Koh Haa turned out to be the hidden gem of our scuba diving adventures in Southern Thailand. While we originally made the trip to Koh Lanta to dive Hin Daeng and Hin Muang (Red and Purple Rock), we were so glad we didn’t leave without having completed our Koh Haa day-trip of diving with Scubafish. Between the stunning limestone karst landscape, 30 meter visibility, diversity of sea life and underwater caves and caverns to explore, Koh Haa ranks as a new favorite in our dive logs.
Not to mention the incredibly cute and playful pufferfish who swam along with us underwater. I mean, look at how amazing amazing these guys are!
About Koh Haa Diving
Koh Haa Yai, which translates to “Five Islands” in Thai, is located 45-minutes from Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi by boat off the western coast of Thailand. The set of (you guessed it) five islands is home to more than 12 different dive sites ranging in all levels of technical difficulty and depth (up to 30 meters). Across these sites you have the chance of seeing a great variety of marine life, both big and small, including lion fish, anemone fish, nudibranch, angelfish, butterfly fish, tuna, rainbow runners, reef sharks and if you are lucky and the season is right swimming with manta rays or whale sharks.
Your first views of Koh Haa will likely be of the gorgeous Lagoon, where most of our dives started and finished. This picture perfect white sandy slope of beach is attached to towering limestone karst rocks above and crystal clear aquamarine waters below. Situated in the calm waters between Islands 2, 3 and 4, this is a great location for snorkelers and new divers to complete training courses.
Our Koh Haa Diving Experience
We left the Kan Tiang Bay pier for Koh Haa around 8:00am and by 9:00am were ready to jump.
For our first dive, we encircled Island #4. The waters at this time of day were a stunning cerulean shade of blue, the brilliancy of which was only enhanced by the white sands of the ocean bottom. We immediately took notice of the oddly shaped corals around this part of the island – blankets of white soft coral that looked like the bubbly foam topping a glass of freshly poured champagne. Amongst these corals, juvenile lionfish and giant moray eels made their homes.
However it was the quirky pufferfish that we most enjoyed watching. Our dive master, Sanae, who is said to be somewhat of a pufferfish whisperer at Koh Haa, would rub his fingers together and the pufferfish would follow or change direction at its sound.
For a while I hoped one of the pufferfish would inflate itself before our eyes but I later learned how potentially life threatening and taxing it is on a pufferfish to inflate. The act of filling its body with air or water is highly stressful and air can become trapped inside of its body preventing the pufferfish from deflating ultimately leading to vulnerability of attack.
Our second dive of the day at Cliff Jump Cove (drop point at Koh Haa Island #3) got even more exciting with a brief encounter with a reef shark and accompanying cobia though they immediately took notice of us and swam in the other direction. No matter though as a honeycomb grouper swam within bodies length to say hello while off in the distance a school of big fin reef squid propelled themselves past us at a surprising pace.
Over the course of the dive, eels would cautiously peek out from their coral-covered nooks while the highly venomous sea snakes were more playful, one swimming carelessly around us on his way to the surface then grazing my neck on his way back down to the ocean floor.
Our final treat was a giant common jellyfish floating almost motionless in the water. She patiently modeled as Adam maneuvered around her to capture the perfect picture of the tiny fish living inside her dome.
Back aboard the Scubafish boat for our surface intervals, we spent our time perusing through fish books and recording our sightings for the day. Others took the opportunity to go for a swim in the perfectly warm waters. And the dive staff showed us how to properly jump backflips off the upper levels of the boat.
Cave & Chamber Diving in The Cathedral at Koh Haa
Our third and final dive for the day was the one we were most looking forward to. The underwater caves and caverns of Koh Haa were what sold us on this particular set of dive sites, The Cathedral being one of the most famous.
After descending to a depth of around 20 meters, we headed straight for the entrance to The Cathedral’s main chamber, an underwater pinnacle at the top of which a chamber of air was trapped. Way above us we could see the glow of the water’s surface. On our slow ascent to the top, we scavenged the walls for macro-life – among our finds were nudibranches, varicose wart slugs and porcelain crabs.
We surfaced for a few minutes within the pinnacle, removing our regulators to take a few breaths of cavern air, before again descending to a depth that would allow us to make it through a series of interconnected swim-throughs. One by one we cleared each of the passageways. The eeriness of the dark cave system was eased by a friendly school of bronze-toned boxy fish who kept us company as we went. From within the cave we enjoyed stellar views of the ocean scene glowing against the darkness of the swim-throughs.
Thanks to Kim at Liquid Lens who followed us into The Cathedral and snapped some awesome shots of us from inside. A professional Liquid Lens photographer accompanies Scubafish on all dive trips and offers guests the option of purchasing individual or sets of photographs to remember their experience.
Once we successfully exited the caves, we used the rest of our dive time to wind our way around Island #5. It was here where Sanae spotted the elusive yellow seahorse sleeping peacefully among the corals. It was the perfect way to end an awesome day of diving.
How to Get to Koh Haa
Koh Haa is most easily accessed from Koh Lanta by 45-minute boat ride. Scubafish will pick you up from your hotel anywhere on the island and shuttle you to Kan Tiang bay for an early morning departure. However, we would also recommend looking at staying in this southernmost area on the island as there are a nice variety of restaurants, beaches and amenities nearby.
If You Go: Koh Lanta Diving Logistics
What: Koh Haa is one of a handful of different dive locations accessible from Koh Lanta. This set of five islands offer more than 12 different dive sites. For us the main attraction is a stunning underwater cavern called The Cathedral where you can enter the cavern under water and ascend into an air pocket inside the island. Other popular dive sites near Koh Lanta include Hin Daeng/Hin Muang, Rok and Koh Phi Phi.
Where: Koh Haa can be reached by a 45-minute boat ride from Koh Lanta. The islands are only accessible for day-trip snorkelers and scuba divers.
When: Our dive operator, Scubafish, schedules daily dive trips to Koh Haa between November and April. Divers have the option of diving up to three times over the course of the day.
How: We arrived to Koh Lanta by way of boat from Phuket and Koh Phi Phi with the intention of checking out Koh Phi Phi in case we wanted to return. In the end we didn’t really like the vibe on this island and so wouldn’t recommend making this extra long and overpriced series of boat trips. Instead consider coming by mini-bus from Krabi (300 Baht per person) which leave directly from the airport if you want to go straight there.
Our cavern and cave diving experience at Koh Haa was provided by Scubafish (+66 75 665 095, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.scubafish.com). As you consider your options for scuba diving Thailand reach out to Keith and the team at Scubafish for more information about awesome Andaman sea dive sites. We were really pleased with the level of service, professionalism and fun Scubafish provided us.