Difference between revisions of "Ko Lanta"
Revision as of 02:14, 29 December 2012
Ko Lanta consists of several islands, the two largest of which are Ko Lanta Noi (เกาะลันตาน้อย, "Small Lanta Island") and Ko Lanta Yai (เกาะลันตาใหญ่, "Big Lanta Island"). However, Ko Lanta Yai is where all the tourist action is, so this article will refer to it simply as "Ko Lanta".
Ko Lanta is popular with tourists seeking a holiday away from the parties. It's popular with a significantly older crowd than nearby Ko Phi Phi: more walking on the beach and watching the sunset than drinking and dancing. However, there are plenty of bars and the longer term stayers are friendly and know how to party! It is also popular with families with young children, and of course, with divers. Ko Lanta can provide a party if you know where to look.
Ko Lanta is a little less well-known than Ko Phi Phi, which has become more commercialised and corporate, but it is hardly undiscovered: the several beaches on the west coast of Ko Lanta Yai are each strung with a line of resorts and bungalows, although the farther down the island you venture, the less this is true. And even when the island is at it fullest, there will be a quiet place for you to relax - the beaches are never full. Ko Lanta is especially popular with Swedish tourists: although the "tourist language" is English as it is in most places in Thailand, and you will find menus and so on are translated into English, expect the poolside language to be Swedish much of the time. However, there are still many English and Irish bars and restaurants to visit.
Ko Lanta was hit by the tsunami in December 2004, which killed 20 people, but virtually all businesses are now operating normally again.
The main island is 6 km wide and over 30 km long, located approximately 70 km from Krabi Town. The island has 9 attractive white sandy beaches, splendid scenery; coastlines have more than 70 small islands and plenty with forest, coral reefs and under water life. The geography of the island is typically mangroves; coral rimmed beaches; and rugged tree covered hills.
A paved road runs along the beaches from the northern part of the island almost all the way to the southern tip. The last 8 kilometers leading to the headquarters of the Mu Ko Lanta National Park in the south are quite hilly and aren't yet paved so can become quite tricky to negotiate if it rains. The landscape is dominated by a series of mountains covered with virgin rainforest.
Weather in the region is tropical - there are only two seasons: the hot season from January to April, and the rainy season from May to December. Temperatures during the year average 25ºC to 32ºC (77ºF to 89.6ºF) and the yearly rainfall averages 2568.5mm. Unlike in say Europe, the rain in this region comes down heavily and quickly over short periods.
Weatherwise, the best time to visit Ko Lanta is between the months November to April when the area’s climate is less hot than usual. During this period the island gets a lot of dry North Easterly winds, so giving dry blue skies and starry nights. Then, down on the beaches one can enjoy nice sea breezes. From May to October the area gets a lot of rainfall, more on average than the rest of the country. During this period the island gets a lot of moist South Westerly winds, so giving a mixture of dry days and wet ones. The sea stays at a warm 29°C all year round.
Krabi and Ko Lanta are a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies. The majority of the population in the rural areas is Muslim. The area however, does not suffer from any religious tension and the folk live in peace and harmony. Most of the folk speak with a thick Southern dialect which is difficult for even other Thais to understand.
With this kind of mixture, Krabi is always celebrating something be it part of Thai Buddhist, Thai-Chinese or Thai-Islamic tradition.
The unique lifestyle of the Chao-Le (sea-gypsy) in Ko Lanta particularly is well-worth a witness, a life-style that has been almost completely unaffected by the booming tourism on the island.
The nearest airports are Krabi, Trang and Phuket. Krabi and Trang have direct road and boat connections to Ko Lanta, and are the best options if you're only visiting Ko Lanta. Flying into Phuket is a better option if you're intending to spend time in Phuket and nearby islands, or, since Phuket has many more international flights, if you don't want to have to organize a domestic flight to Krabi or Trang from Bangkok. As an alternative to Bangkok, there are daily flights to Krabi directly to and from Singapore, as well as Kuala Lumpur.
The quickest service from Krabi Airport  and Phuket Airport  to Ko Lanta is by using the express transfer which is a combination of minivan and speedboat travel. If you arrive early you will not have to wait for the ferry and if you arrive late at these airports you can still arrive on Ko Lanta the same day.
From Krabi airport a 45 minute air conditioned minivan to the first car ferry port. You then go on board the speedboat which then takes you on a stunning boat ride across the water along the coastline of Ko Lanta. The journey takes around 15 minutes depending on weather and conditions. You will arrive directly in Saladan (alternately written as Sala Dan) on Ko Lanta, where you are then transferred to your hotel by car. That means the total journey time should be 1.5 to 2 hours. This eliminates the waiting time at the car ferry and also if you are going from Ko Lanta to one of these airports allows you more time to enjoy your visit.
Ko Lanta does not have roads connecting it directly to the mainland, but is served by car ferries. Take Rt 4206 off Hwy 4 about 20 km southeast of Krabi airport. Drive to the end of the road, where there is a car ferry from Baan Hua Hin to Ko Lanta Noi. From the pier here, turn right and follow the "ferry" signs to the second car ferry to Ko Lanta Yai. Ferries operate 07:00-22:00.
There are plenty of car taxi and minivan taxi services from Krabi and the nearby airport. A seat in a ten person minivan from the airport to Ko Lanta costs about 300 baht. These minivans usually don't have much room for luggage (although they can usually find room for one or two large suitcases together with backpacks for the rest of the passengers) so if you're not traveling light you might need to get a private taxi.
This is what the divemasters do. A private minivan taxi will usually be quoted as 2,500 baht. It's possible to bargain a few hundred baht off this price but not much more or the tolls will consume too much of the price. Car taxis cost about the same.
When travelling to/from Ko Lanta in the afternoon by road, allow 2–3 hours for the journey as the queues for the vehicle ferries can be lengthy. The passenger ferry which leaves Ko Lanta pier (high season) at 08:00 and arrives at Krabi pier at 10:00 is quicker.
From Ko Lanta to other islands
Private companies on Ko Lanta operate boat services to many destinations.
Ferry services run from Krabi, Ao Nang and from Phuket via Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta Yai's Saladan pier. During high season, there are sometimes direct ferries as well. Ferry services are subject to weather and to demand. Many ferries have limited room for luggage. Often the ferries dock alongside each other, meaning that to get on and off passengers must clamber onto and across other boats with their luggage. However many times boat staff will be there to help you board your bags.
All ferries can be booked online ahead on  from all the destinations including Phuket, Krabi, Ao Nang, Rai Leh, and Phi Phi as well as hotel pickup service except for on Phi Phi where there are no roads.
Services from Krabi are run by P.P. Family Co (+66 75 630 165) and depart Krabi pier at 10:30 and 13:30, taking 2 hours to reach Ko Lanta (200 baht including free pickup from Krabi hotels). There's a transit bus from Krabi town centre for 10 baht.
Services from Ao Nang are run by Ao Nang Travel and Tour (+66 75 637 730) and depart at 10:30 (280 baht).
Ferries depart from Ko Phi Phi at 11:30 and 14:00, and take 1 hour. If travelling from Phuket in a single day, you will need to leave Phuket on the 08:00 ferry to transfer to the 11:30 ferry. Tickets to Ko Lanta are 200 baht from Ko Phi Phi and 450 baht from Phuket.
Once you arrive, if you have a booking at a hotel/resort, there should be a person at the ferry exit with a sign giving the name of the hotel you have booked.
By passenger van
All the travel agents in Krabi can arrange passenger vans to Ko Lanta. There is no regular, scheduled van service from Krabi Airport, although vans and taxis can be chartered to Ko Lanta for about 2,000 baht per vehicle (2,500 baht if you are going to the south end of Ko Lanta). Taxis (usually vans) are also available at the airport at the same rate.
There is a mini van service that runs between Krabi and Ko Lanta, However it must be booked in advance through your hotel or someone local. The cost is 400 baht per person. Book early as it fills up quickly. It will pick-up, drop-off at the airport. You should factor in 3 to 4 hours to get from Ko Lanta to the airport, since the mini van will pick-up and drop off other people along the way.
If you want to return to Krabi by van rather than by ferry, ask at your hotel/resort and they will book you on the minibus which will take you there (as a group with others from other hotels), for a reasonable price.
It is worth travelling to Lanta one way by boat and the other by road just to see the contrast. The price is not much different.
The nearest train station to Ko Lanta is in Trang province just south of Krabi. From there, there are trains to and from Bangkok.
Distances from Bangkok
The distance from Bangkok to Krabi is approx 950 km or about 12 hrs by car.
The main roads on the island are well paved. However the road just north of Mu Ko National Park is still unpaved dirt. That road ends at the park and so it isn't possible to drive from that point up the eastern side of the island.
It's worth knowing the names of the resorts near yours: both the pickup trucks and motorcycle taxis will often want to pick you up or drop you at a nearby resort with a better road.
Resorts and some of the major tourist services (like the dive shops) own large pickup trucks and transport tourists around in the tray. Very occasionally, they own minibuses instead. If you come in by ferry your resort will almost certainly meet you at pier with their truck; if you're travelling with very small children who you don't want to cling to while you bump along sitting on the side of the truck you might want to warn them in advance that you'll want to ride in the cab: it's generally assumed to be the private domain of the driver.
You will find the locals almost exclusively ride motorbikes; you can hire these in several places for a few hundred baht a day. You can also hire motorcycle taxis with sidecars. These will happily take you on the unpaved roads but the ride can be as slow as walking. A typical fare for a ride from Saladan to Klong Dao Beach is 40 baht.
Jeeps can be hired for 1,200 baht per day. Be sure to check insurance, contract terms and the condition of the vehicle. The "roads" of Ko Lanta combined with the driver operation characteristics of some renters are a serious challenge for any car. The frequently available Suzuki Sporty seems primitive and therefore sturdy, and a replacement should cost around 150,000 baht.
Far Southern Beaches
There are a few beaches in the south of Ko Lanta. All are the beaches are small, just a few hundred meters long. The beaches are very quiet with little in the way of accommodation - ideal for those who want to ‘get away from it all’. They are:
There are no scuba diving sites on the island itself, all require a boat trip. However Lanta is the closest island to the famous Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Ko Haa sites, so it is very popular with divers.
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang near Ko Lanta are perhaps the best dive sites in Thailand (frequently ranking in the world’s top ten) with more than 200 hard corals and 108 reef fish catalogued in a study underway, but thousands more organisms abound. Hin Daeng has the steepest and deepest in the whole of the country with fantastic marine life. Hin Muang next door is completely underwater and it is covered with delicate violet coral. The sites also have one of the world's highest incidences of whale shark sightings.