The huge dark shape began to emerge from the gloom as we descended. As we swam closer the immense outline of the sunken ship grew sharper and the scale of the wreck became clearer. The 100 metre long HTMS Chang was formerly a US warship known as the USS Lincoln County and was built during World War II. After serving it’s time with the US Navy, it was gifted to the Thai navy and served for 50 years. Diving is a huge industry in Thailand and artificial reefs have been created to increase diving opportunities as well as to help protect the natural reefs. This colossal warship was sunk off the coast of Koh Chang in 2012 to become an artificial reef. It is now teeming with incredibly diverse marine life in all shapes and sizes. As instructor Paul from Scubadawgs and I neared the deck of the battleship I could see almost every inch was covered. Schools of fish gathered along the edge nibbling on the algae, some giving us nervous glances as we drifted by.
At almost 30m depth the light changes and sound is muffled. We explored inside the first deck. The darkness was penetrated ahead of us by the sun shining through the openings above and we disturbed sleepy batfish on our way. Winding our way through the narrow spaces near the tower in a mild current was a test of my skills, especially when distracted by a grumpy-looking eel peering down and schools of large yellowfin barracudas. Along with light and sound, time seems to change underwater. All too soon it was time for our slow ascent around the tower, the ghostly flag flapped eerily in the current as a reminder of the busy life the ship must’ve had above the surface.
My first wreck dive and I think I’m hooked. Combine the spooky wreck with tropical marine life, warm waters and an excellent dive centre and you have no excuses not to visit Koh Chang. The island is just 5 hours drive from Bangkok and has beautiful beaches, forest and waterfalls as well as accommodation for every budget. Scubadawgs will pick you up and bring you to the dive shop at Bang Bao where you’ll kit up (excellent quality rental equipment) and board one of their dive boats. I can’t thank Paul and the team enough for my day. (And it was great to talk about our alternate musical lives!). After wreck diving and snacking we dived two more local reefs with mostly great visibility and astounding amounts of marine life. Honestly, it was so busy down there! Schools of fish would cross each other in front of us leaving just a wall of shiny scales ahead. Thailand is famed for some of the cheapest diving in the world which makes it a great place to get certified too. Try diving with Scubadawgs and they’ll let you upgrade to Open Water training using the dives you’ve already completed. Not into diving? Then you can snorkel all the same dive sites - the visibility makes it well worth it.
Enjoy your trip to Koh Chang and tell Scubadawgs I sent you! Celebrate your diving achievements by partying at Lonely Beach and don’t forget to get a new tattoo while you’re there... ;)
Hannah the traveller
is a travel and lifestyle blog with focus on running, vegan eating and of course global travel.