Koh Rok is one of the two most popular tours from Koh Lanta (the other being the ‘4 Islands Tour‘). While the ‘4 Islands Tour’ is great for sightseeing, Koh Rok is the destination to go to if you’re after the ultimate day of snorkelling.
We spent a few months in Koh Lanta and Koh Rok was always on the top of our ‘to do’ list.
Towards the end of our stay we brought Steve’s mum over for her first ever overseas holiday. It was a special occasion and we wanted to show her the best of Southern Thailand – so this was the perfect opportunity to tick Koh Rok off the list.
We were staying at the northern end of Khlong Khong and trusted the tour agent from the Popular Lanta Resort across the road. This tour agent was a relative of our landlord and always genuinely friendly to us. We had previously booked the 4 Islands Tour through them and were happy to give them repeat business.
There are plenty of tour companies to choose from, and because we were happy with our ‘4 Islands’ experience so we went with the Pattesia Tour Group again. The brochure advertised the tour at ฿1800/pp but our mates at the tour agency were happy to knock it down to ฿1300/pp for us. From our previous shopping around when we looked into the ‘4 Islands’ tour, this is the lowest rate that tour agents would go down to for this day trip so we knew the discount was reasonable.
By now, we had become used to “Thai Time” where nothing really runs to schedule – but in this case, our ride arrived right on time. We were a little unprepared so we quickly scoffed our breakfast, grabbed our things and ran out the door.
We were picked up in a songthaew, which is simply a ute (or in some cases a truck) that has a couple of bench seats fitted onto the tray at back. We were the last on board so took the remaing few places and headed off to the southern end of Phra Ae (Long Beach) to meet the speedboat that’ll take us to Koh Rok.
We were on a smaller boat. Now, I’m not a boat person to tell you technicalities of it’s size, but I could see it had two motors on the back when most had three.
We stopped to pick up some other passengers in Khlong Nin and then we started heading off to Koh Rok. We were lucky, there were only 13 other tourists on board so it was half empty. This was definitely a first not being squished together like sardines!
Something did seem a little odd though, the driver kept on going fast, then would slow down, then fast, then slow… the main tour guide was on the phone a bit, I couldn’t tell if that was unusual or not but then we noticed we were pulling into Kantiang Bay at the south of Koh Lanta. That’s when I new for sure something was up, we’d changed directions. I assumed that perhaps we got a last minute call to pick up more passengers because we clearly had space.
Nope, the situation was that the current load was too heavy for the boat to go fast and they wanted 2-3 of us to change to another boat. We pulled up to another boat that was already jam packed with at least 30 other passengers on board. The tour guide focused Steve, his mum & I to move to the other boat but I put my foot down and said ask someone else because “why us?”. There was no way I was going to trade my comfort to be squished up against someone else for the hour or so journey to Koh Rok. The guide finally did ask the other travellers, no one budged because we all knew that it was a bad trade, so we all agreed that we were happier to go slower in more comfort.
So with the unnecessary 30min detour out of the way, we started to make our way to Koh Rok again.
As we came arrived at Koh Rok we quickly realised it’s one of those postcard perfect destinations that’s hard to believe, even when you’re seeing it in real life.
Koh Rok is actually two islands that are separated by a narrow channel, and surrounded by a beautiful coral reef – which is an entire square kilometre of some of the most pristine corals in Thailand.
What’s even better is these islands are visited by so few boats, especially when compared to other destinations like Phi Phi and Similan Islands.
Our captain anchored in a spot between the two islands and we were in. The water was warm and visibility was excellent. We spent about an hour in this spot. After that, we were all ready for some time on land and we headed to the beach on Koh Rok Yai for some lunch.
It was about midday by the time we got off the boat at Koh Rok Yai beach. It was extremely hot in the sun, so luckily the shore is lined with plenty of trees. We found a spot to chill in the shade while the staff set up the buffet lunch near the national park ranger station.
The lunch was quite the spread, and included:
Being a smaller group, there was more than enough for everyone to have seconds before going off for an hour of free time on the island.
There’s plenty to see in the island from monitor lizards, crabs and beautiful Banyan trees – some of which are a thousand years old. Most people went to the beach – which is what we did.
We found a quiet spot past the rocks on the southern point of Koh Rok Yai where Steve could take up his drone, Steve’s mum sat by the soft lapping waves at the tide line and I snorkelled around the shallow waters.
This was the ultimate bliss.
We loaded back onto the boat to our third and final stop for the day. I don’t know if it was the area or change of conditions but visibility wasn’t as clear as it was at the start of the day. But, the environment was great. The reef had lots of cliffs and nooks that we could duck dive around and see all sorts of coral and tropical fish.
Our time at Koh Rok had come to an end so we all loaded back onto the boat while the staff served up some fresh fruit and cold drinks before making our way back to Koh Lanta. It was a smooth ride and most people had a nap to the rhythmic bounces of the boat. It’s pretty tough being a traveller!
I’m torn between Koh Rok and Similan Islands as being my favourite snorkelling destination in Thailand.
In terms of beauty, Similan Islands wins with it’s powder-soft white sand, crystal clear water and variety of fish, but it was just so jam packed full of tourists that we even bumped into other snorkelers in the water.
Don’t get me wrong, Koh Rok is still absolutely breathtaking and that it wasn’t overloaded makes it perfect destination for a day trip, and perhaps my favourite.
Despite the little detour in the morning on the way to Koh Rok, the Pattesia travel group provided everything we could have asked for – friendly service, great food and and equipment. If you’re in Koh Lanta, do yourself a favour and do this tour with them. It was our highlight from our time in Koh Lanta and can’t recommend it enough.
Lastly, If you’re planning to take this tour, keep in mind that this day trip is only in high season (November – April), with the best months being January – April.