On Christmas Day, we booked a private longtail boat tour for the day. A songthaew came and picked us up shortly after 8, and we were driven to the pier in Lanta Old Town. Our guide Amin, who met us at the boat, was a very nice young man from Malaysia. The first part of the trip was rather uneventful. The longtail boat motor is very loud and it took about an hour to get to the first snorkeling spot, so we just put our headphones on and enjoyed the gorgeous views. The captains of these boats must suffer significant hearing loss.
Our first snorkeling location was excellent; no one else was around, and Amin was an excellent guide in the water, pointing out many different creatures and making sure we were both with him and not about to hit our heads on any rock formations. We went inside a small beautiful cave, but I didn’t have my camera with me – sorry! Our next stop was the Morakot (Emerald) Cave, a national park site. It was crammed with tourists, but we still enjoyed it. We swam through an 80m tunnel to reach the inside, a lovely space among the cliffs with a sandy beach, some jungle growth, and hundreds of other tourists, including a large number of schoolchildren. Amin was a very strong swimmer, leading the way while carrying his dry bag above his head with our phones inside (they were in dry bags inside the dry bag, but I guess he wasn’t taking any chances!). He had forgotten a flashlight, but we swam along beside a very long line of schoolchildren with plenty of lights. They were singing and laughing and the sound echoed very loudly inside the tunnel.
We didn’t linger long, and on the way back no convenient lines of swimmers were heading back. Amin gamely took his own phone out of the dry bag and led the way with his flashlight app, holding both his phone and the bag above the water. It was pretty impressive!
Our second snorkeling spot was lovely, but more crowded with other people. We were getting a bit tired at that point, so I don’t think I enjoyed myself quite as much, though we did get a bit of excitement at the end when a school of teeny jellyfish swam around us. I didn’t even see them – I thought I was having a weird reaction to too much sun or something in the water (well, I guess I was!) when I felt some tiny little stings all over my body. However, they were very minor and the irritation faded within 10-15 minutes of getting out of the water. At that point, we were ready for lunch!
Lunch was served on a beautiful beach, and was a very impressive spread. We even had a table!
After lunch, we had plenty of free time to walk along the beach and swim in the sea.
Then it was time to head back to Lanta Old Town for the end of our tour. It was a perfect Christmas outing!
I also have to mention the special Christmas menu at The Houben, as it was beautiful and delicious. Their restaurant is called “Red Alert,” and red is kind of a theme at the hotel, in honor of the Belgian owner’s football team color. Dinner consisted of all red dishes, natural flavors only.