January 2017 – Thailand is a tropical country known for its stunning, palm tree lined, white sand beaches and exquisitely colorful reefs, and during our stay on the island of Ko Lanta in the southern part of the country, we took a fabulous snorkeling tour with Dive & Relax Tours to snorkel with the fish at Ko Rok in Mu Ko Lanta National Park.
The Andaman Sea on Thailand’s southwestern shore is strewn with gorgeous islands. Each has a personality of its own, from busy tourist islands to crazy party islands. The island of Ko Lanta is known to be a quieter island, and it has nine huge beaches to explore.
Just offshore of Ko Lanta lies one of the best snorkeling and diving destinations in the country: the tiny uninhabited pair of islands known as “Ko Rok,” or more specifically, “Ko Rok Yai” (the more northern island) and “Ko Rok Noi” (its southern neighbor).
Because we would be renting our snorkeling gear as part of the tour, we visited the Dive & Relax office a few days prior to our tour to get fitted for the masks and fins we would be using. They’re located right on Long Beach (Pra-Ae Beach)!
On the morning of our tour they sent a shuttle over to our hotel to pick us up, and before we knew it we were on the Dive & Relax power boat headed out to Ko Rok. It felt awesome to be out on the water.
Unlike many diving and snorkeling outfits on Ko Lanta, Dive & Relax specializes in intimate tours with small groups of snorkelers and divers. Our group had six divers and four snorkelers. To accompany our group of ten tourists there were three professional dive masters, the captain of our boat and an assistant.
A few years ago Ko Rok was relatively undiscovered as a diving and snorkeling destination, but it is such a phenomenal spot that it has recently become quite popular. However, these folks know the hidden spots around the island where they can tuck into a bay and be the only boat there.
After about 45 minutes of speeding along through the water, we arrived at Ko Rok Noi and our captain tied the boat to a mooring provided by Mu Ko Lanta National Park in a gorgeous bay. There wasn’t anything around us but the beautifully rugged shore and the shockingly clear aquamarine water.
The divers all climbed into their gear, and one by one they jumped off the back of the boat and were joined by two dive masters.
Then it was our turn to jump in. The water was wonderfully warm.
Almost immediately we began to see fish all around us.
Our dive master kept us together and pointed out unusual things as we drifted slowly over the colorful spectacle below us.
First she pointed out a sea cucumber, something I never would have noticed on my own.
Then she pointed at a fantastic giant clam with ruffled purple lips.
After about an hour in the water, we returned to the boat, and as we munched on pastries the captain took us around to the channel that separates the two islands, Ko Rok Noi and Ko Rok Yai. The water was breathtakingly clear and inviting.
The captain anchored our boat and we all climbed down the ladder off the back and waded onto the soft sand of this hidden tropical beach in paradise. I looked around and had to smile when I realized that ours were the only footprints in the sand.
Suddenly the three dive masters spread out a blanket and brought out a collection of coolers that were filled with a yummy Thai lunch. We had all worked up an appetite after an hour in the water and we chowed down!
As we explored this uninhabited beach, seeking shade under the trees, we got chatting with the other divers and snorkelers who hailed from all over the world. A German mother/daugher pair were our companion snorkelers, and our snorkeling dive master was a Japanese woman who has spent the last few years chasing seasonal dive master positions in all the most sought after tropical locations in the world.
What intrigued us most, however, was when we learned that two of the divers were a Swedish couple that had sailed across the Pacific with their kids twenty years ago in a 35 foot boat. They now had a 43 footer back in Sweden, and they were gearing up to go on a round-the-world cruise!
One couple was very seasoned divers who had come to Thailand for a few weeks specifically to go diving every day. They had signed up for just about every diving tour that Dive & Relax offers, and she even had a tattoo of a sea turtle on her foot!
Soon it was time to go to our second snorkeling site and our captain started up the engine and took us around the bend. He dropped us off and we spent an hour slowly sightseeing along the reef and making our way into the next cove where he anchored the boat and waited for us.
We saw all kinds of marine life and coral that we had never seen before.
Suddenly I spotted the most exotic looking purple sea star in the distance.
Mark grabbed the camera and free dove down towards it to get a closer look. Wow!
A little further on we saw a sea anenome. And who was peeking out of the gently waving tendrils but Nemo!
Nemo wasn’t alone in this anenome. The soft tendrils swayed and a few more clown fish emerged.
During our lunch break the dive masters had been very excited because the water was especially clear on this day.
As we entered the next cove we saw our companion divers deep below us. While we floated about twenty feet above them, their bubbles rose up from the bottom.
Eventually we all reached the Dive & Relax boat and we gathered around the swim ladder — all smiles — and made our way back onto the boat and out of our gear.
As we zipped back to Ko Lanta, the dive masters made sure we not only had cold water and fruit juice to sip on, but they brought out a fantastic tropical fruit plate too.
We are both certified divers, but we loved the ease and simplicity of snorkeling on this trip and not worrying about the complexities of diving. I just wish we’d signed on for another tour with Dive & Relax, as there are many islands and reefs near Ko Lanta that they visit.
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- Dive & Relax Tours – Official Website with PADI certification courses and lots of dives and snorkel tours
- Snorkeling Tours with Dive & Relax – Snorkel tour descriptions
- Ko Rok Tour – The tour we took
- TripAdvisor reviews of Dive & Relax – They have been given TripAdvisor’s “Certificate of Excellence” — No surprise there!
- Location of Ko Rok – Interactive Google Maps
- Location of the Dive & Relax office on Ko Lanta – Interactive Google Maps
Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:
- Cheow Lan Lake Tour in Khao Sok with Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House 03/18/17
- Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House – Khao Sok National Park… Wow! 03/12/17
- Kanchanaburi, Thailand – History, Caves, Monkeys & Exotic Fruit! 03/03/17
- Huay Mae Khamin – Thailand’s Most Beautiful Waterfall – Mellow Adventures 02/15/17
- Erawan Falls – Jewel of Erawan National Park – with Mellow Adventures 02/07/17
- Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – A Ride Through Thailand’s Countryside 02/02/17
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Bangkok or Disney’s Epcot Center? 01/24/17
- One Day in Bangkok – A trip on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat! 01/18/17
Our snorkeling adventures in Mexico:
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