The best place to go snorkelling in Koh Phangan is Koh Ma Island, or more precisely Mae Haad beach which is connected to Koh Ma at low tide. Koh Ma is the only marine national park in Koh Phangan waters. This means the area is protected from fishing activities and intrusive development.
Mae Haad beach is on the north west side of Koh Phangan. It is connected to the main road by a part dirt, part concrete road about 1 kilometre in length. There is not a town at Mae Haad to speak of, just a few resorts and a couple of restaurants. To get there you either need to rent a vehicle or get a taxi. It is an easy drive, although be careful, there have been lots of accidents over the years because people drive much too fast to handle the sharp bends in the road. If you take a motorbike drive no faster than 40 kph and you will have no problems whatsoever.
What makes Koh Ma a great snorkelling destination are the corals which start about 25 metres from the shoreline, and the abundant fish.
If you are going on a day trip we recommend you follow the signs to Island View Cabana Resort, which is right on the beach and is a good place to go for drink before you go into the water. At the beach front restaurant of the resort they rent out snorkels and masks for 80 Thai Baht an hour with a 100 Thai Baht deposit.
Once you have your mask and snorkel head down the beach before attempting to swim out to the coral. Please note that the shoreline is very rocky. There is one place where the rocks have been cleared and this is the only safe and painless place to get out to the best snorkelling area. There is a sign indicating the way.
Mae Haad is a beautiful and unspoilt part of the Island with a laid back feel. If you do want to stay the night then we recommend either a beach front bungalow at Island View Cabana or if you are after a bit more luxury try the newly constructed Mae Haad Bay Resort. Island View Cabana offers ‘fancy’ bungalows, including air-con and satellite TV, for around 500 Thai Baht a night. Mae Haad Bay Resort is a bit more expensive at around 3,000 Thai Baht a night for the standard hotel room.
Koh Ma is not as spectacular as Nang Yuan in Koh Tao but it is still worth a visit if you enjoy snorkelling. Where it does have an advantage over the more famous Nang Yaun sand bank and snorkelling spot is that it is normally a very quiet place. Despite offering the best snorkelling in Koh Phangan few tourists make it up to Koh Ma. There are a few boat tours that sometimes stop off for an hour or two, but generally you can go to Mae Haad and have the place nearly to yourself.