Over coffee one afternoon, I had a conversation with a close friend of mine about islands, beaches and diving; and we made a spontaneous decision to head for a quick getaway to the Thai island of Koh Lipe. We convinced another buddy to come with us, bought our plane tickets, got our ground arrangements sorted, and headed off for an island vacation! Isn’t that just the best coffee-talk outcome ever?
About Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe is a small island located in the southwest corner of Thailand, on the Andaman Sea. It is one of the closest Thai islands to Malaysia, sitting slightly above the border between the two countries. The island was originally occupied by the Sea Gypsies, also known as the Chao Leh. They still live on Koh Lipe, occupying half of the island and living in small villages located on the far east. Koh Lipe in their language means Paper Island.
Find out more about Koh Lipe here:- Mynn’s Top 10 Things to Know About a Holiday in Koh Lipe, Thailand.
Diving in Koh Lipe
When it comes to diving, Koh Lipe might not be the island that comes to mind. However, the island is located on the edge of one of Thailand’s oldest and largest marine parks, the Tarutao National Marine Park; and because of that, Koh Lipe and about twenty small islands surrounding it (some uninhabited) is home to a number of interesting dive sites. They are mainly filled with beautiful soft corals, a few pinnacles, and flat sandy areas. All divers have to pay a compulsory THB200 (~US$6) Marine Park fee.
Most dive sites around Koh Lipe are within easy reach from the many dive shops on the island. There are house reefs from some of the beaches, and the other dive sites are about a 10-15 minutes boat ride away. The furthest one would probably take an hour. Not many people come to dive in Koh Lipe, so one of the advantages of diving here is the scarcity of divers— it is highly unlikely that you’ll bump into another group of divers underwater.
Ricci House Koh Lipe
I was in Koh Lipe with my childhood friend Diana, and my ex-colleague, Abby. We chose to stay at the Ricci House for a couple of reasons— the rooms are comfortable and affordable; it is convenient and close to everywhere we wanted to get to (the shops, the beach, the dive centre); and most importantly, there is air-conditioning in the rooms.
We stayed in the Superior Double Room on the first floor, and it cost us about THB2100 (~US$60) per night with breakfast. The room is pretty basic— double bed, window sofa, small shower area, outdoor balcony, television, air-conditioning and sufficient plug sockets. The pretty Garden View Bungalow rooms cost a little more, and they stand amidst lush flowers and plants.
The hotel’s buffet breakfast spread was almost the same every morning— a small Western spread, Thai noodles, porridge or soup, toast, cereals and fruits. They had eggs to order as well; so I was satisfied with my eggs and toast to start the day.
Adang Sea Divers
The Adang Sea Divers Dive Centre is located along Sunrise Beach on the west side of Koh Lipe, just a 5-minute walk away from Ricci House. It is a 5-star PADI Dive Centre that has been running for 6 years, offering courses and dive trips. I did my dives with Diana as my buddy, and had a total of 5 dives over 2 days— it cost me THB1200 (~US$35) per dive (after a THB200 discount for bringing my own equipment). The dives get cheaper the more you do.
Adang Sea Divers has a lovely dive base with a large chill-out area and well maintained equipment for rent. They also have their own dive boat that departs from Sunrise Beach; however, on the second day of my dive, we couldn’t leave from Sunrise Beach as the waves were too high. So we had to walk all the way to Pattaya Beach, and boarded the much slower long-tail boat instead.
Diving with Adang Sea Divers
Overall, I had a good time diving with Adang Sea Divers. My divemaster, Ann, is a lovely Thai local who was very friendly, and quite attentive underwater. However, there were a few occasions during my dives with Adang Sea Divers that made me a little uncomfortable; from a briefing on the wrong dive site, to a small dispute between the divemasters on the boat. These are all isolated, non-water related incidents so it is not too big of a deal.
However, when it comes to diving, it is a big deal. My friend Abby did a Discovery Scuba Dive (a dive trial) with them and didn’t enjoy it one bit. This is because after the initial short video and briefing, the instructor brought her straight to the open water with very rough sea conditions. It was her first time so she obviously panicked, and surfaced after a minute. That was all the underwater experience she had. This happened to another girl on another dive too. I thought that it was dangerous, unprofessional and unfair. They should have ensured that the conditions were mild enough for newbies before taking them in.
Would I dive with them again? Because of that, probably not. There are many other dive centres to choose from in Koh Lipe— and I think I’ll do that when I visit the island again. Of course, I’m just sharing my experience, and this is a personal choice and opinion.
Dive Sites in Koh Lipe
Now back to the fun stuff— the dives! Unfortunately the sea conditions were not very good while I was there; the waves were high, and visibility was only about 5 meters. There were a few instances where we had to change the dive sites because the seas were too rough and the long-tailed boats couldn’t get to it. However, I still managed to visit some of Koh Lipe‘s more popular dive sites, and here are some of them.
Talang Bay (Koh Talang) –
It takes about a 10 minutes speed boat ride to Koh Talang, located just off Sunrise Beach on the west of Koh Lipe. This site consists of a sandy bottom with more soft corals further out from the bay; slowly sloping from about 5 meters to a maximum of 35 meters. I spotted lots of boulder and mushroom corals, as well as pipefish, flaunders, lionfish, scorpionfish, boxfish, sea kraits and a blue-spotted stingray. The waves were extremely choppy during my dive, and a few got seasick.
Honeycomb Reef (Koh Adang) –
This site is located at Koh Adang, and is named so because of the many honeycomb eels that can be found here. I love watching the eels, so it was a pity I didn’t spot any during my dive. This sheltered bay is an easy dive at about 15-17 meters. It gently slopes down from a large sandy patch, to several scattered corals, and then a garden with plenty of barrel sponges, mushroom corals, fan corals and giant clams. It is also home to lots of juvenile fishes.
Koh Yang (East and West) –
I have to say I enjoyed my dives at Koh Yang the most. We went there twice— the first time by speedboat to the East, and the second time by long-tailed boat (which took an hour) to the West. The dive sites around Koh Yang go down to about 30 meters; and has a lot of landscape changes, from boulders to steep granite walls and cracks. The corals are varied and full, with boulder and mushroom corals, barrels sponges, staghorns and anemones found everywhere. I spotted turtles, pufferfish, moray eels, trigger fish, lion fish, lobsters and the sea krait. Current was mild on the first dive, and slightly stronger on the second.
Pattaya Corner (Koh Lipe) –
It was a last minute decision to visit this dive site as the waves were too strong to head out anywhere else. Pattaya Corner is as its name suggests, towards the western corner just off Pattaya Beach. The entry point is pretty shallow, and then it gradually slopes down along the jagged walls of the island. The current was strong during my dive, but there were plenty of bounders along the walls to hide behind. Fan corals and barrel sponges are scattered along the rocks; and I also spotted pufferfish, lobsters, squids and nudibranches.
Despite everything, I still had a wonderful time diving in Koh Lipe. The underwater here might not be as popular or as pristine as several other Thai islands on the Andaman Sea, but Koh Lipe (and the many clusters surrounding it) still offers a fun dive with a diverse range of corals and sea life to admire. I had many interesting dive experiences during my dives here; like backrolling off a long-tailed boat with really high waves, and then trying to drag a struggling Diana against the currents— that made us laugh so hard. I also finally managed to stay calm and in-control during a drift dive.
It’s also a celebration because I have made it to 50 dives— just short of my 1st year diving anniversary.