Around Phuket Island there are a great many amazingly beautiful places within easy reach by boat where opportunities abound for diving on stunning coral reefs, snorkelling among a huge variety of sea life, rock climbing on sheer limestone cliffs, getting up close with elephants and much more.
The Phi Phi island group has some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand and the limestone rock formations for which it has become famous. There are six islands to explore, Phi Phi Don being the biggest and most visited. Phi Phi Leh has stunningly beautiful beaches and Maya Bay, where the movie The Beach was filmed.
The perils of popularity, Maya Beach
Unfortunately its very popularity has meant that the number of visitors is numbered in the hundreds every day and the bay is often filled with speed boats and long tailed boats unloading and loading passengers. That said, the opportunities for snorkelling and diving are excellent. Arrive very early in the day or late to avoid the crowds.
Monkey Bay, Phi Phi Don
On Phi Phi Don is Monkey Bay, Ao Ling in Thai, where about fifty metres or so off shore is an amazing coral reef to explore, but the island gets its name from the crab-eating macaques, the only permanent inhabitants. There is also a Monkey Beach on the other side of Phi Phi Don, with steep limestone cliffs that are home to the macaques and can best be reached by long-tail boat or for the more adventurous by kayak. Here there are also some great snorkelling spots to experience.
Aerial view of Bamboo Island
Close by are Bamboo Island, Koh Pai in Thai, and Mosquito Island, Koh Yung, with superb beaches and wonderful snorkelling and diving opportunities on the coral reefs offshore.
The most northerly of the Phi Phi group, Bamboo Island, Koh Pai, is the perfect retreat from the crowds of the more frequently visited islands. Shaped a little like a heart and about 700 metres long and 600 wide, the island is fringed with white sand and crystal-clear waters. Between Mosquito Island and Phi Phi Don is the Hin Klang coral reef, which offers a great diving and snorkelling experience.
Another fascinating attraction on the northeast coast Koh Phi Phi Leh is Viking Cave situated at the foot of an enormous limestone cliff. It takes its name from paintings of different ship types on the walls inside the cave one of which resembles a Viking sailing ship. The cave is also a source for the valuable swiftlets’ nests that are so highly sought after by Chinese gourmets.
The majestic landscape of Khao Sok
One of the best places to get up close with elephants, is Khao Sok National Park, 739 square kilometres of stunning natural beauty. This rainforest, older than the Amazon’s, and with a greater diversity of species, is the largest area of virgin rainforest in southern Thailand.
The Dusky Langur
In addition to elephants, the park contains an astonishing number of animals, including tigers, clouded leopards, Malayan tapirs, banteng, wild boars, gibbons, Malayan sun bears, gaurs, dusky langurs and deer.
Apart from the wildlife watching, the park offers a great many other activities for the adventurous-minded visitor. Hiking, kayaking or bamboo rafting on Cheow Lan Lake are all possible where you can see the towering limestone cliffs and stay in one of the delightful floating bungalows. The park runs a large number of guided tours as well, each one offering a unique experience of this pristine jungle paradise.
Phang Nga Bay
Some of the most stunning scenery Thailand has to offer can be found in Phang Nga Bay. Take a leisurely boat trip and cruise among the breathtakingly beautiful islands and the limestone karsts that rise majestically from the warm, turquoise waters. Take in James Bond Island (Koh Ta Pu) and Koh Panyee, with a town built over the water.
Off the west coast of southern Thailand in the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea lie eleven islands that form part of the Mu Koh Similan National Park, some 140 square kilometres in extent. These remote islands are perfect for diving and for those who love wildlife. The surrounding waters are crystal clear and teeming with marine life and the coral reefs and underwater rock formations are spectacular.
Mu Koh Similan National Park
Krabi province, with over 150 islands stretching along a 150 kilometre coastline is perhaps the perfect location for anyone looking to relax and enjoy Thailand’s natural beauty in its most pristine state. Gorgeous white beaches and warm, turquoise waters surround these islands where you can snorkel, kayak and scuba dive. The interior of their jungle-clad hills is perfect for trekking and rock climbing on the towering limestone cliffs.
Stunning views from the Tiger Cave Temple
It is much less developed than Phuket or Samui, with a wide range of accommodation available to cater to all budgets, and with many other great locations – Railay, Tongsay Phra and Nang beaches, the Phi Phi islands, Ao Nang and Koh Lanta all within easy reach, as are the Thung Thaeo Forest Park, Klong Thom hot springs and the Tiger Cave Temple with its 1260 steps. There is also the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary, excellent for a family day out.
The beaches of Khao Lak retain a certain rustic charm, lacking the jet skis and boatloads of daily visitors of the more popular beaches. Here tourism is still in its infancy and tranquillity reigns supreme. The main street is lined with traditional family restaurants serving fresh seafood and local specialities.
Before the advent of tourism the local industries were rubber, tin mining, fishing and palm oil, but today the beaches of Khao Lak, Bang Niang, Khuk Khak, La on, Natai, Thai Muang and Pakarang Cape, each with a distinctive charm and attraction.
The jungle-clad islands, national parks, secluded coves and sweeping bays have attractions galore and all within a short boat ride from Phuket Island. There is an abundance of incomparable scenic delights all around the island and a huge variety of activities to satisfy everyone from action junkie to lotus eater.