Cave Diving in Thailand?
Thailand is not the first place most cave divers think of when they hear the words cave diving, but surprisingly this country offers several different types of underwater caves to challenge divers. Chiew Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and beautiful destinations for cave diving.
So what makes the cave diving in Khao Sok Thailand so extraordinary? To start, the caves in the park weren’t always wet. In fact, less than 30 years ago the whole park region was dry and inhabited with small Thai villages. The surrounding limestone peaks towered over these towns and were slowly erroding away inside from the heavy rains typical of this area. Later, in the 1980s the government built a dam and flooded the region. Now some of the most magnificent solution caves lie hidden in a flooded forest valley awaiting to be rediscovered by cave divers.
Getting there and away is breathtaking in itself. Khao Sok National Park borders Phang Nga Province and sits almost in the middle between Phuket, Khao Lak and Krabi. The park covers over 646 square miles and almost half of this is the Chiew Lan Lake, although there is only one road allowing access into it. Once there, visitors board the traditional Thai longtail boats and ride out over the pristine blue-green waters.
After about 40 minutes of weaving in and out of small water passages created by the limestone cliffs the floating water bungalow retreats are reached. Now true nature and beauty are at hand.
A longtail boat ride of about 30 minutes from the resorts will get divers to most of the caves. The average depth of many of the underwater caves is between 10 to 20 meters. For more advanced cave diving there are a few lying in depths over 40 meters.
Most caves also have a beautiful cavern zone, which is perfect for beginners and training. The more popular caves such as Peter’s Cave and Temple Cave can be penetrated to about 100 meters by wandering around bends and going through restrictions. There are also rumours of an underwater mountain pass connecting two valley sides. This has not yet been discovered, but a few locals might be able to reveal this information.
The walls are striated with gorgeous reds, browns, whites and orange tints forming stunning patterns along the way. Stalactites and stalagmites reach enormous sizes in a few places, sometimes cascading in huge ‘jellyfish’ shapes piled along the walls. Taking a closer look at some of the formations with a torch, cave divers can actually see mineral deposits sparkling in the light’s beam. It’s not uncommon to find large catfish crossing in front or snake-like featherback fish lingering in the entrance.
Outside the caves the eery dark green waters of the Chiew Lan Lake greet exiting divers. Submerged tree tops creep up from the depth and form a dark underwater canopy hiding the mysteries of the lake below. Once at the surface, the powerful karst cliffs dwarf divers suspended in the emerald green still waters of the lake. Then up onto the longtail and back to the water bungalows for dinner and a quiet night’s rest.
Enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep between cave diving in Khao Sok either in traditional bamboo bungalows or upgrade to a more modern house. All floating resorts have onsite restaurants with authentic Thai food as well as international breakfast menus. Toilets and showers in most resorts are communal, but some of the more upscale places have facilities built into each water bungalow.
Of course these places are remote, so don’t expect technologically advanced services like internet and cell phone reception whilst cave diving in Khao Sok. It might seem foreign to live without these everyday amenities at first, but that’s actually the appeal of Khao Sok – tranquility and the chance to appreciate nature.
Cave diving in Khao Sok Thailand requires the same type of equipment any cave diving expedition would need. There are several different configurations available to dive the caves including twin sets, side mount and CCR. Regardless of the initial set-up all cave divers will need a primary reel, at least two safety spools, primary torch, a minimum of two back-up torches, line markers, depth and bottom timers, and a back-up mask. Air fills are all done on the longtail boat with a portable compressor making repeat dives possible. Oxygen and scrubber are also in supply for filling CCR tanks and canisters. Any special equipment needs can be met with Blue Label Diving.
If not already a cavern or cave diver courses can easily be arranged with Blue Label Diving to permit entry into these mysterious underwater caves. Cave diving requires special training and equipment to be done safely. All course levels are offered beginning with Cavern and Intro to Cave to Full Cave Diver all the way to Advanced Sidemount Cave Diver and CCR Cave Diver.