Sailing in Thailand
The Tropical Andaman Sea
Our cruising grounds in the northern end of Phang-Nga bay are just stunning. The gravity-defying shaped limestone cliffs and islands create an eerie feeling of some sci-fi movie set! We swim and kayak to explore these other-worldly sea caves (“hongs”); anchor for lunch at tiny isolated coves, and feast on our Thai chef’s amazing home-cooking under the stars for dinners.
Sailing Phuket’s southern islands is quite the contrast. Westernised resorts have not (yet!) made their indelible mark; little beach bars and massage huts are often our evening’s entertainment. Even more unspoilt are the Marine National Park islands – abounding with tropical fish life and multicoloured coral. The warm, clear waters are perfect for snorkellers or newbie divers. We do also stop at a couple of the more “touristy” spots – after all, we need to get our Thailand shopping and exotic cocktails fix! But on the whole, our anchorages are mostly little spots that aren’t on the Tourist Track – as with our usual SeaScape philosophy of Go Where Everyone Else doesn’t!
This is an example of a typical itinerary on one of our sailing trips in Phuket – of course, no two trips are ever exactly the same.
A typical Phuket itinerary
Day One - 11am rendezvous in Ao Yon, in the SE corner of Phuket. As soon as everyone is settled in, we'll be sailing north - to the weird and wonderful "seascapes" of Phang-Nga bay. Sailing into this area is like finding yourself in some sci-fi movie set; the limestone formations are so sheer and gravity-defying, they just don't seem possible.
We'll do a lunch n' snorkel stop, to check out the underwater scenery too; then head into our first anchorage of "Dolphin Bay". No doubt it has some other Thai name - but since our very first visit here, when we were escorted into the bay by a school of dolphins - how could we call it anything else??
The bay is on the west side of the very quiet island of Ko Yao Yai. Just 10 miles or so off the coast of Phuket - it feels like going back through time at least 20yrs. Little villages, a long sandy beach and just one gorgeous little "boutique" resort, where we usually chill out for sunset drinks.
Day Two - Early start the next morning - we have a big day going "hong exploring" ! "Hong" literally means "sea room"; entered usually through a well-hidden little crevice in the cliff-face; a narrow tunnel opening up into an awe-inspiring oasis on the interior. Perfect for kayak expeditions!
Tide dependent, we'll hope to explore a few different hongs that day; ending up anchored off the gorgeous, tiny island of Ko Roi - more awesome cliffs and a "mini-hong" leading to a mangrove river.
Day Three - A relaxed morning's cruise southwards again, past more impossibly-balanced rocks, cliffs & islands. There is another hong to explore en route, paddling through a dramatic, mangrove-lined stream which winds its way inside a huge crevice in the island.
For the evening, we'll anchor at the famous Railey Beach, near Krabi. Sheer, palm-covered mountains rising vertically from the ocean, it's a well-known spot for those who like to scare themselves silly scaling these cliffs. There are even beginner's rock-climbing opportunities, for any adrenalin-addicts amongst us! Dinner ashore, there's dozens of fun little beach bars and restaurants.
Day Four - Chance to visit Tiger Cave and Temple , a 20 minute minibus ride inland. This place is not as overtly dramatic and ornate as some of the more well-known Thai wats; what attracts us is it's deeply spiritual, calm Buddhist ambiance. This is not a "tourist destination" - it's a place that the locals visit to pay their respects to the monk community there. For the energetic, there is a steep climb to a stunning viewpoint, a huge Buddha keeping an eye on us mere mortals below; for those who prefer to take it easier (and cooler!), there is a shady hike through an enormous and ancient forest. It's also home to a troop of very mischievous monkeys, watch out for your drinks and snacks, they're fast!
Just around the corner from Railey beach is the little town of Ao Nang - a great place to do a little shopping. There'll be a couple of hours ashore here - then it's a short hop to Chicken Island. A quiet, tranquil contrast to the day's activities, and usually a beautiful sunset to accompany our infamous Pina Coladas! It's also our first great snorkelling spot, lots of coral and tropical fish to swim amongst.
Day Five - The next day will be a leisurely sail south to Phi Phi Li - "little Phi Phi". made infamous by the Leonardo diCaprio movie "The Beach". It's a spectacular little island - dramatic limestone cliffs, pure white sands and unbelievably bright turquoise waters. Great snorkelling too! It's become crazily busy with daytrip boats during the day - hence we arrive there late in the afternoon, leave early in the morning. Inbetween, we have this stunning little spot all to ourselves...(well, ok perhaps a few other yachties too!)
Day Seven - Ko Muk is our next island, and Charlie Beach - a wonderfully laid-back little hangout. Somewhat smaller than Ko Lanta, but with a very cosy little beach bar and great BBQ restaurant. Cocktails on the beach at sunset, it doesn't get any more romantic than this !
We'll be leaving at the crack of dawn the next morning - yes, seriously - at sunrise ! Our dawn adventure is The Lost Lagoon - an old pirate hangout. To find it, we swim through a winding, pitch-black sea tunnel (it's ok, we do have waterproof lights!). It's a spooky and thoroughly exciting feeling - especially when one emerges the other end into a "Lost World" in the center of the island.
Unfortunately, the local daytrip boats from Phi Phi have now discovered this spot too - but as long as we get there early in the morning, we have it all to ourselves!
Day Eight - The further south we sail, the further away from any kind of "tourist development" - and today's islands are right out in the middle of nowhere! A Marine National Park, Rok Nok is a protected wildlife habitat. An amazing array of coral gardens and brightly-coloured fish are literally right underneath the boat - one could snorkel for hours in the tropically warm waters! For our experienced divers, there's a chance to put tanks on and explore further underwater too.
Day Nine - A morning to explore some more of that ever-changing underwater scenery. under the water as well as above. It's also a very fun place to take out the kayaks and explore along the rocks and crevices of the beach.
We'll then be heading off to Ko Racha - an island of icing-sugar smooth sand and more great snorkelling along the surrounding rocks.
Day Six - Our next destination is Ko Lanta - a long island of many extensive, white sand beaches. We stay away from the more touristy north end; our little hideout is a wonderful beach in the south, with just a few little restaurants, massage places and beach bars.
It's also home to the infamous "Why Not" bar, a super-cool little spot with a local live band who are into reggae & "old fart music" (60s, 70s, etc); it's a lounge-around-on-bean-bags sort of place, and the answer to "Would you like another drink" is.... guess what? "Why Not!! " 😊
Day Ten - Our final day - we'll be headed back to Phuket, to our lovely home base of Ao Yon. Chance to get a last, muscle-melting massage on the beach, stroll along the quiet beachfront (still not a single sunbed in our little hideaway bay!), before farewell cocktails on board, and dinner at the aptly-named Secret Cove.
Day Eleven -Disembarkation at 9am. We can organise taxis on arrival in Ao Yon; if you have a later flight and want somewhere quiet to mellow out for the day, there is a nice little hotel nearby (with pool!) who are happy to do a "day stay".
Please keep in mind that this is a provisional itinerary only. One of the greatest things about being on a sailing boat is the flexibility to change our minds and our route to suit personal preferences, prevailing wind conditions, etc. The start and finish points are fixed, of course - but all else is changeable according to the whims of the wind gods and those on board!
Sailing in Thailand – Local Info
For answers to a lot more questions, check out our FAQ page
Phuket – the most well-known yachting destination in Thailand. There’s plenty bright lights and party nights on the main island; yet in the smaller islands to the south of Phuket, one can still find quiet anchorages with stunning beaches and lots of fun local hangouts.
Made famous by the James Bond movie of old, the weird and wonderful gravity-defying islands in the north of Phuket are simply awesome. And tons of kayaking fun around sea caves and lagoons!
Within easy sailing distance, there is the duty-free island of Langkawi. Green, lush; less busy than Phuket but with some gorgeous resorts for a little decadent luxury. A little taste of the diverse Malaysian culture to add to your Thailand experience !