Snorkelers in Thailand can expect an experience unique to the region, with an array of wildlife and coral that occurs only in Thailand's slice of the globe. For those looking for an even greater thrill, cave snorkeling can provide greater excitement and an insight into cave ecosystems rarely seen outside on the surface, including rare rock formations and fish types. Before setting out on a cave snorkeling expedition in Thailand, travelers should keep a number of things in mind.
There are two main types of cave snorkeling available to Thailand visitors and residents. The first involves climbing into underground caves to get a closer look at the water ecosystems of shallow underground rivers and streams. Blacktip Cave in Koh Pling Yai is one example where this type of snorkeling is possible. Here, snorkelers should expect to see wildlife that includes lined surgeonfish, blacktip reef sharks and honeycomb moray eels.
For those who would prefer snorkeling closer to the light of day, Thailand also offers many visually stunning locations for snorkeling in sea-level caves and in the recesses of giant coral reefs. Phranang Cave, near Chicken and Tup islands, is a sea-level cave where the rock face opens up. The giant rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites of this ancient cave make it a sight worthy of any snorkeling trip. Likewise, Kah Mook's Emerald Cave offers another cave snorkeling experience at sea level, with a 262-foot underground section that many visitors find exhilarating. This cave is noted for the shimmering emerald color the water gives off during the daytime. Those looking to snorkel with the security of a tour guide can find opportunities at Phi Phi Island with The Adventure Club (phi-phi-adventures.com), which encourages guests to snorkel in the shallow caves of Nui Bay.
Cave snorkeling is less dangerous than many other underwater sports, because swimmers must stay very close to the water's surface to breathe. Still, there may be dangers, particularly when it comes to underground caves. If you're new to an area, make sure to have an experienced guide who knows how to get back to the surface before searching for underwater pools to snorkel in. Additionally, when snorkeling in any waters, ensure that somebody in your group knows that the waters are safe for swimming. If you have any doubts, it's a good idea to stick with tourism companies.
For experienced cave snorkelers who know the region, many of Thailand's caves are free for exploration and snorkeling. For everybody else, it's important to get a guide. One advantage of cave snorkeling in Thailand is that many excursions and guided snorkeling tours are relatively inexpensive. At time of publication, trips cost about 800 baht -- about $27 -- for half-day tours. By comparison, cave snorkeling tours in Hawaii cost over $60 in the same year. Thailand snorkelers should expect to pay a bit more for extended cave snorkeling trips or multiday adventures.
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