Sea Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

Inside the sea cave

Phang Nga Bay is a spectacular marine area that is close to both Phuket and Krabi in Thailand.  The Bay is littered with many small limestone islands which rise out of the waters, each of which has sheer cliffs which plunge into the sea.

Apart from being stunningly beautiful, many of these islands contain “hongs” that are cave systems that have collapsed upon themselves, opening the interior of the islands to the elements and creating crater like holes inside the islands that are accessed from the sea through caves which become hidden at high tide.

One of the best ways to appreciate this remarkable habitat is to take a sea kayaking tour.

There are a number of operators who run these tours, but most follow a similar format.  Usually you are picked up from your hotel and taken to a harbour where you board a boat and head out into the bay.  These trips change every day as they are dependent on the tides, and many of the caves can only be accessed at low tide, so the tour I describe may occur in a different order, but all the elements should still be there.

There are two types of boats that are used, there is the slow motor launch, and they also have very fast speed boats that are powered by three huge outboards.  I enjoyed the slow motor launch the best as it was far more relaxing and less noisy than the speedboats, it was certainly less smelly, as the speedboats just reek of whatever fuel they use, and you get the smell of the exhaust.  The speedboats are also more crowded than the motor launches, and I just didn’t enjoy the trip as much.

Inside a hong

On the slower, but larger, launch, you putter your way into Phang Nga Bay, and the approach is very picturesque, giving you excellent opportunities to take lots of photos.

Our first stop was a lovely little island where we went for a swim, and where you can try out the sea canoes.  Although there were a few other boats at the beach, it didn’t seem to be over crowded, and having a swim in the warm sea was a great way to start the day.

After about half an hour we headed off to our first tall island.  Here the canoes are lowered into the water, with each one having their own paddler.  My paddler was a young guy named Oscar, and he was quite terrific.

As you head off into your first cave, you realize how low and narrow these caves really are, and it is quite eerie to paddle underneath an island.  After a short while, you come out of the cave, and find yourself in the middle of an island, its cliffs draped with high trees and jungle foliage, and the odd monkey looking at you in somewhat uninterested manner.  You are surrounded on all sides by very steep cliffs, and it’s like being in a scene from The Lost World, it’s quite a surreal, but pleasant, experience.  We paddled around the inside of the island for a while, and then made our escape via another underground cave.

We visited a few islands, and then another vessel pulled up next to ours and off loaded lunch, we enjoyed as we floated off a couple of nearby island.

James Bond Island

The last sea cave we did was done during a torrential downpour.  Although we were soaking wet, it was an outstanding experience to be paddling through the centre of a collapsed island in very heavy rain, and turned out to be the best experience of the day.  We had to cut out visit to this island short as the tide was rising, and a couple of kayaks only just made it out of the cave before the waters rose too high.  As I was drenched anyway, I decided to fall out of the kayak and swim back to the boat.  The waters were incredibly warm, but the tide was very strong, and quite hard to swim against.

The last island we visited was James Bond Island, so named because part of the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed there.  James Bond Island is anticlimactic as in the movie it appears to be much, much bigger than it really is.  Still, there are a few stalls on the adjoining island, and you can explore this island, where there is a large slab of collapsed cave.  Fortunately, I was able to purchase a dry t-shirt here as my other t-shirt was drenched.  And the lesson is take a spare set of clothes on this tour with you, and make sure there are secured in a plastic bag, as everything on the boat gets wet eventually.  Lesson no.2 was – keep your camera dry too.  Mine was affected by the humidity, and some of my photos were corrupted, simply because of the high humidity inside the boat.  If I had of taking my camera case with me, much of that would have been protected.

After James Bond Island we headed back to the harbour from which we originally departed, where our bus was waiting to return us to our hotel.

All-in-all it was a great experience, and well worth doing.  There are many people touting these tours.  All the hotels sell them, and you may be approached on the street to purchase a tour.  I have my own guy in Phuket that I’ve been using for some time now, he operates an agency in a back street, and his price was half that I could get through the hotel I was staying at.  Many of the tuk tuk drivers in Phuket can also make arrangements for you – if you don’t have your own contact in Phuket, tuk tuk drivers are okay to deal with, as long as you note the number of their tuk tuk so that you can trace them should a service not be provided properly.

2 comments to Sea Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

  • Thanks for another great post! Been reading you for awhile and you always come up with quality stuff!

  • […] Sea Kayaking in Phang Nga Bay | Grumpy's Getaway Guide These trips change every day as they are dependent on the tides, and many of the caves can only be accessed at low tide, so the tour I describe may occur in a different order, but all the elements should still be there. There are two types of boats that are used, Although we were soaking wet, it was an outstanding experience to be paddling through the centre of a collapsed island in very heavy rain, and turned out to be the best experience of the day. […]

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