Thailand's two oceans offer a marine wonderland for sailing enthusiasts to explore, and with increasing numbers of yachts being made available for charter in desirable destinations like Phuket and Samui, the options for sublime tropical cruising are impressive and appealing.
Home to not one but two shimmering expanses of turquoise ocean – the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Siam – each boasting dramatic coastal scenery and a wealth of pristine tropical islands; Thailand’s reputation as an international yachting destination is well deserved.
Phuket and Koh Samui have been hosting regattas for decades, and events like the King's Cup and the Samui Regatta attract professional crews from across the globe.
Phuket, in particular, is recognised as one of Asia’s finest yachting destinations, and is also home to several top notch marinas, which has given the island a reputation as one of Southeast Asia’s premier sailing hubs.
Such global recognition also means that many stunning craft are now based in Thailand permanently and when their owners are not using them these vessels are available for charter on day trips and longer cruises.
Below are 5 top sailing locations, easily reached from either Phuket or Koh Samui.
The Beach Re-Visited
For sailing enthusiasts keen to discover the Andaman region, Phuket is the perfect port from which to set sail. The Phi Phi islands – still famous as the setting of Leonardo DiCaprio's movie The Beach
– are at the top of many marine explorers' lists as a cruise to these islands will unveil a mystical landscape comprising hidden lagoons, powder white beaches and an abundance of craggy limestone carsts jutting vertically out of the crystalline waters. Approximately 18 miles south of Krabi, Phi Phi Don is the more developed of the two Phi Phi islands, while Koh Phi Phi Leh is well worth a trip in the early morning or at sunset to re-capture the secluded magic of The Beach.
If you are keen to explore Thailand’s underwater landscape as well as make the best of its fine cruising grounds, a trip to the Similan Islands is a must. The waters surrounding Koh Similan, as they're collectively known in Thai, are teeming with tropical fish and a rainbow of coral reefs, and divers enjoy exceptional underwater visibility from November to May. The Similans are also a great stop-off for yachts planning to cruise a little further in order to explore a few of Burma's equally stunning dive sites.
Learn the Ropes
The waters off Thailand's mainland provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi, both of which are within easy sailing distance of Phuket, offer gentle cruising options ideal for beginners who are keen to practise their sailing skills The area hemmed in by Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi provinces forms stunning Phang Nga Bay, home to rocky islets and outcrops. Koh Hong offers one of the best anchorage points in the area, while Krabi is also famous for its sailing opportunities, and can be easily reached from Phang Nga Bay by sailing a short distance south.The azure waters off Krabi also offer a treat for divers and snorkelers.
Visitors based on Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand are ideally placed to explore Thailand’s Ang Thong Marine Park by yacht. Comprising more than 40 tropical islands peppered across 100 square kilometres of ocean, the Marine Park is located just a day’s sail to the northwest of Samui. Idyllic yacht anchorages abound in this charming marine paradise, and visitors should make the most of the region’s untouched beaches and superb snorkelling. Sailors that venture ashore should keep their eyes peeled for monkeys and white eagles, while dolphins and sea otters can sometimes be glimpsed right from the deck.
A short cruise to the north of Koh Samui takes yachties to the shores of Koh Tao, which translates to ‘Turtle Island’ in English. Covered with a lush blanket of tropical jungle, visitors that venture there will find a stunning tropical isle just a few miles across at its widest point. Snorkelling off the coast of Koh Tao is second to none because the waters are window clear and filled with an array of tropical fish species – even the odd sea turtle. Onshore, there is an array of international restaurants and bars, plus a smattering of local souvenir shops and boutiques if you want to make the most of the trip.