Snorkeling at Koh Ma

Connie and I went snorkeling last week. It was the first time for me. Leading up to it, I felt two ways about snorkeling: I was both looking forward to it and dreading it. On the one hand, it’s snorkeling in a tropical sea—it should be totally manageable, and totally full of wonders. On the other hand, the thought of being in deep water without support (no boat, no life jacket, no swimmies) is sometimes terrifying. And the ocean is dark and full of terrors, like this one.

I was torn, like Natalie Imbruglia

So for snorkeling we headed to Koh Ma. There’s a sandbar connecting the islands Koh Phangnan and Koh Ma. Sometimes this sandbar emerges into the open air, but most of the time it’s under a foot of water. You can get a good idea of the setup from Google’s satellite view. If you’re staying on Koh Ma, be prepared to lift your luggage above your head to cross the submerged isthmus. (There are also boat taxis, but that seems less sporting.)

Koh Ma
Beach, people on the submerged sandbar, and Koh Ma

We rented snorkeling equipment for 50 baht (~1.60 USD) per person per hour. Once in the water, I tried out the mask and breather combination. Breathing under water runs against my self-preservation instincts, so maybe it’s natural there was some hyperventilating. Fortunately, you can hyperventilate right through a tube, so that wasn’t a problem. When things settled down, I stood up and saw the water was at my knees. Great. Let’s go deeper.

We swam to the west of the sandbar. At first there’s just sand and seaweed. Then there’s a lot of dead reef. For those following along at home, that’s the dark part of the water in the satellite view. The dead reef is full of black sea cucumbers, as well as small black fish that come out of the coral and bite your feet if they’re too close. Beyond that is the most interesting part, when we got to the huge, living coral reef and its colorful, tropical fish. The coral was the size of refrigerators, and between them were small canyons with white sand at the bottom. We saw parrotfish and needlefish, and schools of some kind of yellow fish. There were also small neon blue fish, and orange and brown striped ones that blended in with the coral. And Connie saw a couple of bluespotted stingrays. It really felt like swimming in an aquarium, just cheaper admission and no identifying plaques.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any pictures of the actual snorkeling part since we don’t have an underwater camera. If you watch a few minutes of a tropical reef documentary, you’ll get the idea. We were out for about an hour and twenty minutes. I had to take a few breathers (literally), but it all worked out. Afterwards we went for mango shakes and eventually happy hour. We do have a picture of that.

some happy hours
Eat your heart out, Jimmy Buffet

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