Koh Ha is a tiny group of uninhabited islands about an hour’s boat ride from Trang on Thailand’s southwest coast. Much like Thailand’s Similan and Surin Islands, it closes to the public for several months each year for the monsoon season. This gives the marine environment time to regenerate before the next busy tourist season. However, this group of islands is closed for a few weeks more than the others for another reason — this is where the Thai Royal family likes to dive. What makes the scuba diving in Koh Ha so special?
Diving in Koh Ha
Above water, like many islands dotting the coast south of Krabi, the islands themselves are stunning, with tall limestone karsts rising dramatically out of the water. On the largest island, a white, sandy bay curves around a shallow turquoise lagoon.
Underwater the landscape is equally stunning featuring large boulders and rocky reefs, all thickly covered with colorful soft corals. There are several caverns and swim-throughs as well.
All manner of reef fish, damsels, wrasse, butterflyfish and coral trout flit about the soft coral. Anemonefish of all different types hover over the many anemones. In the meantime, schools of snapper, fusiliers, jacks and barracuda swarm in the blue. In the crevices and caverns, giant moray eels, pufferfish and the odd giant grouper hide.
In the Thai language, “ha” means “five,” so, as you’d expect, this tiny archipelago features five islands. Most dive sites are simply named after each one — No. 2, No. 3, etc. — with a few exceptions named for specific features, such as The Chimney and Twin Cathedrals.
Our first dive is at Twin Cathedrals, named for its two enormous caverns. We descend next to the largest island and swim along the wall toward a few enormous boulders, worth exploring before we enter the first cavern.
Past the boulders there is a sloping reef, covered in a forest of whip corals. Descending to about 82 feet (25 m), the scene looks like something Dr. Seuss would have dreamed up. We swim back around this reef and through the enormous arched entrance to the first cavern where we ascend to a small air bubble to check it out. The cave extends another 160 feet (50 m) above water. It’s an impressive sight, worth checking out before swimming through another grand arch to the second slightly smaller cavern.
No. 2 and No. 4
Our next dive is a combination of No. 2 and No. 4, featuring more rocky reefs and large boulders covered in brightly colored hard and soft corals, as well as large sea fans. Schools of fusiliers and snapper fly over them, and all sorts of damsels, butterflies and anthias dart in and around the coral formations. Down at about 80 feet (25 m), a huge school of jacks appears from the blue and circles us as we try to capture them on film.
Our third dive is named after one of its main features, the Chimney. Here, we descend to around 65 feet (20 m) before it opens into a small cavern lined with soft coral and full of curious big eyes. Large boulders on all sides protect the bowl outside the cavern. Smaller boulders hold large garden of anemones, which we spend lots of time exploring before heading into the shallow coral gardens.
Each dive is as stunning as the next, and after only three dives it’s easy to see why the royal family loves it so much.
Deborah Dickson-Smith is one half of Diveplanit, a dive travel website she manages with her partner Simon Mallender, based in Australia.