When was the last time you were encircled by a school of 10,000+ curious yellow snappers? Or swam through a rainbow-colored coral garden bejeweled with electric-purple starfish, giant waving orange sea fans, ruby red barrel sponges the size of washing machines and soft coral that looks like psychedelic broccoli in sparkling shades of pink, blue and amethyst? John and I have never been diving in a place as eye-popping as Koh Lipe, and the dives are quite easy and mellow. Just check out this video to see some of the highlights and what you might see if you dive here:
We also learned that John is apparently the King of Fishes. Or perhaps the world’s first traffic cop for fish:
Not a diver?
Don’t worry, the snorkeling is some of the best in the world. Surrounded by the Tarutao National Marine Park, the shallow water around Koh Lipe and its nearby islands are adorned with underwater treasures. Check out this post on snorkeling in Koh Lipe to see more.
When to go:
According to our incredible dive masters at Adang Sea Divers and Eco Resort (a truly wonderful dive outfit that I highly recommend – more on them below), you can dive Koh Lipe year-round. But the best visibility and weather – not to mention the cheapest hotel rates and emptiest beaches – can be found in May, July and August. Just try to avoid the rainy months, which are June and September, and the super high season in December and January.
Your dive operator will recommend what’s best based the visibility on the day of your dive, the sea life in the area, and the kinds of things you’d like to see. We did 6 unforgettable dives at 4 sites, all of which I’d recommend (and are all in the above video):
This is an truly special dive site that’s just 3 minutes from shore by boat. It’s got huge underwater pinnacles that are utterly teeming with life. The resident giant school of yellow snapper is simple stunning. There are also lots of rare treats to see at Stonehenge, like ornate ghost pipefish, yellow tigertail seahorses, Andaman sweetlip fish, and the occasional sea snake.
This and Stonehenge were our favorite sites. Unlike Stonehenge, there were no other divers here – just us. It takes about 30 minutes to get here by boat. There is another gigantic school of probably 10,000+ shimmering yellow snapper here, which is truly amazing to see swimming around you. The hard coral here is also quite stunning, as are the eels.
Just beside Stonehenge, Talang is another great dive site that’s got a wide array of sea life. Usually starting the dive at a sandy bottom spot, you can see rays, octopi, scorpionfish, lionfish and lots of vibrant nudibranchs swimming around. The dive takes you to some truly beautiful coral gardens in which we saw seahorses, clown shrimp, mantis shrimp, and even got our hands cleaned by some adorable little cleaner shrimp.
Out at the edge of the “far islands” is the pinnacled dive site of Sarang. The current can be an issue here, as can visibility, so you’ve got to time it right. When you hit it at the sweet spot, you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful and colorful soft coral gardens you’ll ever see, which looks sort of like a fairytale version of a bonsai forest in which the “miniature trees” covering the mountain are purple, white, pink and blue. We also got to see giant pufferfish, a beautiful yellow spotted boxfish, and plenty more eels. This site borders the deep ocean, so there have been manta sightings here occasionally.
We absolutely loved Adang Sea Divers, conveniently located on Sunrise Beach. Their gear was all in great shape, they’ve got their own speed boat, and the dive masters are enthusiastic, professional and have super sharp eyes to find and point out the cool stuff. They really personalize their service too – they took note of little details, like the particular way John likes his auxiliary fed through his BCD, and the way I like my gauge tucked in, and they prepared our gear the same way for each dive. Plus, they’re all super nice people who are down to earth, fun to be around, and who love to share their passion for diving around Koh Lipe. I highly recommend diving with them – they’re fantastic.
They also run lots of spectacular snorkeling trips, and even a evening bioluminescence tour to see the tiny plankton that light up and glow purple in the sea – it’s quite magical to see it.
How to get to Koh Lipe and where to stay:
Check out my full post on Koh Lipe here, complete with all the transport information you’ll need, trip planner, and descriptions of the main destinations on the island. Because it’s a small, remote island, accommodation prices in Koh Lipe are higher than most other Thai islands, but still manageable. If you can splurge, check out the Serendipity or Ten Moons – the views are insane and it doesn’t suck staying in a luxurious tropical bungalow.
If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend:
Located on Sunrise Beach, you can fulfill your Gilligan’s Island dreams and stay in your very own palm-thatched hut on the sand, complete with hammock on the porch. It’s rustic but very affordable. Prices start at around $50 USD/night.
Yep, the dive shop also has cute, clean little guest cottages. Just roll out of bed and go diving – couldn’t be easier. Prices start at $40 USD/night
Less than a minute’s walk from Sunrise Beach (and the dive shop) is the cute little Ricci House Resort. At about $40/night, and rooms with AC, it’s a damn fine deal.
Happy diving! And enjoy this dreamy little island!