Snorkeling Ko Rok with Dive & Relax – Underwater Magic in Thailand!

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.

Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour to Ko Rok on Ko Lanta Thailand

Hi there!

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.

Ko Lanta Thailand

Ko Lanta – An island of beaches.

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)!

Dive and Relax Dive and Snorkeling Tours Ko Lanta Thailand

The relaxing side of Dive & Relax!

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.

Boat ride Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour to Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

It was a blast zipping out to the Ko Rok islands on their speedboat.

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.

Diver jumps off boat Dive & Relax Ko Rok Snorkeling Tour Ko Lanta Thailand

One by one, the divers jumped in.

Then it was our turn to jump in. The water was wonderfully warm.

Snorkeler on Dive and Relax Ko Rok Snorkeling Tour Ko Lanta Thailand

Big fish!

Almost immediately we began to see fish all around us.

Snorkeling with fish Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour to Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

We saw beautiful fish within seconds of hitting the water.

Reef Fish Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

These guys were everywhere.

Reef Fish Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Big fish, small fish, red fish, blue fish!

Our dive master kept us together and pointed out unusual things as we drifted slowly over the colorful spectacle below us.

Snorkeler on Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Our snorkeling dive master free dove to the reef to point out special sightings.

First she pointed out a sea cucumber, something I never would have noticed on my own.

Sea cucumber Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

A sea cucumber!

Then she pointed at a fantastic giant clam with ruffled purple lips.

Purple clam Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Wow… A giant purple clam!

Purple Clam Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand


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.

Clear water Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

How gorgeous is that?!!

Clear water Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand


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.

On the beach with Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

We are the only ones on this remote beach.

Ko Rok beach Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Lanta Thailand


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!

Thai lunch break Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Our three dive masters set up a fabulous hot lunch for us on the beach.

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!

Sea turtle tattoo Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Talk about being a diving enthusiast —
One of the divers in our group had a sea turtle tattooed 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.

Diving Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Underwater sightseeing.

Ko Rok snorkeling Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour in Ko Lanta Thailand

Mark loves free diving.

We saw all kinds of marine life and coral that we had never seen before.

Ko Rok reef coral Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour in Ko Lanta Thailand

Fabulous coral is home to all kinds of pretty fish.

Coral reef at Ko Rok Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour in Ko Lanta Thailand


Suddenly I spotted the most exotic looking purple sea star in the distance.

Purple Sea Star Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

A purple sea star!

Mark grabbed the camera and free dove down towards it to get a closer look. Wow!

Purple Sea Star Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand


A little further on we saw a sea anenome. And who was peeking out of the gently waving tendrils but Nemo!

Nemo clown fish Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Hey… We found Nemo!!

Nemo wasn’t alone in this anenome. The soft tendrils swayed and a few more clown fish emerged.

Nemo clown fish Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Clown fish swim around their anemone home.

During our lunch break the dive masters had been very excited because the water was especially clear on this day.

Reef fish Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand


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.

Divers Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Suddenly we saw the divers in our group below us.

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.

Fruit snack aboard Dive and Relax snorkel tour boat Ko Lanta Thailand

A smorgasbord of tropical fruit!

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.

Dive & Relax Ko Rok snorkeling tour near Ko Lanta Thailand

Next time we’ll sign up for more than one tour!!

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Sea Turtles and Eagle Rays in the Bays of Huatulco 01/13/13

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Huatulco Underwater – Snorkeling with colorful creatures

snowy egrets huatulco sailing blog

Snowy egrets in Tangolunda Bay

Early January, 2013 – The holiday throngs in Huatulco’s towns and beaches disappeared abruptly on the Monday after New Year’s, and instantly the intimate and dreamy charm of the Bays of Huatulco returned.  We were back to our very quiet and peaceful days of milling around the bay under the tropical sun.

Enjoying snorkeling off Camino Real Zaashila in Huatuclo sail blog

This waterproof camera is cool!

Below the surface of the water, however, newcomers were showing up all the time — or at least they were newcomers to us.



We had been doing lots of snorkeling throughout our stay in Huatulco, and we’d checked out the underwater landscapes in several bays.  Our new waterproof Olympus Digital Camera TG-820 was a real joy, and we loved playing with it in the water.

Groovy's hull attracts fish in Huatulco sailing blog

Groovy’s hull supports a complete ecosystem.



Groovy always has a complete ecosystem living on the undersides of the hull, rudder and keel, including stuff that looks like lettuce, gelatinous creatures that look like a thin film of clear jello, tiny crabs and adorable minuscule striped fish.  Below them a crowd of larger fish circles eternally, and we hear strange crunching noises all night long.  Even when we go out sailing, our little fan club of fish regathers under the hull when we return, grateful for our shade and our smorgasbord of goodies growing on the bottom.

Snorkeling at Playa Entrega Huatulco cruising blog

Playa La Entrega is a snorkeler’s wonderland

Besides watching our own resident fish, the best place we’ve found for snorkeling in all of the Bays of Huatulco is Playa la Entrega.  This fabulous beach is in the main bay of Santa Cruz and seems an unlikely place for such phenomenal snorkeling, given how close it is to the village and harbor.

Trumpet fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A trumpet fish swims by.

Its huge coral reef is roped off to boat traffic and is filled with canyons and caverns and very tame fish.  Crowds of eager snorkelers arrive by tour boat everyday and more crowds come on foot, by taxi or by car from town.

Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

This puffer fish is deflated…

So these fish are quite accustomed to flailing fins and bright orange life jackets and kids paddling their arms frantically at the surface.  They just move out of the way and keep doing what they do.

Inflated Puffer fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A fully inflated puffer fish!

Polka dotted puffer fish are very common, but they are usually deflated to just their normal size.  What a surprise it was when another snorkeler held out an inflated puffer fish for everyone around to see.  It was like a little football in her hands.

Blue fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

These blue guys are everywhere.

We got a huge kick out of trying to learn to photograph fish underwater.  Problem is, they dart around so fast.  We have gazillions of photos of swishing fish tails disappearing into the distance.

King angel fish Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

A king angel fish. Slightly blurry,
but oh, those colors!!






But occasionally we’d get lucky.  The king angel fish are gloriously colored, with a dark body that is trimmed in an iridescent outline of blue that you can see only when the sun hits it just right.

Irridescent fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

These guys flash in the sunlight

Other fish are trimmed with glitter all over too.  Brilliant, flashing bits of blue, like blue sequins, seem to be a very popular fashion in this underwater world.

Blue & yellow fish snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

Irridescent blue is a favorite trim color for these reef fish



Many of the reef fish are just the size of a fingernail, and they move like lightning!

Irridescent fish with coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This one sports a blue sequin outfit.


Other very large creatures play in the depths in Huatulco too.  Every so often, while snorkeling along, we’d look up and see the fins and tanks of other people in the water — or we’d suddenly see each other after going in different directions.  But being with other people in this amazing pool of aquatic life never marred the experience.

Person snorkeling playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

A different kind of fish!

Sometimes it was more fun to have other people around to share a little in the excitement.  We definitely felt like Jacques Cousteau’s explorers from his boat Calypso!

Gang of fish Jicaral huatulco sailing blog

A gang cruises past.

One of the amazing things to me was that many fish seem to prefer to stick together in tight groups.  I’d be swimming along, and suddenly a fleet of identical fish would sail by — quietly making their presence known in the ‘hood — kind of like a street gang.

Fish gang playa violin huatulco sailing blog

They’re going somewhere in a hurry!

Sometimes I’d be staring at a few solitary fish swimming around a coral head, watching them pecking at whatever yummy morsels they could find, and then there they’d be: The Gang. They’d saunter by like they owned the place.

Schools of fish playa de entrega huatulco sailing blog

Playa La Entrega is teeming with fish.

I noticed the gangs would never intermingle.  Each gang would go its own way around each other, and the individual fish never got confused or got caught up with the wrong group.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Spotting a spotted eagle ray totally made my day.

One day while snorkeling near the boat, a school of fish came zooming by us like their tails were on fire.  What the heck?!  Something was after them!  Not too many minutes later we saw an enormous spotted eagle ray soaring along the bottom.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

This guy was unhurried and elegant

This unusual creature was like a bird flying low along the bottom of the sea, sweeping its wings in a gentle but powerful motion.  Then I saw a second one.

Spotted eagle ray Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Soaring over the bottom

They flew along together for a while and then parted again.  I was so grateful to have the waterproof camera with me!

Star fish (sea star) Santa Cruz Bay huatulco cruising blog

A lone star fish hung out near our boat


So it was particularly frustrating a few days later when I jumped in the water and discovered the camera had locked up.  None of the buttons would work.  Mark couldn’t come snorkeling because he had cut his knee badly when he was re-routing some wires in the boat earlier and had inadvertently taken a step back and fallen into an open bilge compartment, skinning his knee terribly in the process.  Ouch.  I wince now ever thinking about it.

Fish lips Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Fish lips – wanna kiss?!

So he took the camera to see what he could do with it.  “This will be the day you see something really awesome!”  He chuckled at me as I swam off.  I was really bummed not to have him with me and not to have the camera, but the wonderful steep rocks at the end of the point beckoned me, and I hoped I’d have a story or two to share with him later.  There was lots of wave action out at that point that and tons of tour boats were circling as well.  I was excited but a little unnerved as I snorkeled beyond familiar territory.

Sea Turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Sea turtles came into our bay – what joy!

Then, rounding the last corner, I suddenly found myself nose to nose with a sea turtle.  Holy cow!  I spluttered and backed up as fast as I could.  And so did he!  He turned and started to swim out to sea. I couldn’t resist following him a ways.  The spray from the breakers made the water foamy white all around me, but every so often I could see his head peaking out of the spray as he swam off.

Sea turtle Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog 405

What a cool underwater sighting.

Unfortunately he wanted to go into the middle of the bay, so I turned back, only to see another turtle, right at my side!  Holy mackerel!  I followed him for a while, thinking, “Isn’t this just the way.  Alone, no camera, and two turtle sightings!  Wait til I tell Mark!”  The turtle swam at leisure, turning his head to look up at me every so often.  Then he dove down — to join another turtle that was below him nibbling on the anchor chain of our friend’s boat!  This was too much!!

Baby Jack fish Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Imagine these guys swimming with the turtle and getting a snack from his back!



I watched them swim with each other for a while and then made a beeline back to our boat, only to bump into a fourth turtle which turned out to be my best turtle sighting yet.  This one soared over the coral studded bottom in very shallow water as the sun’s rays played all around him.  I could make out the beautiful pattern on his shell and could have easily reached out and touched him.  On his back a school of bright yellow fish with tiger stripes nibbled at his shell, catching a ride and a meal to go.  We swam together for a glorious five minutes or so, and he never showed any concern about me, the fish on his back or anything else.  Just happy to be alive.

When I got back to the boat I was beside myself telling Mark my story, wishing he had been there, wishing the camera hadn’t broken, and just talking and talking and bursting with my thrilling news.  When I finally quieted down for a minute he said, “Well, you’ll be glad to know I fixed the camera!!”  What??!!!!  “I got it working just a few minutes after you left.  I tried to call you back, but you were too far away….”  Ohhhh oh oh oh oh!!!

Coral Landscape Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

Coral landscapes are everywhere

He handed the camera back to me and I rushed off again, wanting to know how he fixed it but wanting to find my turtles again too.  They were still out there — sightings 5 and 6 for the day — and I got a few photos to share with Mark that evening.  But the image that will forever stay in my mind is that one of the turtle floating along over the colorful coral heads with the vibrant yellow fish hovering above him and nibbling goodies from his shell…

Colorful coral Santa Cruz Bay huatulco sailing blog

There’s lots of color underwater in Huatulco

I found out that night that even though we had rinsed the camera thoroughly after each underwater use, the zoom button had gotten gummed up from a buildup of salt.  The camera was stuck in “zoom” mode and was too busy zooming to respond to any other buttons.  Mark sprayed the zoom button with “Salt Terminator,” a product we use to flush the salt out of our outboard engine before storing it.  Experimenting over the next few days, we found that the zoom felt a little sticky if we only rinsed it with fresh water, but if we used the Salt Terminator or even a little dishwashing soap, it came out sparkling clean and the zoom button retracted smoothly, as it was supposed to.

The underwater world of Huatulco has been such a thrill for us this season.  Fortunately, Mark’s knee has healed up nicely now, so with any luck we’ll spot a turtle or two together next time…

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