Beach life on the island paradise that is Koh Lipe was pretty damn sweet so it was going to be hard to drag ourselves away from its calming shores but there was one activity that managed to entice us: a Koh Lipe snorkeling day trip in the pristine Tarutao National Marine Park.
Tarutao National Marine Park is made up of 51 islands, including Koh Lipe itself. Many of the islands are small, remote and uninhabited, making them difficult and expensive to get to independently.
The best way to affordably see a few of these stunning islands is to jump on a day trip from Koh Lipe snorkeling and island-hopping, and there are a number of tours to choose from.
I’m pretty sure that any of the tours on offer would have been amazing but for me, choosing one was a no-brainer. I wanted to snorkel with bio-luminescent plankton.
The plankton tour started after lunch and would take us to three islands where we could snorkel and swim, followed by dinner on one of the largest islands in the park, Koh Adang, before we were dropped in the waters off Koh Lipe to experience the plankton.
It is something that has been on my bucket list since I read ‘The Beach’ years ago and I was so excited I was finally going to see the natural underwater light show for myself.
After lunch on Walking Street, we hopped in a covered long tail with the guide and the other four people on our tour then headed out to sea from the sandy shores of Koh Lipe.
The water was translucent and remarkably blue, like the sky we were travelling under. It was a beautiful day to be at sea.
The first stop of our Koh Lipe snorkeling and island-hopping adventure was Jabang, an underwater sea mount covered in colourful soft corals.
The corals were a few metres under the surface and although I could see them and they were indeed beautiful, I couldn’t get too close as I am the worst free diver ever. They were mostly red and pink and reminded me a lot of burgeoning rhododendron trees.
There were a few schools of stripy yellow fish near the surface getting very close (they thought we had food for them perhaps?) and I saw a school of small purple squid gliding by which was pretty special as that was something I had never seen before.
Hin Ngam was our next stop and was much better for snorkelling as the colourful coral was much closer to the surface and was a lot more varied than Jabang. The visibility was super clear and there were so many different types of fish, including cute little clown fish (Nemos!).
I had started feeling a bit sick floating on the surface at exposed Jabang but as soon as I exited the boat in a calm cove of Hin Ngam, I quickly started feeling better.
After we had finished snorkeling off the boat, we continued around the island and pulled up to shore to get out and explore. Hin Ngam is unique in that it is entirely covered in polished black stones. It is only small but we walked around and stretched our legs before floating in the shallows, surrounded by small fish.
Koh Yang was next for snorkelling. I didn’t think the coral was as varied or colourful as Hin Ngam but I enjoyed swimming to shore onto a small, white sand beach. I sat in the warm shallows talking to some of the others from the boat.
The water was impossibly clear there, accentuated more so by the white sand bottom. I could have sat there all day.
Koh Adang was our last island stop and were we were given an awesome chicken curry dinner on the beach, followed by fresh tropical fruit.
After brilliant sunshine all day, storm clouds had begun to gather and surround us. Lightning flashed in the ominous black clouds to either side of us and thunder rolled through the air towards us in an audible wave.
The air felt electric and I sat on the beach as the sky darkened further. I could see the heavy rain hitting the trees on the other side of the lake in front of us then moving quickly over the water, unsettling the formerly still surface. Then it finally hit and I hurried to the shelter of the boat with the others.
A tropical storm raged around us for the next half hour then when it eased, we headed out to sea again for the last stop of our trip and the one I had been excited about the most. We were going to see the bio-luminescent plankton.
Swimming with Bio-luminescent Plankton: A Koh Lipe Snorkeling Highlight!
Our boat stopped off the rocky shore of Koh Lipe and we were told to jump into the inky depths. I was reluctant, as were the others, because we couldn’t see any of the plankton from the boat. One of the guys on our tour jumped in first and as soon as he said he could see them, you couldn’t keep me out of that water.
The water was murky and of course it was very dark but sure enough, once I started moving my arms and legs, I could see glowing green lights in the darkness. It was them! They weren’t as bright as I had imagined them to be (or seen pictures of) but they were there and I was ecstatic.
The plankton react and light up when there is movement in the water so I exhausted myself pretty fast by maniacally moving my arms and legs backwards and forwards. After about fifteen minutes we all got back on the boat for the short trip back to Pattaya Beach, exhausted but happy. It was a great end to an incredible day.
With the waters surrounding Koh Lipe crystal clear and teeming with marine life, it was the perfect place for a day of snorkeling, in fact it was some of the best snorkeling I have ever done.
A Koh Lipe snorkeling and island hopping tour is a definite Thailand must do if you love the underwater world.
Nemo and his friends are waiting for you.
Have you been snorkelling with bio-luminescent plankton? Did you do a Koh LIpe snorkeling and island-hopping tour? I would love to hear about your experience!
Big thanks to my friend Kerry who took a lot of the photos above as I don’t have an underwater camera.