Monthly Archives: June 2012




Koh Lipe is a small island close to the Tarutao National Marine Park in the South West of Thailand. It has good off-the-beach snorkelling – I’d say it was among the top five places in Thailand for it. There is moderate diversity in the coral species, although there is not much of the classic staghorn-coral gardens than you might find in, say, the Philippines or Indonesia. There’s a pretty good population of colourful reef fish, plus you can also find more interesting species such as batfish, lobsters, sting-rays and moray eels.

There are good facilities and beautiful beaches up-top.

Best-ish seascape:

Typical seascape:

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

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All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

By far the best snorkelling is around the drop-off that runs along Sunrise beach on the East coast (marked B to C, on the map). In my opinion, Sunrise beach is also the best beach on the island (softer sand, fewer crowds), so let’s start there.


There are a couple of small beachlets at the South end of Sunrise beach, near Serendipity resort (and near A, on the map). Area A looks gorgeous from above.

Underwater, there is sandy bottom with the occasional small patch of coral. The snorkelling in area A isn’t particularly outstanding, but there are often big packs of grey parrotfish and moon wrasse scavenging around, and, more interestingly, I have occasionally seen blue-spotted stingrays and moray eels here.

Entering the water from the beachlets near area A is handy if you want to swim out the 100 metres to the uninhabited rocky island, Koh Usen. It is also a useful entry/exit point for the rest of Sunrise beach if there is an extremely low tide. Mostly, access into the water is not much of a problem in Lipe, but there is a big tidal-range and things can get very shallow at spring-tide lows. In the very worst case, you can get in the water at A and swim around the back of Koh Usen and approach the drop-off (at B) from the seaward side, but it’s a bit of a hike. 95% of the time you wouldn’t need to go to such effort.

Watch out for longtail boats passing around area A, taking tourists between the resorts and the long-distance ferries on Pattaya beach. Also, there can be a bit of a current parallel to the beach when the tide is turning. Neither one is a massive problem.

Koh Usen is rocky around the edges. There are some sandy shallows on the Lipe side where you might find some interesting critters sheltering, like this juvenile batfish:

Going round the far side of rocky Koh Usen is a bit of a schlep, but there you will find several attractive fish species that feed-off the algae on the rocks – like these powder-blue surgeonfish, lined surgeonfish and the beautiful but timid orangespined unicornfish.


This Golden damselfish lives out there (about 6 metres down)

I have also seen a couple of black-tip reef sharks there, off in the deep. Scared about sharks ? Read this.



The reef-proper starts at area B (roughly 100m straight-out from Idyllic Resort). Starting here, and running the whole (1km) length of Sunrise beach, you have a long, wide strip of reef at depths of 1m to 3m. At the edge, the reeftop has a drop-off, starting around 3m and goes to at least 10m.


Between B and C, you have about 30 x 1000 metres of reef to potter around on. If you are starting from the beach and you haven’t found a solid chunk of reef around area B, then you haven’t swam out far enough. Just keep going, away from the beach.

Note that about one third of the coral is dead. Much of the living coral is simple hump-coral in various shades of brown, so it isn’t going to be the technicolour cornucopia you might want, but there is plenty to see and lots of interesting crevices to nose-around in for wildlife.

Pretty much everywhere off Sunrise beach you can see common species like parrotfish, nemos (anemonefish), colourful clams; damselfish and wrasse.

For more information on underwater beasties, have a look at the Specieslist.

All these pics were taken snorkelling off Sunrise Beach:

all images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

The reef is pretty interesting all the way along its 1km length and it is your best choice for snorkelling on Koh Lipe. If there has to be an exact best spot, it’s at D, near the drop-off (about 120m out), directly opposite Castaway resort. Castaway have a line of yellow flags flying on the beach, so you should be able to see where you are from these. But don’t get too hung-up on the exact best spot – it’s pretty similar all the way along the dropoff.

If you are entering the water from part way along Sunrise beach, be sure that you swim far enough out to find the reef-proper and the drop-off. Closer to the beach, the coral is pretty sparse and patchy and not very special. You sometimes see people getting out of the water looking unimpressed, because they didn’t swim out far enough to find the reef.

That said, it was somewhere in the shallows there that I bumped into this uncharacteristic patch of gorgeous purple porites coral:

I also found a bit of staghorn coral in the shallows toward the northern end, and a few other interesting coral species:


While we’re on the subject of corals – there’s very little soft coral on Lipe. In fact, this is about the sum-total that I saw at Lipe:

However, I did see a lot more soft coral on a daytrip to some neighbouring uninhabited islands about 5 km away from Koh Lipe. I cover this in detail in another page here.

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Continuing North along Koh Lipe’s Sunrise beach, the small offshore islet Koh Kra has a cute little beach bisecting it.

There are lots of broken shell fragments on the beach there, so wear something on your feet of you are going to stop here.

Point E, just to the North of Koh Kra is another good spot for interesting coral and fishlife:

Koh Kra Brain Coral Koh Kra Featherstar

Generally, the fish around Lipe are a bit nervous around people and will swim away of you get too close. But, for unknown reasons, one morning I found heaps of friendly fish all lounging around area E, waiting to have their pictures taken, like this.

Moorish Idols

There was also a shoal of needlefish, cruising around the shallows near Koh Kra,


This hermit crab, was wandering around a chunk of hump coral.

Hermit Crab

And this Scorpionfish, confidently sitting on the bottom at about 2 metres depth.

You don’t want to stand on a Scorpionfish, they have venomous spines on their back which can do you a serious injury. Generally, there aren’t too many underwater things that are going to hurt you in Southern Thailand, but here are a few to keep an eye out for:

Banded Seasnake/Banded Sea Krait Blue Spotted Stingray Urchin Yellow Margined Moray Eel

I have written some notes on snorkelling ‘dangers’ (and how to avoid them) over here.

There can be some current around point E (it runs parallel to the main beach). If there is a current running, it may be going from G to E to A, or in the opposite direction, A-E-G. For an easy life, work out which way it is running (look at buoys, moored boats, swimmers), then walk to the upstream-end and float down along the reef. Most of the time there is no current.

Heading North (West) from E, the reef fades out and its back to boring sandy bottom. There are some pillars from a derelict pier around F,

which provides shelter from currents and attracts some fish. I saw this uncommon juvenile boxfish there:

The official Koh Lipe map shows snorkelling around G, outside Mountain View resort.

The beach is gorgeous, but I couldn’t find very much spectacular underwater. Mostly plain sandy bottom with the occasional bommie of Hump Coral and a few nemos:

Thai_Lipe_105_G_Typical_PB270085.JPG Thai_Lipe_109_G_Nemos_PB270072.JPG

Edit: On a later visit, there were some Big-eye Trevally hanging around:


Not wanting to miss anything I decided to swim round the lesser-visited North side of the island. It took 7 hours to get from Mountain Resort (G) round to Pattaya beach (K), so I don’t recommend doing it. There’s not much underwater worth seeing anyway.

If you are staying at Porn Resort on Sunset Beach (H), in the centre of the bay, you will find a few small patches of hump coral. (edit: Porn Resort was demolished in late 2014)

Slightly better coral  is over at the right side of the bay, outside the Government Fisheries Dept/resort.

I have also found some Nudibranchs over there:
Thai_Lipe_132_H_Nudi_PB270135.JPG Thai_Lipe_134_H_Nudi_PB270127.JPG

A better option is to walk the 15 minutes over to Sunrise Beach for snorkelling that is 10 times better.

Heading (south) West (towards point I), you would go past Mia Luna Beach; Bila Beach and some remote, inaccessible beachlets which look cute, but suffer from lots of plastic waste washed up on them. There is nothing much of interest snorkelling-wise on this stretch.

At the cape, near point (i), there are a few rocks with the usual collection of algae feeders, but, there’s not enough to make it worthwhile making the long swim out here. There were a family of excitable monkeys on the rocks of the cape. There are no roads or tracks down that way so hopefully they will stay undisturbed.

Coming back along the south coast from I round towards J, there is nothing much special to look at – mostly it is just plain sandy/rocky bottom.
Boring bottom South Coast

As you get closer to the Pattaya end, there are a couple of isolated beachlets (which you can also reach overland from the road/track that runs West past Bila Bungalows), but there is nothing special to see underwater.

As you approach the main beach, Pattaya, you go past the quiet beach and resort of Sanom Bungalows (J). There are some nice patches of hump coral here, and a few reef-fish.

Unsurprisingly, the species on view are generally the same on this side of the island as they were on the East side, although I did see this one Blue Ringed Angelfish which I didn’t see any of on Sunrise.

Blue Ringed Angelfish

There are some more isolated clumps of coral  as you head round towards Pattaya beach (K). There are also some rocks and associated fauna.

Sanom Pattaya Reef



Pattaya beach is the main beach on Koh Lipe. When it’s not too busy, it’s truly beautiful.
Pattaya2 View

Actually, there is reef all the way along Pattaya beach (about 200m out), but with all the boats coming and going, it’s just too dangerous to swim out there. If you want to snorkel at Pattaya beach, pick one of the two ends, K or L. There are rocks and a some coral at each end. The better of the two is K, near the rocks outside Sanom Resort. There are lots of isolated bommies of hump coral around there:
and you can find interesting critters like lionfish, morays and even oriental sweetlips hiding underneath them.

Personally, I would prefer to take a ten minute walk across the island to the more extensive reef off Sunrise beach, but areas K and L are also a good option in the evenings when the sun is over this side.

There is a nice little isolated beach near L. (I saw a monitor lizard slithering back into the jungle). Here’s some pics of the coral there:
Thai_Lipe_170_K_Beach_PB280303.JPG Thai_Lipe_172_K_Shallows_PB280313.JPG Thai_Lipe_164_K_Shallows_PB280369_.jpg

Interesting species nearby included this cheeky juvenile Black Snapper and some schooling White-Collared Butterflyfish:
Thai_Lipe_164_K_Juvi-Black-Snapper_PB280276_.jpg Thai_Lipe_162_K_WCB_PB280287_.jpg


Just to complete things, I swam round from L to M, then on to A. Generally, there’s not much of snorkelling-interest on this long, isolated stretch. There are a few big-rocks with nooks and crannies to poke around in near M if you fancy making the effort, but it’s quite a long way – over an hour’s swim, and the better stuff is close to Pattaya beach at L. Also, there’s quite a lot of boat traffic going around that headland, so stay in the shallows to avoid it.


Dry/peak season is ostensibly November to April, but the climate has been quite erratic over the last few years, so you can still get rain and winds 6 weeks either end of this.

Prevailing winds are mostly from the East in dry-season. This gives a nice cooling breeze on Sunrise beach, but when it picks up, it can also reduce underwater visibility and blow in sting-y jellyfish (annoying, but not life-threatening). Good visibility here is generally about 10 metres. I have also seen it down to 3m.

The coral at Lipe didn’t seem to be affected by the temperature change that caused problems around the Andaman sea in June 2010. There must be some deepwater currents or something.

The water temperature has always been a pleasant 28-ish celcius when I’ve been there (between October and May). Very comfortable – you can stay-in the water for ages without getting cold.

You can rent snorkelling equipment and kayaks at various places around the island.

There is hardly any soft coral on Koh Lipe itself, but there is quite a lot of it on nearby islands. You have to take a longtail boat to reach these. It is pretty cheap to join a tourist snorkelling daytrip. I did some of these and have written a separate page on Koh Lipe environs.

There are about ten diving shops around Koh Lipe I haven’t dived here, but they say it’s reasonably good. See the Dive site maps page for a map of local dive sites.

There are no ATMs on Lipe. A couple of the big resorts can give you a cash advance on a credit card at an extortionate mark-up. They also change travellers’ cheques at not-very-good rates. (edit: apparently ATMs arrived on Lipe in 2014).

You can find lots of information about Koh Lipe on the internet including these sites: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Edit: As of 2013, one place on Lipe is advertising Glass-bottomed kayaks to rent – “Benji Glass Kayak at Forra Pattaya Resort”.

Here are a few Gratuitous Pretty Pictures, taken off Koh Lipe:

White Collared Butterflyfish Batfish Nemos (False Clownfish) Featherduster Worm Checkerboard Wrasse Brain Coral

If you want to see more Gratuitous Pretty Pictures from Lipe, there’ s a separate page full of them here (Link)

Other links :

Tarutao National Park General info

Species List


If you have come here via a link or a search engine, you can see a menu of all the places I have written about by clicking here or on  nemo’s nose, at the top of the page.


Written: May 2012           Last edited: April 2015




Aerial picture of Koh Kradan, taken from the South East. (image credit)


Koh Kradan (เกาะกระดาน) is a small island about 10km off the South West coast of Thailand, near the town Trang.

Kradan is one of the best spots in Thailand for off-the-beach snorkelling. Towards the Southeastern corner, there is a drop-off that runs for about 1km. Here you can find some cool moonscape coral formations and multitudes of friendly fish.

Up top, there are stunning beaches and rugged forest scenery. There are a handful of mid-range, small-scale tourist resorts on the East coast.

Accommodation is more expensive than on other islands nearby. Tents are available for low-budget types.

Best-ish seascape:

Typical seascape:

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

– – – – – –


All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

Koh Kradan is probably my favourite island for off-the-beach snorkelling in Thailand. It’s all about the seascapes and big schools of reef fish.

The best stuff is in the South East corner, about 50m offshore, around a drop-off that runs in a long strip from the southernmost cape (A) up to the National Park headquarters and accommodation (C). The stuff along the main beach (D to F) is OK, too.

For this better, Southern, stretch (A-C) the best place to enter the water is by the restaurant of Ao Niang resort. Ao Niang resort is the only accommodation on this beach – the other resorts on the island are 15-ish minutes walk further North. If you are staying at one of the other resorts and want to walk down to Ao Niang – there are a couple of small rocky headlands to negotiate (just South of Area C) . At low tide, you can walk around these; otherwise you will have to do a short wade/swim around them. Alternatively, there is a narrow walking track that goes from the Southwest corner of Paradise Lost Resort to the back of Ao Niang Resort – but it’s a pretty long diversion and is closed-off during the wet season.

An advantage of getting in the water by Ao Niang’s restaurant is that there is a channel through the coral there. It is easy to walk or swim along this. At low water, access can be difficult at other locations.



Outside Ao Niang resort, the coral starts at about ankle depth and slowly gets deeper until it is about a metre deep when you are 30 metres offshore. At that point (B) there is a drop-off that goes down to a sandy bottom at about 8 metres depth.

When you reach the drop-off, you can find decent snorkelling at 2-3m depth by turning right or left. If you turn right (South, towards A) there is good snorkelling for about 200 metres, or if you turn left, it is good for about 800 metres. The most popular spot is the first 100 metres after you turn left (North, towards C). Here are some pictures from that area:

304_AreaB-corals_p1114814.jpg 305_RedandBlackAnemonefish-Bulb-Anemones_p1125069.jpg Thai_Kradan_101-P1145741_ Thai_Kradan_102-P5012274_ Thai_Kradan_103-P5022614_ Thai_Kradan_105-P5022608_ Thai_Kradan_106-P5012358_ Thai_Kradan_107-P5022616_ 306_Clam_img_3616.jpg

In area A, there are five or six Gorgonian (fan) corals.



There are a few strands of these beautiful whip corals in the depths:
Thai_Kradan_218_Whip-Coral_P3064369__.jpg 313v2_Whip-Coral_20150302_IMG_4038_Ps.jpg 312_Whip-coral_img_3706.jpg

This end tends to be better for big schools of fish like these Longfin Pike,  Two-Spot Snapper and Yellowtail Scad::
Thai_Kradan_219_Longfin-Pike_P3054156_.jpg 315_TwoSpot-Snapper_p1114822.jpg 411_Yellowtail-Scad_20160418_IMG_0031_.jpg

There are also some big patches of uncommon Bracket Coral:

Note that about half the coral in Kradan is dead. I’m not sure what caused it, probably the sea-temperature warming “El-Nino” in 1997, but most of the Staghorn species coral in the Andaman certainly looks like it suffered some major trauma around the turn of the century. There are piles of dead Staghorn Coral at the bottom of the drop-off on Kradan. Note the background to this photo of a Moon Wrasse:

Most of the other species of coral are OK.


Edit: I’m happy to say that during my last few visits, I’ve noticed that more and more of the Staghorn coral at the bottom of the dropoff is growing back. It’s quite deep (about 7m), but it’s there. (The shallower Staghorn Coral is still dead). Here’s the new stuff:


Most of the coral at Kradan is Porites species (brown) “Hump/Lump” coral.

Although this is one of the less spectacular species of coral, there are some interesting formations and lots of nooks and crannies to explore.

Who knows who you will find underneath:


As well as the Porites coral, there is also the occasional spot of vase, finger, brain and fire corals:



Ko Kradan seems to have more fish than the neighbouring Trang islands. Maybe it is due to the distance from the mainland or maybe the lack of a fishing community here. There are large of shoals of small, colourful reef fish swimming around the south-eastern reef, and they seem to be indifferent to humans being nearby. Apart from the Sergeant Major Damselfish, that is. They are certainly not indifferent. They get fed by the day trippers who visit this sweet spot of reef. The Sergeant Majors know that snorkellers means food. If you don’t give them any, they will peck away at your back and arms instead.
410_Sergeant-Major-Damsel_P3054257_.jpg Thai_Kradan_2xx_P3054227_.jpg
It is not dangerous, but will freak you out the first time it happens. Wear a T-shirt and swish your hand around to get them out of your face, or they’ll bite your lips.

Btw, feeding fish is not good for the ecology. Please try to resist.


On the reef, there are all the fish from the Common Reef-fish in Thailand page, plus several more:
325_Java-Rabbitfish_p3054215.jpg 326_Orangelined-Triggerfish_img_4061.jpg 327_Titan-Triggerfish-and-friends_p1145580.jpg 328_Longfin-Bannerfish_img_3575_.jpg 329_Long-Beaked-coralfish_img_3911_.jpg 330_Andaman-Butterflyfish_img_3765_.jpg 331_Latticed-Butterflyfish_p1125218.jpg 333_Bicolour-blenny_Ecsenius-bicolor_p1135410.jpg 334_Razorfish_p1125310.jpg 413_Smiths-Fangblenny_20160419_IMG_0054_.jpg
(mouseover for species names and/or checkout the main Specieslist)


There are a few Scorpionfish around:

You don’t want to step on these – they have poisonous spines on their backs. Fortunately, I have only ever seen them several metres down, at the bottom of a drop-off. They know that they are rock-hard, so they don’t swim away from humans – which is good news for photographers:


There aren’t so many big reef-fish around. But you might spot the occasional Red Snapper:

Or a Many Spotted Sweetlips, slinking off under a rock:

(or his audacious little cousin, blatantly doing his pookie-dance right out in the open):


There are lots of juvenile Groupers around:

But the grown-ups are either very good at hiding or went missing-in-action during illicit night-time fishing incidents.


If you have enough tide to cover the shallows closer to Ao Niang beach, you can find some juvenile reef fish getting ready for the big, bad world; plus some sand/ rubble dwellers like these Blennies and Gobies:
Thai_Kradan_212_Starry-eyed-Goby_P3064481 XXXXXXXXXX.JPG Thai_Kradan_210_Goby_P3064404.JPG 345_Freckled-Goby_img_3750_.jpg

You will usually see this little White Damselfish nose-on, as it charges at you to try and scare you out of its territory:


People with eagle-eyes and lots of patience can try combing the shallows for Flatworms and Nudibranchs:
346_Flatorm_img_3819.jpg 348_Black-Phyllidiella-nudibranch_img_3767.jpg 349_Black-Rayed-Fryeria-nudibranch_img_3906.jpg 350_Black-Rayed-Fryeria-nudibranch_img_3766.jpg


The beautiful orange-patterned Analogium Striatium (aka Gymnodoris striata):
..speeds around hunting-down poor unfortunate Plakobranchus ocellatus, who does his best to hide by putting on a sandy camouflage:


Critter aficionados might be surprised to find a Mantis Shrimp’s deely-bopper eyes poking out of his lair:

These teeny tiny shrimp were hanging around outside a Mantis Shrimp’s nest.
I’m not sure if they are family or dinner, I suspect the latter.


Away from the shallows, other non-piscine life includes Moray Eels, Starfish, Urchins and Shrimp:

360_Honeycomb-Moray-Eel_p1125330.jpg 362_Crown-of-Thorns-Starfish_img_3781.jpg 363_Sea-Urchin_img_4051.jpg 365_Striped-Hingebeak-Shrimp_Rhynchocinetes-durbanensis_img_4030_.jpg

Occasionally, when sea and wind conditions conspire against you, you might get some jellyfish blow-in. It is fairly rare and, mostly, they are the standard ‘sea-wasps’, which will just make you itch for an hour. But these two gave me hummers that burned for three days afterwards:
366_Jellyfish_img_4078_.jpg 367_Jellyfish_img_3885_.jpg


This ‘one’ looks jellyfish-like, but it is is actually a colony of Salps, members of the tunicate family:
Although they make up huge, long chains, they are harmless.

Wearing a long-sleeved shirt is good defense against jellyfish and sunburn. See my Safety page for more info on jellyfish.

As you move North, away from Ao Niang, the reef starts to get a bit more variable – most of it is quite good, but there are some duff spots, too.

As you round the headland, you will see the frames of unfinished concrete huts from the National Park accommodation on the left. There are some cool bulk-corals outside the National Park HQ:

..then the seabed turns into sandy bottom as you leave the Park headquarters area . On the border between reef and sand, you might find some rubble-scavengers like the Blackpatch Triggerfish or Freckled Goatfish:
374_Black-Spot-Triggerfish_p1125261.jpg 376_Freckled-Goatfish_p5022555.jpg


In the dry season, you will also see lots of daytrippers over on speedboats from the beachless resorts on the mainland. Most dayboats and ferries land on this beach (or on the strip a few hundred metres to the North), as there is no reef here to damage their hulls. Yes, I said there is no reef there. Starting at around the Amari Resort and continuing up to Kradan Beach resort, there is just plain sand and the occasional Sea-Star. If you are on a day-trip snorkelling boat from Lanta or Pak Meng and they stop at here for a picnic lunch on the beach, I suggest ditching the lunch break and walking ten minutes South (left as you approach from the sea) down to Ao Niang for a snork. Make sure they don’t drive off without you, though!


Up at land level – point C is the start of the long, single beach that runs past all the resorts on Kradan.

The resorts on this main beach go (from South to North) :

• National Park
• Amari Resort (only used for lunchtime daytrippers, there’s no overnighting)
• a long, white wooden split-rail fence. This has a gate with a track that leads to Paradise Lost Resort (10 minutes walk) and Sunset beach on the west coast (15 minutes)
• Kradan Beach resort
• Seven Seas resort
• Reef Resort
• Kalume Resort
• Coral Garden restaurant and resort
• Kradan Island resort
• Kradan Paradise resort

Throughout the ~1km run of these resorts, there is beautiful, white powder-sand beach and gorgeous azure blue waters. Most of the idyllic photographs you’ll see on google images are taken on this stretch (after the daytrippers have left).

But the snorkelling along this main beach is patchy.

The reef starts-up again near the blue grocery store that is part of Kradan Beach resort. The drop off is far, far out from the beach. The reef top is variable here. At some points it is 60% good, live coral, but on average, about 70% is dead. The best spot here is the just before the drop-off at the North-end of Kradan Beach Resort. Here are some pics from there:

Thai_Kradan_110-P1135401_ Thai_Kradan_111-P1135419_ Thai_Kradan_112-P1135447_ Thai_Kradan_113-P1135534_ Thai_Kradan_114-P1135536_

The spot outside Kalume is quite good, too. There is also a small patch of flat sand there.
Sting rays like flat, sandy bottom. There’s not so much of that around Kradan – it’s all reef or rock. I found these fellas on the small patch of sand near Kalume:
Thai_Kradan_117-P1135520_ Thai_Kradan_241_Ray_P3064461.JPG

Here are some shots from a little further North, outside Coral Garden Resort:
Thai_Kradan_115cg-P1135512_ Thai_Kradan_116-P1135516_

Access to the water here (D to E) is OK except at low tide, when you will be stepping over broken-up stones and coral fragments.


There is a narrow walking track that leads to the middle one of the three West coast beaches. The track starts just North of the telecommunications tower at Kradan Island Resort (GPS 7° 19′ 2.142″ N, 99° 15′ 10.284″ E). The track is a bit overgrown. If you’re after an easy walk and a beautiful sunset beach, then it’s better to choose the Southernmost one, via the track near to Paradise Lost Resort.

– – – – –

The main East coast beach appears to end at some mangroves just after Kradan Paradise Resort (around point E), but actually, you’re only about half way along the island. At low-ish water you can walk around the back of the mangroves and there’s about another 2km of beach, albeit a lot more rugged and unkempt than the resort-y stretch. I saw one map which labelled this one as ‘Ao Pai’. This area is National Park protectorate, so should hopefully remain untouched in the future.

There is a track here that leads to the third (Northernmost) West coast beach. (Edit: at 2015, a mudslide on the East side has effectively closed-off this track. If you want to take your life in your hands, the GPS is 7° 19′ 30.93″ N, 99° 15′ 0.576″ E).

Back on the East side, Wally’s map indicated that there was a big bulge of reef out to the Northeast corner (and satellite pictures show it as being shallow here), so I had a good trawl around this area (G to F). There is a wide expanse of sandy bottom here; followed be a fairly-good edge to the reef top; then a crummy drop-off). Often the drop-off is better than the reef-top, but not here. Here are some shots from the area:

North East Kradan Thai_Kradan_119-P1135502_ Thai_Kradan_120-P1155995_ Thai_Kradan_121-P1155999_ Thai_Kradan_122-P1156043_ Thai_Kradan_123-P5032671_ Thai_Kradan_124-P5032681_ Thai_Kradan_125-P5032687_ Thai_Kradan_126-P5032701_ Thai_Kradan_127-P5032706_ Thai_Kradan_128-P5032709_

Around the West side of the Northern point, it all starts getting rocky. There are a few algae feeders around:
382_Lined-Surgeonfish_img_3783.jpg 383_Powder-Blue-Surgeonfish_img_3614.jpg
..but, apart from the three small beaches, the whole of the west coast is craggy rocks above and below the waterline:
380_West-underwater-rocks_img_3884.jpg 385_West-cliffs_p5012329.jpg

The untouched forest sitting atop the imposing craggy rocks is a beautiful, naturalistic sight, but underwater, there’s not too much of interest to snorkellers around the West side.

Here’s a Sea Eagle, taking in the view:
Thai_Kradan_West Side

I have swum the West side several times now. There is usually a significant current, running parallel to the coast, sometimes Northerly, sometimes, Southerly. It’s nice when the current is going the same direction as you, but it is tedious and quite hard-work if you are swimming against it. Even without current, the West coast is a bloody long swim (about 6 hours).

If you have shoes on, you can almost rock-hop most of G to J in a few hours. I say almost, because there are a few spots where you just can’t get across that plummeting ravine without jumping into the sea and swimming round (and being prepared to climb up the barnacled rocks to get out of the water at the other side).

It’s probably best to go by kayak if you want to look at the West coast. There are a few resorts that will rent you one – try Kradan Beach Resort or Kalume Resort. They can adopt a ‘resort-customers-only’ policy at busy times.

Around the Northern tip, and swimming South on the West side of the island, you eventually get to the big, Northernmost of the three West coast beaches. This is guaranteed to be empty, has decent sand, but like most west-coast beaches in the Andaman sea, above the tideline it is covered in washed up-plastic debris. Handy for picking up a different pair of flip-flops or a squid fisherman’s lightbulb.

Snorkelling here is generally unremarkable, (though I have found the uncommon Square-Tailed Grouper here on a few occasions):


After a long schlep, you eventually get to the middle of the three West-coast beaches. (I saw it labelled on one map as ‘Ewu beach’). This beach is similar to the Northern one, perhaps a little better. Here’s a picture of it, taken from point I:


It is a surprisingly short distance (a couple of hundred metres) to the main (Southernmost) West coast beach, J. This is a beautiful beach, particularly at low tides (at high tide, the beach gets very small). This one seems to be generally called ‘Sunset beach’, although I have seen one map that calls the bay Chorgkom bay’ (อ่าวช่องคม?)

People often walk to this beach to take-in the sunset. It’s an easy 15 minute walk from the gap in the bamboo fence on the East side, near Amari Resort and Paradise Lost resort, (GPS 7° 18′ 38.028″ N, 99° 15′ 29.808″ E).

You might find a few yachties anchored around sunset beach, but mostly it’s quiet. There are no resorts here. You do still get some West-coast plastic garbage washed up at the back of the beach. Recently, some wags have started sculpting it into human figures.

Snorkelling-wise, you might find a few beasties near the rocks on the left (South) end:
Thai_Kradan_South of Sunset beach Thai_Kradan_132-P1115010_
..otherwise it is all boring sandy bottom, peppered with a few rocks:

391_Peacock-Flounder_img_4070.jpg Thai_Kradan_238_Sunset-Bay-Shallows_P3064448.JPG
Getting in and out of the water, there are small rocks in the shallows, but access to the water is possible through some wide gaps between them. It can be tricky when there’s surf stirring up the sand and obscuring the rocks.


Continuing on South, the South-Western stretch is another long schlep round rocky coastline, with no particularly interesting features underwater. Fauna-wise – I’ve had some interesting trips round here and some dull ones. Best sightings were a Nudibranch hiding in a Vase Coral:

and some friendly Cuttlefish:
Thai_Kradan_Cuttlefish South West


As the West coast is on the deep-sea side of the island (and away from the noise of the tourist boats on the beaches), it is sometimes possible to get a fleeting glimpse of an exciting pelagic (ocean-going) fish here. Unusual pelagic fish spotted include the Queen Talang fish:
These are pretty big (around 1.2m) and very fast moving. They like murky water and their eyesight is better than yours, so you’d be lucky to catch a glimpse.

These Pick-Handle and Great Barracuda were on the West coast
395_Pickhandle-Barracuda_p5012279_.jpg 396_Great-Barracuda_img_3894.jpg
(although you can sometimes see Barracuda on the East-side reefs, too).

You might also get the occasional fleeting glimpse of a passing Trevally, like this Golden Trevally:


It is veeery uncommon to see Giant Trevally this close to the mainland:


There is a bit of (mostly unhealthy) coral reef in deep water on the West side:
It is unglamorous, but does provide a habitat for reef fish.

Uncommon reef-fish I have seen on the West side include this Oriental Sweetlips; and a small posse of Indonesian Sweetlips:
399_Oriental-Sweetlips_img_4102.jpg 400_Indonesian-Sweetlips_img_3848_.jpg

Plus the beautiful nudibranch, Jorunna Funebris:


but the West coast spotting award goes to, after about 6 trips to Kradan, finally seeing one of these:
Thai_Kradan Turtle
Yay! And I was always suspicious of the claims that they were here 🙂



There is a small cave about 300m short of the Southern cape:

It is a bit scary going in, but can be fun when there are big schools of fish gathered in the doorway. Various sizes of juvenile Sweepers hang out there:


Up top, there are many steep cliffs in this section – it is (almost) possible to rock-hop J to A, but you’ll have to go in for a dip a couple of times.


Soon, (well not that soon, actually) you are back round the southern headland to return to point A/B near Ao Niang resort.


Other watery info:

There are often currents running parallel to the beach, but they aren’t very strong. Generally, currents run from North to South when the tide is falling and South to North when the tide is rising. But sometimes they do the exact opposite, just to confuse you. Check which direction moored boats are pulling on their buoys.

Underwater visibility is usually about 6 metres in dry season, but it suffers near Spring Tides (full moon and no moon) due to the higher volumes of water being sloshed around by the tides. Try to avoid those times.

Kradan isn’t known for its diving. Since 2013, there has been a one-man dive-shop at (expensive) resort Seven Seas. Expect to pay accordingly.

In 2015, Kradan Beach Resort started pushing “snuba” (like diving/scuba, but the air is piped down to you(r regulator’s second-stage) from an air tank on the surface, rather than one strapped to your back). It didn’t seem to be catching on.

– – – – – – –

Here are a few more random pics from Ko Kradan:



Links :

Main menu

Species List


There is comparable (but slightly inferior) snorkelling at nearby Koh Ngai; Koh Lipe

– – – –


There are no roads and no vehicles on the island.

There are no ATMs.

Dry season is ostensibly 1 November to 1 May, although the seasons everywhere have been getting more unpredictable lately, so who can say, really?

You can get there from Trang town. It is a 1 hour minibus ride from the northern minibus station in Trang to Kuantungu pier (70B) then about 40 minutes by longtail boat. There’s not much English spoken at the pier and there doesn’t seem to be a timetable or a list price for the boats, so be prepared for some confusion. It works out just as cheap (and much easier) to buy a minibus-boat combination ticket from the travel agents in Trang town (450B), where you will be guided through the various connections.

Koh Kradan is listed as a stop-off on the big Tigerline ferry that island-hops down from Phuket to Langkawi in Malaysia. Actually, I’ve never seen it stop on Kradan – I think they take you to the mainland port at Hat Yao, to make the connecting boat to Kradan.

The PetPailin ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Mook stops at Koh Kradan.

Koh Kradan is also a stop-off on “4-island” snorkelling day-trips from Koh Lanta and Pak Meng. You can jump off half-way and stay on Kradan if that suits you. Daytrips from Koh Lanta are about 1000B, from Pak Meng/Trang, about 800B.

These transport options only exist in the dry season. In the wet season, you will have to charter your own longtail. If you have decided on your resort in advance, they will be able to arrange this for you, otherwise get the minibus to Kuantungu pier and start negotiating. Expect to pay around 1000+B each way on a private charter.

You can also charter private longtail boats from Pak Meng (30km Northwest of Trang); Hat Yau/Ko Libong (30km Southwest of Trang); and Koh Mook (also out of Kuantungu pier, but there is a regular scheduled service Kuantungu-Mook, so this cuts down the distance on a private charter boat by only having to charter the Mook-Kradan section).

Other than the staff at the resorts, nobody lives on Koh Kradan. There is no village and no locals. This means that the food is more expensive, as you can only eat in the resorts. Your cheapest fried noodle dish starts at 90B in Kradan, compared with 35B in Trang or at the villages in nearby Koh Mook or Koh Libong. Weekending locals bring their own food and drinks with them.

Sleeps: (indicative prices, 2015; ascending)
– National Park BYO tent – 30B
– “dorm” (=doorless barn) at Paradise Lost – 300B
– rental tents at National Park/ Ao Niang ~350B;
– small fan hut: Ao Niang, Kradan Island Resort, Kalume – 700-ish
– bigger fan huts: Ao Niang, Kradan Island Resort, Kalume, Paradise Lost – 1100-ish
– AC: Kradan Beach Resort, Paradise Lost – 1500-ish
– Luxury: Kradan Beach Resort, Coral Garden Resort, Reef Resort – 4000 to 5000B
– Super luxury: Seven Seas Resort – 5000 to 12000B

More topside info: 1 2 3

Alternative maps: 1


Originally Written: May 2012 . . . . . . Last updated: April 2016

Thailand_Ngai (Hai)

Koh Ngai, Thailand


Koh Ngai (เกาะไหง) is a tourist island 12km off the South West Coast of Thailand, near to the town of Trang. It has beautiful, soft white sand beaches and a coral reef down most of the East coast. The bulk of the coral isn’t that spectacular, but its craggy moonscape formations are interesting to explore and they host a range of colourful small reef fish. There is also the occasional spot of beautiful, colourful coral.

On the surface, the beaches are the main attraction. There is also extensive, rugged forest and a decent forest-hike. There are quite a few hornbill birds.

Accommodation is more expensive than on nearby islands. For lower-budget people, tents are available.

There is better snorkelling on nearby Koh Kradan.

– – – –

Best-ish seascape:

Typical seascape:

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

(Note: I visited in early May, at the start of the wet season. Underwater visibility wasn’t great (3-4 metres). You might want to make a mental correction to the pictures to account for this – I’m sure it all looks much better in the middle of the dry season). Edit: I went back in the middle of the dry season, but underwater visibility was even worse. Edit2: and on a third visit in early April the underwater visibility was also bad. Still looking for that clear water.

– – – –


Map of the island

Ngai or Hai?
Some people call the island Koh Ngai, some call it Koh Hai. The thai character ห Haaw Hip, can have two functions – it is either an equivalent to the Roman character H and is pronounced the same as in English; or it is silent and is used to alter the tone of a Thai word. The usual Thai spelling of Ngai is ไหง which ‘should’ be pronounced “Ngai” with a (modified) rising tone.

However, some resorts spell it ไห (which is pronounced Hai); and others spell it ไหง and still pronounce it as Hai.

Take your pick! In this article, I use ไหง/Ngai, except when mentioning the name of a resort which does it differently.

The coral reef:

The main area of interest for snorkelling is the long reef running down the touristed East coast. In the shallows, there is sandy beach/bottom, peppered with small chunks of rocks and dead coral. Access is possible, but not always easy, especially at low tides. Footwear is recommended.

As you get 20-40 metres away from the beach, coral density and quality improves and there is about 40 metres of shallow, craggy reeftop (at 1-2 metres depth). At the end of this strip is the dropoff – a steep slope down to a sandy bottom at about 10 metres.

the ‘average’ coral condition

Generally, the coral off Ngai’s main beach is OK, but not spectacular. Probably about 60% of it is dead. Of the remaining live coral, most of it is the unglamorous, brown hump-coral species. But the formations of (live and dead) coral make a cool moonscape, full of nooks and crannies to look around in.

There is only a small amount of the staghorn and table species of coral, but it is all dead and looks like it has been for about ten years. This also applies to those species in other places throughout the Southern Andaman sea. You often find a totally wrecked pile of dead staghorn coral in the middle of a completely healthy patch of another coral species – I assume that the staghorn and table corals were the most susceptible to some specific traumatic event, maybe the El Nino sea temperature rise in 1998.

Most of the firecoral has had the top few centimetres killed off , too.

It’s not all gloom and despondency, however. Of the remaining corals, some are very pretty, either through colour or form. There is reasonable diversity in the minor species.


If you look closely, you can see the tentacles of the Fungia (mushroom coral) sticking up through the splines.

In short – Ngai’s reef is about craggy moonscapes, not jaw-dropping coral gardens.

– – – –

There is a good selection of coloured reef fish in Ngai. Mouseover the pictures for names, more info in the specieslist.

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

The White Collared Butterflyfish win the beauty pageant:


Thai_Ngai_v3_003_Many-Spotted-Sweetlips-Adult_P1196965__.jpg Thai_Ngai_v3_005_Yellowfin-Surgeonfish_P1196958.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_007_Long-Beaked-coralfish_P4130478.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_009_Powder-Blue-Surgeonfish_P1217452_.jpg Thai_Ngai_v3_010_Squaretail-Grouper_P1227634.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_012_Sweepers_P1197054.JPG

– – – –


Here are the details from my wanderings – starting in the North East of the island and going South, then clockwise:

I started as far (North) up the main beach as possible and entered the water at B (on the map), outside Koh Hai Cliff Beach Resort (formerly Chateau Hill Resort).

Much of the beach at the Northern end has been washed away and the Northerly resorts have put up sea-walls against further erosion. If the tide is in, you will have to walk along the balance-beam of the sea wall to be able to reach Koh Hai Cliff Beach Resort.

Entry into the water is easy at Cliff Beach Resort – there are steps down from the resort and a channel through the coral (you can even see it on satellite maps). This makes for an easy wade-out to the reef.

Before we start with the main beach area (B to C), let’s take a quick detour up to the Northern point of the island (point A). Snorkel-boats often visit here. It is possible to swim the 1km from B to A, but it isn’t an easy job and there are no exit points if you want to back-out. Casual snorkelers should probably give this stretch a miss. If you do go up there, be on the lookout for currents flowing North – you don’t want to drift up to the Northern end of the island only to find that you can’t swim back against the current. It is a long way to Ko Lanta!

Mostly, the reef from B to A was about the same as that listed B-C, below. Here is a typical scene along B to A:
Thai_Ngai_v3_015_AB-Typical _P4120405.JPG

Notables I have seen up there include a black-tip reef shark, living in the rocks 300m from the North point. I found it in the same place every time I came up here.
Black-tip Ngai Near A
Scared about sharks? Read this.

At about the same point, there are a few big Gorgonians (sea fans):
Thai_Ngai_Area A, East Gorgonians Thai_Ngai_v2-02-P1176377_ Thai_Ngai_v2-03-P1207232_

Right at the Northermost rock, there are a lot of smaller Gorgonians. Note that the currents get quite strong right at the tip of the island.

On one visit, swimming around the Northern cape, this exciting beastie came up from the dark depths to check me out. It was about 1.4m long and very fast moving.
Corbia, North Ngai
It’s a Corbia. Apparently they hang around in schools with Whale Sharks. One dive shop owner said that they can be seen off the main beach in dry season.

This one circled me a few times, then disappeared back into the deep. Cool.

About five minutes later, round to the Western side of the cape, this happened again, but with this Talang Queenfish, from the Jack family. It was a little over a metre long.
Ngai Talang Queenfish
It’s a good day when your fish is so big/close that you can’t fit it all into one picture!

Oh, there was a curious Barracuda, too:
Barracuda North Ngai

So the Northern point was rather exciting, especially the time I went there in stormy weather. It is not something for all tastes, though – casual snorkelers should probably skip this part because of the risks with the currents.

OK, let’s jump back to the relative safety of point B and start heading South towards the main length of the beach. The corals up around point B at this end weren’t all that special. The best of it was some patches of colourful hump-coral in the shallows near the beach:

The water remained just 2-3 metres deep even way, way offshore and I never did find a drop-off. I did see a feather duster worm and a school of two spot snappers.



A bit further South, the reef started to take more form. This is about midway between Koh Hai Cliff Beach Resort and Thapwarin Resort, about 150m offshore.

And things started improving about level with Coco Cottages / Thapwarin. The ‘best of’ picture, above was taken here. Satellite pictures show a boat channel cut/trawled through the coral outside Thapwarin resort, which should give easy access to the water from here.

These pictures are from just South of Coco Cottages:

These two are about level with the Northern end of the long, empty beach that runs between Coco Cottages and Koh Hai Seafood:

These are moving sequentially Southwards along that same long, empty stretch of beach:

These were taken around the reef outside Koh Hai Seafood and Koh Ngai Villa. This is probably the best section of the reef, although the difference from neighbouring sections isn’t that big.

We’re into the main populated run of resorts now. These were taken from Koh Ngai Villa down to Malalay Resort:

These are from South of Malalay Resort, past Ko Ngai Camping resort:

– – – –

The reef stops at Ngai Fantasy Resort. Outside Fantasy and Thanya resorts there is a sloping sandy bottom from the beach down to 15+ metres. The lack of coral here might be a bit boring, but it makes it easy for the bigger resorts’ boats to land and it’s a great place for a starfish party…


After Thanya Resort, at Area C, there is a rocky headland and a 400 metre swim round to Koh Ngai Resort’s big jetty.

(or you can walk along the headland on the narrow wooden bridge. Edit @ 2014 – the wooden bridge has rotted away, but, with a bit of rock-hopping, you can still get through at low-mid tides).

The underwater stretch from C to the jetty has some patchy, mostly dead, reeftop and a drop-off to about 5 metres.
Thai_Ngai_v3_021_CD-C-to-Jetty-Reeftop_P4090218.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_022_CD-C-to-Jetty-Dropoff_P4140581.JPG
Generally, this area isn’t as good as those that border it, so it is probably not worth a special visit. I did once see these Coral-Rabbitfish doing a (?) mating dance there:



Passing under the jetty, there are often lots of schooling fish around the deeper parts, including Silver-Batfish:

White Collared Butterflyfish:

and a variety of Rabbitfish, Snapper and Fusiliers:
Thai_Ngai_v3_030_D-Fusiliers_P1217405.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_031_D-Schoolers_P1217404.JPG

In the shallows, you might also find some Nudibranchs:
Thai_Ngai_v3_033_D-Nudibranch_P1197142.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_034_D-Nudibranch_P1227561.JPG

The jetty only serves Ko Ngai Resort. If you happen to be staying there, it is easy enough to enter the water by jumping off the jetty’s sea-level platforms/steps. But don’t count on exiting the water this way – there are sharp barnacles on the edge of it. There are easy exits at the beaches 200m to the South and North.

Continuing South of the jetty – underwater there is a short patch of concrete remnants from former jetties. After this, about 50m offshore, you start to see the dropoff for the Area D reef:
Thai_Ngai_v3_036_D-South-of-Jetty_P1197137.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_037_D-Dropoff_P1196934.JPG

Keep looking to your right, because early on, there is an attractive patch of Fire/Blue Coral (Heliopora-coerulea)
Thai_Ngai_v3_039_D-Heliopora-coerulea_P1197123.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_040_D-Lined-Butterflyfish-Topsail-Drummer_P1196945.JPG

As you continue South, you draw level with the end of Ko Ngai Resort’s sea-wall and the start of its beach.

Koh Ngai Resort itself is a large-scale affair that is popular with Thai families. It has a zillion rooms, a pool and a sandy beach.

The beach should give you easy access to the water if you are going-in here. I met this little fella there, chilling out on the massage platform.

If you are entering the water from the beach, you will have to swim across about 50m of patchy reef-top before you get to the drop-off.

The reeftop here has good and bad bits – here are a few selections from it:



But if you are snorkelling here, you should be heading for the drop-off, about 100m offshore.
Thai_Ngai_v2-10-P1217412_ Thai_Ngai_v2-12de-P1197017_

If you are lucky enough to have a day with good underwater visibility, this can be one of the most attractive spots on Ngai.

The drop-off goes down to about 6 metres deep. If you can see/get down that far, you might see a Filefish or one of a few sproutings of Whip/Comb softcoral.
Filefish Thai_Ngai_v2-09-P1196995_


Whatever the visibility, also look out into the blue occasionally. This is a good spot to see Great Barracuda passing by:


As you head South along the dropoff, towards Area E, you will see a few large sea fans:
Thai_Ngai_Gorgonians D to E Thai_Ngai_v2-14-P1197022_

Immediately South of Ngai Resort’s beach is a little track leading to a couple of ‘secret’ beachlets. Access to the water from these is rocky and difficult. If you want to look at the Southern end of Area D, you should enter the water at Ngai Resort’s main beach, and swim down. There is often a mild current heading Southwards here, but in the worst case, you can always swim round to Muang bay (F) and walk home along the island track.


Area E

There is an impressive rock pinnacle (Kaun aim/im rock) on the corner, at E. This kind of formation is considered sacred by Thai people and they celebrate it by tying long ribbons around it.

As this rocky pinnacle comes into sight, you will also see two small rocky islands off to the left.
Each one is about 15 metres wide. The first one is about 30metres from the main island and the second one is 15m further out from that. These have come to be one of my favourite spots for snorkelling on Ngai. But they are not for the casual snorkeller. Be careful about long-tail boats here – they often cut through the channel between the island and the rocks. It’s a great place to get your head cut off. Also, the sea-fans are there because they like strong current, and there is often plenty of strong current here. Combine current, boats, waves breaking over sharp rocks and all those pretty-sights to distract you and it’s kinda tough being here.

At point E1, near the North West corner of the first rock, you can find a good patch of diverse soft corals:
Thai_Ngai_v3_048_E1-Softcorals_P4100255.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_049_E1-Softcorals_P4100260.JPG
I don’t think you’ll find this mix anywhere else on Ko Ngai.

Other than that one spot, the first rock is the poor-cousin of the pair. The better sights are at the second one.

There are several patches of sea-fan dotted all around the second rock. My favourite is this yellow one at point E2

But there are several others to choose from:
Thai_Ngai_Gorgonians at Rocks at E Thai_Ngai_v2-16-P1197073_ Thai_Ngai_v3_055_E-Gorgonians_P4110318.JPG

Unfortunately, the fan corals are also susceptible to storms and disease. This pretty patch has suffered a lot in just one year (2013 to 2014): Thai_Ngai_v3_058_E-2013_P1197106.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_059_E-2014_P4140573.JPG .

I found a few small (10cm square) individual patches of Scleronephthya species softcoral dotted around on both sides the second rock. Thai_Ngai_v3_062_E-Gorgonians-and-Scleronephthya-sp_P4110321.JPG But the only place with more than an individual sprig was on some flat rocks 7 metres deep at point E3: Thai_Ngai_v3_065_E3-Scleronephthya-sp_P4100279.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_069_E3-Scleronephthya-sp_P4100276.JPG

If you want to find it, here’s a transit – keep the second rock positioned in the middle of the distant jetty, like in this picture:
Then swim about 30m SSE away from the rock (keeping it in line with the jetty, as-per the picture). Underwater, you will find a tall rock that almost reaches the surface. Go to the South side of that rock and dive down to about 6 or 7 metres. You should see the purple Scleronephthya on a horizontal rock-shelf there.

This small patch of pink/yellow stuff is about 10 metres East from there, a little deeper.


Actually, past the two exposed rocks, stretching East, there is a whole line of underwater rocks (E4 to E5). If you are up to fighting the currents, there are a few interesting things to see around here. Including:

This cute Nudibranch:
(probably Ringed Chromodoris, Chromodoris-annulata)

This space-alieny looking Lamellarin (also part of the Nudibranch family):

A brave Featherduster worm:

Maybe the occasional passing Turtle:

Less common fish like Groupers and Blue-Ringed Angelfish:
Thai_Ngai_v3_080_E-Grouper_P4100289_.jpg Thai_Ngai_v3_081_E-Blue-Ringed-Angelfish_P4100280.JPG

and no shortage of schoolers:
Thai_Ngai_v3_083_E-Snapper_P4100262.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_084_E-Species_Fish_Fusilier_Blue-and-Yellow-Fusilier_P4090200.JPG

My favourite game here was playing tag with a group of three, one-and-half metre long Talang Queenfish:


On one unusual day, a particular combination of weather conditions gave some of the clearest waters I have ever seen in Thailand:

Ngai Just South of E Blue-spined Unicornfish


Returning across the busy channel to Ngai, there are a couple of small caves near the sacred pinnacle.
The water is usually crystal-clear inside, but there is very little to see.


The South Side (Area F to L)

Satellite pictures of Koh Ngai, show the South side as having two bays; as-if a giant had taken two bites out the triangular island. But a little further out to sea, you can see an almost straight line between the South East and South West corners. This is the edge of a shallow sandy shelf that extends a looong way off the beaches in the two bays.

On this South side of the island, the sandy shelf contains patches of rock and mostly-dead bulk corals. The ‘straight-line’ indicates the drop-off, where the bottom plunges down to about 7 metres. Generally, the better snorkelling on the South side is near to the drop-off.

Rounding the corner from Area E, into Muang Bay, there are two orange mooring buoys. On some maps, this area (F) is marked as a snorkelling spot.

At the first buoy (the one furthest from the beach) there is no interesting coral and the bottom is quite deep at 6+ metres, so I couldn’t see any reason why it should be considered a snorkelling destination. As I swam past the second buoy, I was suddenly swarmed by a thousand Sergeant Major Damselfish. This species is popular with fish-feeders, so I’m guessing that organised snorkel-tours moor-up here and put everyone into the water armed with bread for the fishies to go nuts over.

Personally, I’m against feeding fish for human entertainment. Here’s some reasons not to do it.

Under the second buoy there is some coral that is marginally better than other parts of Muang Bay:

although that is easy to achieve, as most of Muang Bay is unspectacular:

I did spot a cuttlefish blending in with the mucky rocks at around 5 metres. Wanna play ‘spot the cuttlefish’ ?

You got him, right? No? Here he is up close.

After a while, he turned sand-coloured and jetted-off towards Paradise Bay.

I did find a dead lobster on the seabed. Does that count as interesting ?

There is an exit point here on the beach at Ao Mueang.

There is a track that runs from the back of Thanya Resort to Muang Bay and also to Paradise Bay, next door. There is also a spur to it from Ngai Resort. Here’s the SPs on the track:

– — –

Starting from the main beach area, you can find the island track at the back of Thanya Resort. (There is a row of paving stones going up a hill between two rows of Thanya’s cabanas, (Tezza has a picture of it). There is also a spur to it from Ngai Resort. The track itself is a fun little forest trek. You could do it in flip-flops, but there are a couple of steep, rootsy spots, so stronger footwear would be better. Wear some bugspray, especially if it has rained lately.

From Thanya Resort, it is about 20 minutes walk to a signposted t-junction at the bottom of a hill. Turn-left here for a short track to Mueang bay, or follow the signs right to go another 15 minutes to Paradise Bay. On the Paradise Bay branch, take a sharp left turn 30 metres after this bridge/well. After taking that left, you should be on a flat track, with a tall palm plantation to your right – this will lead you to Paradise Beach. If you are heading up a long hill on a wide road, then you are going the wrong way.

In the evenings, Hornbills like to have a dustbath in the track that leads past the palm plantation. And they like the tall palm trees.

Thai_Ngai_Horn Bills Thai_Ngai_v2-27-P1207383_

– –
Tipping out of the track on the East end of Paradise Bay, near the little headland that divides Muang Bay from Paradise Bay, it is easy to enter the water from the long flat sandy beach.

There is a cool rock formation at the end of the little headland.

But my interesting, dramatic pictures looking at the island from the mid-south weren’t really very interesting or dramatic.
Looking East back towards the sacred pinnacle at E
Looking straight at the dividing headland – Paradise Bay on the Left, Mueang Bay on the right.
Looking left into Paradise bay.

Unfortunately, the underwater scenes weren’t very interesting or dramatic either.

The seascape here is 40% rock or long-dead coral on 60% sandy bottom.

There are a few colourful fish about. Who doesn’t like a White Collared Butterflyfish?

Plus there was a clam and were one or two tiny patches of colourful corals:

Some of the better looking coral was towards the drop-off at the far (West) end of the bay:
Thai_Ngai_v3_107_HJ-Corals_P1217508.JPG Thai_Ngai_v3_108_HJ-Corals_P1217515.JPG

But overall – this isn’t a top destination for the coral.


If you are lucky enough to get some decent underwater visibility here, some of the local fishlife can be fun:
Yellow Margin Triggerfish Blue AKA Bar Trevally Indonesian Sweetlips

This looks like a flower, but it’s a single strand, coiled around in a spiral. I think its a worm:
Ngai Paradise Bay

Oh, and did I mention that I saw one of these?
Turtle at Paradise Bay

Well, two actually. Just at the bottom of the ‘drop-off’, about 5 metres down.

– – – – –

Up at surface level, at the West-end of Paradise Bay is a lovely little isolated resort set among the palm trees – Paradise Resort . This would be an excellent spot for someone looking to get away from the busier resorts on the main beach. Edit: in 2013/14 Paradise Resort was closed down – apparently in a dispute about them having built on National Park land. We’ll have to see whether the problem can be resolved in future years.

Paradise Bay / resort.

– – – – – – –

At the very West end of the beach, there are some concrete steps up to a footpath which leads 300m to a National Park Ranger Station.

Paradise bay from the top of the steps:

Local dive shops say that around the full-moon (when the tidal range is widest) you can find Blacktip Sharks in the shallows outside the Ranger Station (H to J).

I gave it a try but didn’t find any.

Near the Ranger Station, but further out to sea, at the drop-off there are some mooring buoys and I have seen day-trip snorkelling boats stopping here. The coral here is similar to the rest of the Paradise West drop-off.

From the National Park Ranger Station there is another surface-level track leading to the South West point of the island.

It bottoms-out at a small, sheltered cove on the South side of the island at L.

Underwater, the route from J to L is not especially inspiring.

The pile of rocks sticking out the sea at the very South West corner of the island is marked on some maps as ‘Shark Point’.

I have been out here twelve times now and still not seen a shark here. But I have spoken to people who say they have, so maybe it is worth a look. It is a pretty-easy swim from beach L. It is also possible to swim round to beach M.

From the back of beach L, the walking track jumps up over a narrow saddle to emerge on a rugged, litter strewn beach on the West side. From here you can see the bottom third of the West Coast.

The West side of the island is totally undeveloped. It takes the annual lashings of the South West Monsoon and is garbage-tip for anything washed over from India or where-ever.

The beach on the South West corner is the only Western beach accessible from the land. Getting in and out of the water here is a little difficult (especially in choppy conditions) as there are lots of sharp rocks off the beach.

The first time I came here, the sea was choppy. Mostly it wasn’t worth the effort of struggling into the water. Visibility around Area M was appalling and the sea-scape was disappointing – mostly rocks and long-dead hump coral at around 5 metres depth.

On the upside, I did find this Honeycomb/Laced Moray Eel hiding under a clump of brain coral.

And being out away from the coast does give you another perspective on the dramatic rocks on the point.

Talking of perspective – from the back of the beach at M, there is a steep climb up to a viewpoint (top right of that last picture). From this viewpoint, you can look back South-East towards area N ; North West across the Andaman Sea to distant Koh Lanta or to the right up the length of Ngai’s West coast.

The hilltop viewpoint is a nice sunset spot. As long as you’ve packed a flashlight and enough bug spray to get you back through the forest, that is. (edit @ 2014 – with the closure of Paradise Resort, no-one uses the cross-island path anymore and it has started to get obstructed with fallen palm-fronds. I’d give it two years before it becomes impassable).

The West Coast

There are no tracks leading to the West coast, so only tackle it if you are up to a 5 km swim back round to Area B

I have done it three times now and to be honest, the coral all down the West Coast was is disappointing (similar to that at M).

But, being on the seaward side, there can sometimes be some interesting sea life, including schooling fish:
Schoolers West Ngai Moorish Idols

Lots and lots more Honeycomb Morays:
Thai_Ngai_Latticed Moray

A few cute, secluded beaches

..and I would regularly go and hang-out with a family of 9 baby sharks who had taken up residence in one of the shallow bays up the West Coast.
Ngai baby sharks  Ngai baby sharks

One day there was a longtail boat parked there. I guess he must have scared them off, as they never came back after that.

Koh Ma
Koh Ma (เกาะม้า) is the small island about 500m off the East coast of Ngai. It is a kayakable distance from Ngai.

Eventually, I will be doing a separate page on Ma and it’s two small Southerly neighbours Cheauk and Waen, but until I do – here’s the highlights on Ma:

There are some cool gorgonians and barrelsponges halfway down the East coast (fairly deep at about 5 metres)

There is a cute little anemone garden on the Northern tip (slightly to the East)

That’s it.

– – – –


Note that there are no ATMs on Ngai. There are several high-end resorts there, I would guess they could give you cashback on a credit card for an extortionate fee, but I haven’t checked.

There are two locally-run diveshops on the beach at either end of Mayalay Resort. They dive at Ko Ma, Cheuak and Wairn, rather than on Ngai itself. Prices are around 2400B for two dives, which is pretty cheap for the Andaman. The German run ‘Rainbow Dive’ shop in Fantasea Resort was boarded-up in 2013/14.

You can rent masks/snorkels and kayaks at several resorts. Kayaks are around 100B per hour, or 500B per day. All resorts can sell you long-tail boat snorkelling trips around Ngai or to neighbouring islands.

I have yet to figure-out the currents on Ngai. On the East side there usually seems to be a mild current from North to South when the tide is falling. When the tide is rising, there seems not to be any current at all on the East side. Everytime I have been around the West side, there has been a mild current running from North to South. I don’t recommend swimming the 5km stretch of the West coast, but if you are going to, it is probably best to start at the Northern end.

There is no population on Ngai other than resort staff. This means that food can only be bought at the resorts, and is rather expensive. The cheapest single-plate dish is 100B.

There are no roads and just the one hiking track.

The dry season is ostensibly from November to April, but with our messed-up weather patterns, this is unpredictable and has recently been plus or minus a month at each end.

The monsoon (June to October) comes from the West. The resorts are on the East side and are sheltered from the worst of the winds, so Ngai is an option in the off-season if you can get there safely. A few resorts stay open all year-round. Don’t expect any kind of underwater visibility during the wet season.

Boats to Ngai depart from Pak Meng pier, about 45 minutes North of Trang town. You can get minibuses from Trang to Pak Meng for 60-70B. If you use the public minibus, make sure you specify that you want to go to the pier (taa reua) in Pak Meng, as it is 2km further North from central Pak Meng. It is easier (and just as cheap) to book a minibus from one of the travel agents opposite the train station in Trang.

Apparently, the public ferry boat from Pak Meng to Ngai costs 150B, but , but I have never found evidence of it actually existing. Fantasy and Villa resorts have daily boats that non-guests can take for 350B each way – these run most of the year. A private-charter longtail boat is 1000B.

You will probably have to pay the 200B National Park entrance fee when you set-foot on the jetty in Pak Meng. It is valid for five days. If you take snorkel daytrip boats around Ko Ngai or Ko Ma, the Park Rangers will probably come to collect the fees, so take your ticket with you.

The Petapalin ferry (Muk-Kradan-Ngai-Lanta and reverse) stops at Ngai. The Tigerline seems to steam straight past.

There are also “4 island tour” day-trip boats from Koh Lanta and Pak Meng that call in “at” Ngai. These are around 1200B/800B respectively. They don’t actually land on Ngai – you would need (a resort) to arrange a long-tail boat to transfer you onto the island.

Accommodation on Ngai is generally more expensive than on neighbouring islands. There are several mid to high-end resorts. My map lists all the resorts on the island, they all have websites.

Cheapskates can try camping.

  • Since 2012 there has been a cute, ‘hippy’ campsite operation just South of Cliff Top Resort (near area B). It has aThai_Ngai_v3_900_FreedomCamp_P4130523.JPG friendly, chilled out vibe – the owner cooks the evening meal on the campfire and everybody eats it together and contributes toward the cost. Their tents are 200B. They are open all year round. It is called Freedom Campsite and/or lightmyfiresociety.
  • Campers could also head towards the long-established Ko Ngai Camping resort, between Mayalay Resort and Fantasy Resort. Personally, I’m not so keen on this one. 1- They are keeping in with the Ko Ngai philosophy of overcharging for everything– their tents are 500/600B, (or 200B if you bring your own tent). 2- They are going for a ‘Pha Ngan vibe – with blaring hip-hop music and fire-twirlers on the beach. 3 – They have appealing looking BBQs on the beach, but they get their fish by spearfishing on the reef outside the resorts. If you’re wondering why there aren’t many fish on the reef, it is because they are on your plate.
  • If you have your own tent, some resorts (sometimes) let you park-up for 100B per night.
  • Technically, the National Park site is a Ranger Station only (i.e. there are no tourist facilities there), but if you speak some Thai, have your own tent and don’t need them to provide you with food, you can probably negotiate a cheap-deal with the Rangers there. Edit: The closure of Paradise Resort makes this a bit of a non-starter as it is a 40 minute walk to the nearest food.

The venerable Tezza has done full and extensive coverage of resorts and logistics on his excellent blog Tezzas Beaches and Islands.

Linkies :

Alternative maps:
1 – By Thapwarin Resort
2 – By CoCo Cottages
3 – Google maps satellite

Species List



Written: May 2012 . . . . . Last updated: Apr 2014

Thailand_Lipe environs

Ko Lipe Environs, Thailand

This site is mostly about off-the-beach snorkelling, but occasionally I’ll write about boat-trips, too.

Various tour operators run one-day snorkel trips around the National Park islands to the West of Ko Adang (North-West of Ko Lipe). There are two designated routes (Trip 1 and Trip 2;  also known as Program A and Program B).  All the operators seem to follow the same routes. Most of the snorkel sites are in roped-off zones – so I assume that the routes have been fixed by the National Park authorities.  You can book/start these trips on either Ko Lipe or Ko Adang.  I went on both trips 1 and 2.

On another day, I hired a kayak from Koh Lipe and paddled-out to two distant rocky islands off the East coast of Ko Lipe.

This page covers:
1 Snorkel daytrip “Trip 1”
2 Snorkel daytrip “Trip 2”
3 My independent kayak trip to Hin Khao (which is also known as Ko Bung Kang)
4 My independent kayak trip to Ko Tarang (aka Ko Talang / Ko Talak)

Maps of 1, 2 and picture of 3, 4:

Thai_LipeEnv0_004_Environs-places-map_P2180829_.jpg Thai_LipeEnv_010_Snork-map_P3221083_ Thai_LipeEnv0_006_Environs-East-of-Lipe-Aerial-Pic_P1122298.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions


Trip 1 (aka ‘Program A’)

This trip roughly followed the red line on the maps, above.

I did Trip 1 at the end of November 2012 (after Trip 2, which I had done the previous season).


The first stop on Trip 1 was on the South side of the small island Ko Hin Ngam Noi (which, on some maps, is called ‘Ko Bu Rat’).

It had a good range of corals:
Thai_LipeEnv1_006_HNN_PB300716.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_008_HNN_PB300717.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_010_HNN_PB300719.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_012_HNN_PB300721.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_014_HNN_PB300725.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_016_HNN_PB300724.JPG
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

We stayed there for about 30 minutes.

The next stop was the main attraction of Trip 1.  Jabang/Chabang is an underwater sea-mount which is covered in beautiful Scleronephthya species soft corals.

Thai_LipeEnv1_021_Jabang_P1233269.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_023_Jabang_PB300731.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_025_Jabang_PB300732.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_027_Jabang_PB300733.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_029_Jabang_PB300736.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_031_Jabang_PB300737.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_033_Jabang_PB300746.JPG

Even at low tide, the top of the sea-mount is a few meters underwater.  You will have to dive down about three metres to get a decent-view of the soft-corals.  If you are wearing a life-vest or planning on staying on the surface, you might find this area boring.  Several people got back in the boat after just five minutes.

There were a few schooling fusiliers around, but the main attraction was the soft-corals.


There is also an attractive rocky island with a rock-bridge nearby. I think that this might be Ko Jabang itself.


Next, we headed North (past Ko Hin Ngam Noi again) and tied-up on the South West side of Ko Yang (which is also marked as ‘Ko Kata’ on some maps).

The big patches of Bracket coral were the main interest here:
Thai_LipeEnv1_041_Yang_PB300762.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_043_Yang_PB300766.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_044_Yang_PB300773.JPG

Although there were some other coral species:
Thai_LipeEnv1_047_Yang-Blue-Coral_PB300775.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_049_Yang-Featherstar_PB300782.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_050_Yang-Sponges_PB300781.JPG

And a few interesting fish species:
Thai_LipeEnv1_053_Yang-Orange-Lined-Triggerfish_PB300769.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_055_Yang-Longfin-Grouper_PB300783.JPG


We then headed over to Rawi island to sit on the beach and eat our (supplied) packed lunches.   These hermit crabs went nuts over a bit of dropped lettuce.

It seems that most daytrip boats stopped at the very far right (Eastern) end of Ko Rawi, on Haat Saai Khao (White Sand beach), where the Ranger Station is. You can see it at the far-right of this picture.
But we stopped a couple of km to the West. No problem – the beach was long and empty and beautiful and I guess that there’s less chance of getting hit-up for the National Park fees here.

After lunch, the activity was walking on the beach.

I went for a snorkel instead.   About 40 metres off the beach, there was a fair-bit of coral, mostly Porites species (“Hump” coral), but with spots of other species, as well.

Thai_LipeEnv1_066_Rawi-Lemon-Damsel_PB300827.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_067_Rawi_PB300816.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_069_Rawi_PB300807.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_070_Rawi-Rounded-Bubblegum-Coral_PB300787.JPG

Points of interest were some pretty green Chlorodesmis species algae:

…some small Groupers
Thai_LipeEnv1_073_Rawi-Grouper_PB300819.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_072_Rawi-Coral-Grouper_PB300801.JPG

…and a school of friendly Vanikoro Sweepers:
Plus a few others
Thai_LipeEnv1_077_Rawi-CheckerBoard-Wrasse_PB300792.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_078_Rawi-Blackspotted-Pufferfish-Variation_PB300810.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_079_Rawi-Lined-Surgeonfish_PB300812.JPG


When everyone was ready, we motored off East towards Adang Island.

There was a buoyed-off snorkelling area on Adang’s West coast (you can just-about see the buoys to the right of the picture).

We parked on the beach and people decided for themselves whether to go in the water or stay on the beach.

There was a fair bit of current, running South to North and the underwater visibility wasn’t that great.

The coral was mostly patchy Porites species.
Thai_LipeEnv1_085_Adang_PB300849.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_086_Adang-Gold-Saddle-Rabbitfish_PB300855.JPG

But there were small patches of other species.
Thai_LipeEnv1_089_Adang-Barrel-Sponge_PB300894.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_090_Adang_PB300881.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_091_Adang_PB300930.JPG

Notable fishlife here were some schooling Raccoon Rabbitfish and a Titan Triggerfish who was too interested in eating to run away like they usually do.
Thai_LipeEnv1_093_Adang-Raccoon-Butterflyfish_PB300843.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_094_Adang-Titan-Triggerfish_PB300888.JPG

Other fishlife (mouseover for names):
Thai_LipeEnv1_096_AdangWhite-Collared-Butterflyfish_PB300870_.jpg Thai_LipeEnv1_097_Adang-Clarkes-Nemo_PB300876.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_098_Adang-Moorish-Idol_PB300883.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_100_Adang-Algae-Damsel_PB300933.JPG


Because of the adverse currents and the poor visibility, I ended up doing close-up photos in the shallow waters.
Thai_LipeEnv1_101_Adang-Clams_PB300898.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_103_Adang-Christmas-Tree-Worms_PB300917.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_104_Adang-Acropora-Coral_PB300909.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_105_Adang-Acropora-Coral_PB300926.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_106_Adang-Pink-Anemonefish_PB300906.JPG



That was pretty-much the end of the trip.  On the way home, we cruised down the West coast of Adang looking at the miles of beautiful beaches there.
Thai_Adang_379_m-Mid-West_PB300940_.JPG Thai_LipeEnv1_108_Adang-West-Coast_PB300938.JPG



I booked this trip with the KohLipeThailand travel agency.  They’re the ones who make the free Lipe Maps at . They have two offices on Ko Lipe walking street. One is about five doors away from Pattaya beach and the other near is the top of the hill. They seem like very decent folk. They make your packed lunch and hand-out your mask and snorkel, but after that you are in the hands of your allocated longtail boat driver (who was fine, but don’t expect expertise in English).

The price was ~550B for an all day trip (0930-1630) including mask & snorkel, packed-lunch and drinking water.

It was a good day-out and well worth doing.

If I had to choose between doing trips 1 and 2, I would go for Trip 2, because of the better itinerary.


Trip 2 (aka Program B)

Here’s those maps again: 1 2

Trip 2 follows the yellow line around the islands to the far West, which are sometimes known as Mu Koh Dong (Dong Island archipelago).

I went with Dangdee travel. Here is their written itinerary (program 2). It looks like it’s pretty standard – it was the same as the other operators around and I found the same tour on the web by yet another operator here.



The first stop was to take a quick look at this fun rock formation. This is Ko Hin Sorn.


Nearby, we were dropped off at a spot where there were about 15 other longtail daytrip boats. I think that this was Ko Sa Maung. There were lots of people in lifevests snorkelling around the surface inside a roped-off area.  I started by avoiding the crowds and went off and found some gorgonians and other bits and pieces :



…then returning to the roped-off area, I saw that the attraction was some purple Scleronephthya species soft coral.  This was pretty deep (about 6 metres) and the visibility wasn’t great.  It was a lovely sight if you could dive down and get close, but it was all a bit hazy and distant from the surface.


Next stop was on a small island about ten minutes away, possibly Ko Buloh. Here, there were lots and lots of anemones.  This is the sort of place where nemos usually live, but here, housing supply was exceeding demand.  The other boats had thinned out a bit – there were only about ten here and there was plenty of space to explore.


The next spot, possibly Ko Lokoi, was all about the Blue/fire coral (Heliopora-coerulea).   Fields of it, stretching as far as the eye could see.   We were the only boat at this one.


I spotted a filefish here:



Next, we motored around the coast to eat our (supplied) packed lunches on a beautiful deserted beach on Koh Dong.


There was an offer to go feed some monkeys on ‘Monkey Beach’, but we weren’t too keen on that, so we just stopped-in at the beach, waved at some monkeys and headed off to the next spot.