Package snorkelling and other boat tours can be booked practically everywhere you look on Lipe, and arranging a private boat trip is usually a simple matter of chatting up the longtail drivers or asking your resort for help.
Most package tours use longtail boats to cruise up to 12 people around some combination of the many islands and snorkelling sites of the Adang archipelago. A handful of speedboat tours are also available for more cash.
Though the coral around Lipe is dormant and largely colourless due to bleaching (itself a product of rising sea temperatures), there's still soft coral and a very impressive array of tropical fish -- including clownfish, anemones and rays -- to be peeped off islets like Ko Bulu and Ko Lugoi. A nearby site known as Jabang boasts soft coral spread over a 16-metre high pinnacle that nearly touches the surface. Snorkeller and diver traffic during peak season sometimes makes it difficult to fully appreciate the seascapes.
Some package tours include up to five opportunities to snorkel off the boat, but only one or two stops on dry land, typically at Ko Hin Ngam's mysterious smooth-rock beach and a white-sand beach on Ko Adang, Ko Rawi or Ko Dong for lunch. Other tours will stop at a couple of snorkelling sites while also allowing time for beach-lounging or hiking. Be sure to ask for specifics before booking to ensure that you get the right sort of experience for you.
Any package tour will include lunch, drinking water, snorkels, masks, fins and the national park fees if necessary, and the most popular run from around 09:00 to 16:00. Offered by many different tour companies and resorts, package tours can cost anywhere from 400 to over 1,000 baht per person for a full day. Snorkellers can also tag along with most of the day-diving boats for around 650 baht including lunch.
The other option, which we tend to prefer, is to charter a longtail boat privately. Expect to pay a minimum of 1,500 baht (for the boat, not per person) for a three-hour trip to do some snorkelling and make a stop at Ko Adang to climb Chadoe Cliff. Full-day private trips can cost anywhere from 1,700 to 4,000 baht or more, depending on how far you want to go and how much you're willing to haggle.
The furthest possible destination by longtail would be Ko Khai, a tiny undeveloped island with a natural stone arch perched over a stunning coral-sand beach. Another option that's not typically advertised is Kinnaree Waterfall, which cascades down a series of cliffs on Ko Adang's rocky east coast. We've been told it's possible to do some cliff jumping here.
Private longtail boats can be arranged directly with the boat drivers in front of the school on Sunrise Beach, at a boatmen's shack further down the same beach past Castaway Resort, and at the makeshift pier at the centre of Pattaya Beach. It's normal to walk up to a boatman anywhere on the island and see if he's up for a trip. Most resorts have a boat that they can arrange in advance if you request it, and the larger resorts will have several on payroll.
While you won't be able to haggle for a lower price if booking through a resort, the advantage is that their boat drivers are more likely to be sane, sober and otherwise dependable. Some of the boatmen are heavy drinkers who start early in the morning and bring an iced tea bottle full of whiskey along for the trip, so do try to get a whiff of their breath before getting on board -- and don't be afraid to cite safety concerns if you decide to cancel at the last minute due to drunkenness. Private boat trips are always paid for at the end of the trip.
Some good snorkelling can also be done at several places off Lipe's shores. Unfortunately, many of the same reckless boatmen mentioned above steer their boats dangerously close to shore without adequately checking for snorkellers. They seem to think it's the snorkellers' job to watch out for boats, and not the other way around. Snorkels and masks can be rented at many resorts and travel offices for around 200 baht per day.
If you prefer to paddle a boat under your own steam, kayaks are readily available on all of the beaches and typically cost 200 baht per hour, or 400 to 500 for the day. Clear-bottomed glass kayaks are also popular but cost considerably more. Ko Adang can be reached by kayak if you've got some strength to spare, while those after a more leisurely paddle might head over to Ko Kra and Ko Usen, the tiny twin islets off the coast of Sunrise Beach.