snorkeling spot was getting to see a small family of 'Nemos'. We couldn't help ourselves but to keep diving to see Nemo over and over and over again. Funny, isn't it? Nemo was our highlight of that spot. We also saw Dory, Gill, & Deb. Luckily Bruce did not make an appearance.
We made our way back to the old town pier after the last snorkel spot. We all thoroughly enjoyed the day and would recommend the trip to anyone. So please, if you are in Koh Lanta...do yourself a favor and book this trip. It ended up costing our family of 6 about $300 USD. It runs about $60 per adult and a bit less for kids under 14 years of age. The guides were very nice and the group was very enjoyable. You can inquire about the trips they offer on their website.
Feel free to comment or reach out with any questions.
A short snorkeling video that Hayes put together: