Phuket is surrounded by stunning islands and picturesque bays, peppered with limestone pinnacles and framed by aquamarine seas and alabaster beaches. Chartering a speed or sailing boat for an Andaman marine adventure offers the perfect complement to the luxurious experience of renting a private island villa.
Phang Nga bay is easily accessible from Phuket
and one of the most stunning marine environments not only in Thailand, but also the world. The region's towering limestone formations are well known globally and have often provided a bacdrop for a number of blockbuster movies, including the James Bond classic, "Man with the Golden Gun" and, of course Leonardo DiCaprio's "The Beach". Koh Ping Gan (James Bond Island) and Koh Phanak are probably the first islands you will visit en route to the middle of Phang Nga Bay and its famous Koh Hong archipelago. Years of tropical weather has sculpted some of the rocks, creating some incredible labyrinths of caves and under water rivers, many linked to secret lagoons. The area is also home to communities of sea gypsies, who maintain a very traditional lifestyle, living in a village on stilts, which hosts a mosque, local restaurants and tourist attractions and remains one of the less visited heritage sites in Thailand.
Among the most famous island destinations in Thailand
, Phi Phi island is a natural spectacle that deserves its reputation as a marine wonder of the world. Visitors can choose to visit the southern (Tonsai Bay) side or the northern side (Loh Dalam Bay) of the island and also make their way ashore to enjoy tourists activities such as walking along jungle trails or indulging in a choice of international and local cuisine. There's also a side trip to the Viking Cave, used for harvesting bird's nest and to Phi Phi Leh, made famous as the aforementioned Hollywood backdrop in The Beach.
In Krabi province most people head to Rai Leh Beach for some picture perfect swimming and snorkelling. Some chilled out restaurants keep you in Robinson Crusoe mode with a little added flavour and the area also caters to 5-star travellers. A little further south, Bamboo and Chicken island are both well known destinations for snorkellers and divers, while If you decide to head north to Koh Chong Lat, you may encounter not so wild sea/mangrove otters who come out at dusk for a bit of fun and hunting.
Koh Yao Noi is a modest but beautiful island named after its shape, which means 'little long island'. You can explore the local villages and buy locally made handicrafts or simple anchor of a quiet bay and swim in to the pristine beach. A floating jetty provides access for ferry passengers from Phuket, making the island a popular day trip location. Onshore you will find ATMs, a post office and police station, but local life seems to go on exactly the way it has for centuries.
The Similan islands are by far the most popular diving destination off Phuket and dive boats drop tourist divers in their droves into the big blue on a daily basis. Despite their popularity, the Similans remain a breathtaking destination, and you can cruise between nine islands that forms this pristine National Park. A modest fee is collected by a ranger if you wish to visit the islands, but you can also anchor safely to explore the waters, although the moorings get quite busy during the day.
by MAX VEE