Marvels above and below water
In the manner of the ‘sea gypsies,’ the nomad tribes that live on several islands of the Andaman Sea, sailing around Thailand’s beaches is a unique way to explore the coast. Although the tribes live in wooden boats, travelers don’t need to slum it as they roam the sea where Thai, Burmese and Indian waters converge. This area is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world, and not all can be reached by land.
Phuket as a starting point
Yacht, Catamaran, fishing boat, sailboat, you name it. Most Andaman Sea cruises depart from Phuket, the largest island in Thailand. To the north stands Ao Phang-Nga National Park, with a harbor renowned for its stunning rock formations and limestone cliffs. You can also visit Koh Tapu, nicknamed ‘James Bond Island’ after it appeared in one of the first 007 films. If you’re lucky enough to anchor in the area for the night, you’ll be treated to a stunning sunset and sunrise, without any tourist boats spoiling the view.
A hidden lagoon
After breakfast on the deck with breathtaking views, you should venture out to explore another national park, Than Bok Khorani. Most large ships have auxiliary boats or kayaks that passengers can use to travel out to the jungle island of Koh Hong. The luscious landscape conceals a lovely lagoon flanked by cliffs that tower more than 100 metres high. The lagoon is so perfectly round it looks like it was drawn with a compass. The coast is dotted with caves that can be explored when the tide is low. If you’ve got time to spare, jump into a kayak and spend the afternoon navigating the Tha Lane Bay swamps.
The hub of hiking
Sailing southward, you reach the small peninsula of Krabi, a magnet for climbers who love the cliffs and caves. Tonsai Bay, one of the top climbing locations in the world, can compete in jaw-dropping cliffs with Railay Beach, another must. Like all of Krabi’s beaches, it is only accessible by boat—although that doesn’t stop hoards of people from visiting every day. After spending the day in Krabi, the boat might continue on to the islands of Koh Lanta, Koh Kradan or Koh Muk, famous for its emerald cave.
The beach from ‘The Beach’
To the north, the Phi Phi archipelago is home to some of Thailand’s most famous islands, with due respect to Phuket. Monkeys roam wild on Monkey Bay. Maya Beach, on the small island of Phi Phi Lee, was the setting for the film ‘The Beach,’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It might be the most famous, but it’s not the prettiest in Phi Phi. Mon Dee Beach and Long Beach are also incredible. Philah Bay is worth visiting for the mountain-locked tropical lagoon.
Going full circle
The last stops on Andaman Sea cruises vary among the little islands that dot this heavenly coastal location. For instance, the fishing village of Koh Yao Yai, inhabited by Muslim families. Or Similan Islands, one of the best scuba diving locations in the country. Whichever the route, scuba diving is always a great experience in Thailand. Following in the footsteps of sea tribes is the best way to learn about the country’s deepest secrets.