How do you know when to come to Ko Lanta to ensure that you’ll be here at the best time for underwater photography?
Fortunately, the diving conditions at the dive sites around Ko Lanta offer consistently good diving conditions with great visibility all year round.
Generally, the diving conditions around Ko Lanta are pretty good and mean that you can arrive at any time of year and, with a bit if luck, you are likely to feel as though you have arrived at the best time for underwater photography.
With 30 degree water year-round, and an abundance of marine life available to photograph throughout the year, you can argue that the best time for underwater photography is at any time of the year.
However, there are a few seasonal variations, highlighted here, that will help you to plan the very best time to come to Ko Lanta to suit you and your style of underwater photography.
Low Season – (May – September)
- Visibility – 30-50m (the best of the year)
- Marine Life – very abundant (the best of the year)
- Other Divers – very few (you may not see another diver all day – we are usually the only boat at the dive site)
- Accommodation on Lanta – very cheap (this is the cheapest time to stay in Lanta)
- Weather – unpredictable – can be rainy (trips may be cancelled due to the weather)
- Sea Conditions – variable (can be flat, can be fairly wavy)
- Journey times – longer (we depart from Old Town – most journeys are 1.5 – 2 hrs)
- Atmosphere on Lanta – quiet (this is the quietest time of year and quite a few restaurants and resorts are closed)
The location and distance to the dive sites does mean that there is some variation, dependent on the season, on accessibility and journey times to the dive sites. Weather conditions can also effect accessibility, particularly in the months between May and October, when our trip schedule is slightly reduced and our ability to run trips can depend on the weather.
Ko Lanta has two main seasons; High Season when the weather is hot and dry and when most of the visitors come to the island, and Low Season (or Green Season) when the weather is hot and wet, and the island tends to be quieter. There is also a short Peak Season that runs from mid December until mid January. This is when the island is at its busiest for the festive period and is most fun!
High season generally runs from October/November until the end of April, when sea conditions tend to be calm and gentle with an off shore wind direction. This usually means flat seas and shorter journey times out to the dive sites. During this time, 2 trips go out every day to the best dive sites in the area. Usually there is a daily trip to Ko Haa, our local dive site, and another to one of the other dive sites in the area, such as Ko Phi Phi or Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.
At Ko Haa, the average visibility during this time tends to be between 15m and 25m, but there are plenty of days when it reaches 30m+. At Ko Haa, you have a good chance to see Hawksbill Turtles, schooling Barracuda, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Mantis Shrimps, Pufferfish and Khuls Rays amongst others. Ko Haa offers perfect conditions for all types of underwater photography techniques.
The visibility at Ko Phi Phi tends to be less than at Ko Haa, and averages between 7m to 12m but has an exceptional diversity of marine life so you tend not to notice. Phi Phi is the home of the Leopard Shark and they can be seen regularly at the sites around this area, as well as Turtles, schools of Snapper and huge Gorgonian Sea Fans.
The sister sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are located 70kms away from Ko Lanta, in open ocean. These dive sites are exposed to the underwater elements so visibility can be changeable but is usually at 15m+ and gets up as high as 50m (often the very best months for visibility are end-June, July and August). With an astounding array of hunting behaviour to be witnessed, soft corals galore and a very good chance to see Manta Rays during December and January, (although they can be seen at any time of the year here), all photography techniques can be practiced here. Hin Daeng & Hin Muang are more advanced dive sites can sometimes be subjected to fierce currents which can make taking underwater photographs fairly challenging!
Most days are bright and sunny during high season, perfect if you are looking to use natural light to illuminate your subjects or give your images a particular feel. The Lagoon at Ko Haa is perfect for this. With shallow water and lots of critters waiting to pose for you its an ideal place to practice white balance shots.
Luckily, even on a bad day, the reefs around Ko Lanta are still pretty spectacular, and if the conditions aren’t perfect for wide angle shots, there are plenty of fantastic opportunities for practicing your macro techniques. Harlequin Shrimp, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Cleaner Pipefish, Frog Fish, Sea Moths and Nudibranchs can all be found during the high season and make fantastic macro subjects.
Sunbursts are also a good type of photography to try when the viz isn’t at its best, as long as the sun is shining! With all the light coming into the picture, it tends to make the water appear bright and clear. Pick a subject such as a pretty piece of coral, add in a sunburst and you can make your underwater images look breathtaking!
In low season, which is from May until September, we can have our best diving conditions of the year, under the surface – 30m+ viz, blue blue water and all those fish who stay a bit further off the reef during high season tend to come back due to the fact there are very few divers out at the sites.
You can also see a vast assortment of juvenile everything. This is brilliant as you can see the reefs at their best and have them all to yourself, every divers dream!
Low season often provides ideal conditions for practicing reefscapes and wide angle shots as well as silhouettes. Whalesharks start to make their regular appearances around April/May but can also be seen at any time of the year, you just have to be a bit lucky.
But as it is low season, the weather plays a big part in whether we can take the boat out. The wind picks up and changes direction, so the waves are larger and are sometimes just too big for us to go out.
The occasional storm will come through writing off any trips for a few days, then will move on and the conditions return to normal. Often there are days and days with perfect weather; glorious sunshine, calm seas and not a cloud to be seen, then it can change again. We do not make quite so many trips to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang during low season due to it’s distance off shore and the unpredictability of the weather. Typically we make 1-2 trips per week when the weather permits.
The months at either side of the seasons – May and September/October – can see a lot of rain and poor weather, so in terms of diving, these are probably the least favourable months to come.
In a nutshell, you can have fantastic photography opportunities all year round. It just depends if you want guaranteed diving with great conditions, or to take the gamble and come in low season when the weather is variable but the diving can be truly spectacular!