When you have sampled and enjoyed the wonders of snorkeling at both the Similan and Surin Islands and read some reports of disappointing trips from the beach at Khao Lak, it was with reservations that we went on a longtail boat trip from Bang Niang Beach with four German friends. We were assured that "these guys (i.e the guys running the boat)know the best places" and given it was only a half-day and a reasonable 1200 baht per person including lunch on Small Sandy Beach, we went along.
The weather was perfect, the sea flat as pancake and the trip inshore along Bang Niang, Nang Thong, Sunset and Khao Lak Beaches gave us a different perspective of their beauty with the mountains as backdrops.
Our destination, Khao Na Yak an island off the coast not far from Tab Lamu (the main departure point for the Similans) was reached in about 45 minutes. Prior to the Tsunami, this had been a very popular site with good reef, coral and an abundance of fish and other marine life. The first site was a fair way out and a bit disappointing as the coral was fairly deep,
mostly dead but with signs of recovery taking place. Not many fish though and the current was quite strong, so you go with the flow and are picked up further on by the boat.
The second site was just offshore from the island (where monkeys were visible watching us) in fairly shallow water but better coral with old undamaged and more newer growth evident and plenty of a variety of fishes, big and small, moray eels and lobster. Mrs. A not being a swimmer was towed around in her life vest by one of the guys from the boat and, of course, he took her to all the best sites where some very different specimens were shown to us than the rest of us. Next time she can take the camera!!!
The final site (but we could have gone to ore if we had wanted) was further up the island with no reef/coral just a myriad of fish around the rocks.
We only saw three other boats in our vicinity so it is much quieter than the large number you see at the Similans.
All in all, although not returning as awestruck as our trips to the Similans and Surins, nevertheless it was a great trip with more encouraging signs of the recovery of Khao Lak both on land and underwater.
The trip was provided by a small Dive outfit, called Sri_Nuan.Ray Shop based on Bang Niang Beach immediately adjacent to the Sita Gardens Resort and next to the Chong Fah Resort. Either get there from the beach or through Sita Gardens on the first road back from the beach.
Phone: +66 (0)7648 6272 and ask for Yui
See Photos at http://tinyurl.com/al7obb
They also do fishing tours from longtail boat, 1200 baht pp half-day, 1500 baht pp full-day.