Taking a tour of the islands of Phang Nga Bay while you are on holiday in Phuket should be at the top of your list. These islands offer extraordinary, primeval scenery and they have long served as the backdrops of Hollywood movies down through the years from ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ to ‘The Beach’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.
One of the most popular island chains is in the Phang Nga Marine National Park. Here you’ll find lush tropical islands with towering limestone cliffs and hidden lagoons like Koh Hong, a quiet and peaceful island with no infrastructure save for a vendor selling drinks and snacks. It’s open only during the day with no overnight stays allowed. But the pristine white sands and stunningly crystal clear, aqua waters around the island are worth the limited visit.
There are dozens of islands within the park and some of them feature these hidden lagoons and also caves to explore. All of them feature the lush, dramatic, hanging gardens that drape from the limestone cliffs.
Of course, the James Bond fans in your group will want to take a ‘selfie’ of themselves in front of James Bond Island. This iconic pillar of limestone rises from a small bay with in the Marine National Park.
You may also want to visit the two islands that make up the Phi Phi Islands - Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Don. Maya Bay on Phi Phi Le, the bay made famous in ‘The Beach’, is closed now to allow the coral to recover. The bay can still be viewed from a distance, however and there are other attractions to see on the island, including Viking Cave from which the locals still harvest bird’s nests and Pileh Lagoon with its stunning aqua-blue water.
Getting Out to the Islands
But in order to visit these islands you’ll need a boat. And while there are boat tours offered, these tours are on fixed schedules, they are often crowded and they won’t allow you the freedom to explore the islands at your leisure. To truly experience the freedom of adventure, you’ll need to hire a boat.
There are three categories of boats for hire - Longtails, Speedboats and Luxury Yachts. Longtails and speedboats only make day trips. If you want to tour for more than a day and spend the night onboard, you’ll have to hire one of the luxury yachts that have sleeping quarters.
Longtail BoatsThese are the iconic Thai runabouts you’ve seen in countless postcard pictures of Thailand. They are long and thin with a propeller that’s mounted on a long shaft behind the boat, hence their name. Some of them have canopies that will protect you from the sun and some don’t.
They are best hired for visiting islands close to Phuket. You should avoid hiring a longtail if you want to visit an island far across the water or when it’s very windy. When it gets rough offshore, you might be in for a miserable, and possibly unsafe, ride. Rawai Beach is one of the most convenient places to hire a longtail to visit the nearby islands of Phang Nga Bay as they don’t have to circumnavigate the island from Patong or any of the west coast resorts. To hire a longtail, simply approach the driver and tell him your destination and when you want to go. Most of the longtail drivers hanging out in tourist areas around the island speak at least a bit of English. Plan to spend about 5,000 Baht for a day of touring the nearby islands, including fuel. Don’t depend on the driver to include any drinking water or food. But share anything that you bring with the driver (it’s just good manners).
SpeedboatsThe next step up is to hire a speedboat. These swift and sleek craft have plenty of horsepower to get you anywhere around Phuket or Phang Nga Bay within a couple of hours. For up to ten people in a small speedboat, plan on spending about 15,000 Baht for a half-day. And 20-25,000 baht for a full day, depending on how far you want to go. Trips out to Koh Phi Phi will cost you about 30,000 Baht.
Speedboats vary a lot in size and the number of engines they have, so be prepared to do a bit of bargaining based on the number of people in your group and your destination. Some of them will have drinking water and snorkelling gear onboard and all of them will have coolers with ice where you can store your perishable food and drinks.
Luxury YachtsThe top end of the line is the luxury yacht charter. To hire a luxurious yacht your best bet is to compare prices, options and features among the many Phuket yacht charter companies who are advertising on the internet.
Expect to pay upwards of 50,000 Baht a day for a yacht. But yacht charter cost will depend on the size of the yacht, your destination, meals and beverages and whether you want to spend the night on board. Rentals for the Holidays has plenty of accommodations all around the island. Whether you want to be close to Rawai Beach to hire a longtail or speedboat or close to the Royal Phuket Marina, which is where most of the luxury yacht charter companies are based. With Rentals for the Holidays, the choice is yours.