Koh Haa, or Five Islands, is in Thailand’s South Andaman Sea, the area consists of 5 limestone outcrops, under which are caverns and coral encrusted boulders. I came to this famous dive site in December 2014 as part of a Thailand dive liveaboard holiday and was instantly impressed by the coral life and critters. Due to persistent rumours that the corals in Thailand were bleached and mostly dying, I hadn’t expected the diving to be that great but was so pleasantly surprised during the 3-night liveaboard trip that I’ve vowed to go back again.
My favourite dive site of the trip was the Cathedral due to outstanding corals. We descended down to the large cathedral-like cavern at just 5-8m depth. This is a super spot to capture divers in silhouette if you’re into underwater photography. Emerging from the cavern you come to a ravine between the main island reef and two large boulders, which I can only assume was all one structure at some point. Diving along the ravine I opted to make a figure-of-eight pattern around the boulders. Cutting through the split I came to one of the most fantastic broccoli coral gardens I’ve ever seen. The sea bed, at 20-30m, was covered with these light purple dendronephthya, only having air in my cylinder I was unable to explore for very long at that depth but this coral field stretched as far as I could see and that was at least 30m!
Returning to the boulders, themselves covered with soft corals, cup corals and black coral bushes, I was able to find several species of nudibranch, moray eels being cleaned by attendant commensal shrimps, file fish, scorpion fish, wentletraps and a porcelain crab. I’m positive that this site would also be home to ghost pipefish and perhaps seahorses but I didn’t manage to find any at this time.
Moving up to the shallow top of the boulders at 8m I was stunned to see beautiful schools of snapper cruising about in swathes around the ridges. I spent the rest of the dive time there, mesmerized by their movement before returning to the main reef for my safety stop.
This was definitely one site I would have been happy to dive again, but being there were more places to dive and we needed to begin our journey back towards Phi Phi Island. Over the course of the 3 days we dived not only Koh Haa but spent a day around Phi Phi. Bida Nok was lovely – with big fish schools around us and one group finding leopard sharks and maybe a hammerhead, though I’m not sure I believed them! Other dives were made at Shark Point, where the sea fans are huge and very pretty, and the King Cruiser wreck. This wreck is now home to huge schools of fish and so encrusted with corals and barnacles that nudis, flatworms and smaller benthic fish call it home.
Sadly due to adverse weather we did not make the crossing down to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. These sites are also famous not only for their soft corals and fish life but for manta ray and whale shark sightings, so of course I was disappointed but I think the dives made at Koh Haa made up for that and I have even more excuse to go again!
Many of these dive areas in Thailand can be reached by day boat from Phuket, Phi Phi or Koh Lanta but choosing a liveaboard I was able to combine them all together and miss the day boat crowds. My trip was only 3 days long and we managed 11 dives in total. I opted to dive with MV Scuba Adventure, a budget liveaboard operating out of Phuket, but there are many more options to choose from.
The Thailand Aggressor offers 7-night trips on their “South Andaman” itinerary departing from Chalong, Phuket. This itinerary can also be combined with a 7-night trip to the Similan Islands, to make a full dive program of the west coast of Thailand.
The Panunee Liveaboard, offers 5-night trips to Phi Phi, Hin Daeng and Koh Haa, also departing from Chalong. Dive safaris can be combine with trips to the Similan Islands, with a 2 day break in Phuket.
The Giamani Liveaboard offers a 3-day / 2-night dive safari which departs from Chalong and cruises directly to Koh Haa then Hin Daeng and back to Phi Phi before returning to Phuket. You could easily combine with their 7-night Similans trip too.