More than you might expect
Most of the snorkeling within Ranong province takes place off the white-sand shores of islands that are part of Laem Son National Marine Park, headquartered at Bang Ben Beach on the mainland some 60 kilometres south of Ranong town. Staghorn and pillar coral shelters marine life around the islands of Ko Kum Yai (also spelt Kam) and Kum Noi, which joins Ko Yipun and the larger Ko Khang Khao on most day tour itineraries. Overnight camping is also possible.
Day trips to these islands and a mangrove forest can be arranged at Wasana Resort, a Dutch/Thai-owned spot with affordable bungalows on Haad Bang Ben. They charge a reasonable 600 baht per person, including lunch and snorkeling gear but not the 200-baht park entrance fee. To get there you could catch any south-bound bus, telling the driver you’re heading to Haad Bang Ben, and call the resort ahead of time for a pick up so as to avoid a 10-kilometre walk.
Otherwise you could pop into Pon’s Place to see about other options, but keep in mind that most day tours launched from the mainland cater mainly to Thai travellers. Group trips with mainly foreign travellers are available from Ko Phayam. Snorkeling trips to stunning Ko Surin down in Phang Nga province are also available from Phayam, but not from Ranong unless you’re chartering a boat. Make your way down to Khuraburi to reach Ko Surin from the mainland, or link up with one of the dive outfits running day trips that may be open to snorkelers.
Wasana Resort Haad Bang Ben. T: (077) 861 434 www.wasanaresort.org
Several Ranong-based diving outfits specialise in live-aboard trips to sites like Burma Banks and Black Rock up in Burma’s Mergui Archipelago, and Richilieu Rock and Ko Tachai in Thailand. Most companies have only one boat and the schedules are set well in advance, so try to contact while you’re still planning your trip to avoid missing out on what you want. Also note that you’ll be stamped out of Thailand if hitting sites in Burma, so acquire a re-entry permit at Ranong immigration if you have a Thai visa to hold on to.
A-One Diving opened in 1999 and is one of the larger and longest-running companies in the area, offering several courses along with day trips to Burma’s Sea Dragon Island and several live-aboard options. It’s possible to go with a group or charter a private boat through A-One, which also has an office on Ko Phayam along with multilingual instructors.
Aladdin Dive Safari is a German/Dutch-owned company opened in 2000 that now has offices in Ranong town, Ko Phayam and Ko Chang Noi, making it the only one with an office in all three of these places. Day trips are done by speedboat and a notably long list of live-aboard trips reach way up into Burma and as far south as the Ko Lanta area. Six courses are also available.
Andaman Dive Tours is a small operation running exclusively live-aboard trips, including a four-day option in Thailand and trips to Burma lasting up to a week. Prices are slightly cheaper than other companies.
Andaman International Dive Centre (AIDC) claims to “go where no one goes”, offering Burma trips of up to eight nights and a 14-night trip to the Andaman Islands (of India) held once per year. It’s one of very few companies in Thailand to embark on such a long trip across the open sea, but the Danish owner insisted that the Andaman Islands trip is safe and exciting.
The Smiling Seahorse is a small but reputable operation, running day trips to Ko Surin and a live-aboard boat that accepts no more than 12 divers for any one trip. The French owners focus mainly on Burma, with the longest voyage lasting eight days. They pride themselves on hitting lesser-known sites away from the crowds.
Aladdin Dive Safari Office at Ko Phayam Pier, Ranong. T: (087) 278 6908;(087) 274 7601 www.aladdindivecruise.de/en/
Andaman Dive Tours Rueangrat Rd (office next to Ruangrat Hotel), Ranong. T: (093) 723 5422 www.andamandivetours.com
Andaman International Dive Centre (AIDC) 41/15 Tha Mueang Rd (office next to Tinidee Hotel), Ranong. T: (077) 834 824;(089) 814 1092 www.aidcdive.com
The Smiling Seahorse 170 Ruangrat Rd, Ranong. T: (086) 011 0614;(084) 452 4413 www.thesmilingseahorse.com
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.