A Slow Longtail Boat to the Thailand's Stunning Emerald Cave

Unless you’re into diving or snorkeling, Koh Lanta, Thailand doesn’t offer a ton in the way of outdoor activities. (Partly because it’s so damned hot.) There is one cave you can hike to on the island, and one lackluster national park that we didn’t visit.

So we haven’t been as active as we normally like to be, or even done many “tourist” things.

With one exception: We did do the Four Islands tour., which included a visit to the stunning Emerald Cave. We made the trip via a traditional Thai longtail boat operated by a local man and his son that we hired. Both of them kept smoking right on top of plastic jug of gasoline, which made us nervous, but, well, Thailand! A longtail is a wooden boat with a flat bottom and a very long tiller that gives the boat its name.

It’s also very, very loud. (Bring earplugs if you have them.) In fact, the engine made it almost impossible to talk, but that was okay because it meant you just let yourself get lost in the beautiful scenery you pass by.

But it’s all worth it once you get to the Emerald Cave, which isn’t actually a cave. It’s more of an amazing little lagoon hidden in the center of the island and entirely surrounded by towering cliffs on all sides .To reach the beach, you have to swim through an 80 meter tunnel, much of it in the dark. And you have to time the tides right or you can end up trapped inside when the tunnel is filled with water.

Our group was led by the thirteen year old son of the boat owner. We had on life jackets, but this young man just leapt into the water and started swimming. As we were entering the tunnel, approximately sixty Chinese tourists strung together like fish on a stringer, were exiting the cave led by another tour company. Apparently, not many Chinese are good swimmers and this was the only way for them to get inside.

After about a five minute swim in the dark, we reached the Emerald Cave and it was truly amazing.

Towering cliffs surrounded us on every side, lush tropical plants spilling down from the top. There were actually palm trees growing on the little beach and when the sunlight hits the water just right, the lagoon turns a beautiful emerald green. Honestly, it felt like the sort of thing you’d only see in a pirate movie or while playing Tomb Raider.

All in all, it was one of the highlights of our three months in Koh Lanta.