4 Destinations You Can’t Miss on Your Island Hopping Trip around Thailand
N o one can resist the lure of the sea and its turquoise, crystalline waters lapping gentle waves onto beautiful beaches as white as snow. The Andaman Sea is home to many such islands waiting to be explored. The islands lining Thailand’s tail can be called the Maldives of Southeast Asia with untouched corals and the occasional visit of shark colonies and many fish varieties during the summer, making it a popular diving site.
# Tachai Island
The best time to visit this island is during the months of February through to April, where after that the island is closed for six months for the environment to regenerate itself.
Go for: its fine sand as soft as snow that stretches over a 700m long beach and to see the poo-gai (tiny, red freshwater crabs with dark blue-tipped claws that presumably mimic the crows of a chicken, hence the name the locals have given it). Also makes a great snorkelling place.
How to get there: situated north of the Similan Islands, off the coast of Phang-Nga, Tachai Island is only available for one-day trips so rent a speedboat out from the Similan Islands.
With a name meaning ‘nine islands’, Similan is surprisingly comprised of nine separate islands in a strip, not very different to Italy’s Cinque Terre. Koh Miang is the largest of them all covering 32 acres and was declared a National Park in 1982. Visit after Thailand’s rainy season between November to April.
Go for: the most preserved coral reef in the country which lies in a horseshoe shaped bay with an average water depth of 60 feet. Climb up to the natural lookout point atop a rock in the shape of a ship. The largest island has the best dive sites, where schools of Hammerhead sharks and Manta rays sometimes pass by.
How to get there: easiest way is to rent a yacht out for a couple of days from Phang-Nga or stay in a bungalow (there are also restaurants) at Mu Koh Similan National Park and take daily trips out via speedboats to explore natural grottos and beaches.
Hop over to the other side of Phang-Nga and cross the Gulf of Thailand, pass Phi Phi Islands (you can make a stop, if you wish — no discouragement there) and you’ll reach Railay Beach in Krabi. The beaches are less nicer here, but you’ll find rocky mountains and luscious green forestry which makes it one of the most popular sites for rock climbing. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced free climber, you’ll find various routes hidden among this natural scenery.
Go for: Rock climbing, kayaking, touring around on a wooden long-tail boat are what Railay offers, as its been open to visitors and tourists for a longer time than the Similan islands. Trek into the jungle and swim in one of the natural secret lagoons or jump on one of the locals’ handmade bamboo rafts and drift around the beach.
How to get there: Fly to Phuket Airport, and cab it to Krabi or Ao Nang (takes about two hours from Phuket airport), or take a train from Bangkok to Surat Thani followed by a bus to Krabi. From there, take a long-tail boat to Railay, which costs about 60 baht and comes every hour.
Pronounced ‘lee-pay’, this island has recently fallen on the list of things to do in Thailand a couple of years ago due to its crystal clear waters and many little islands to explore. A part of the Archipelago at the southernmost province of Thailand, Satun, the surrounding waters are calm which is ideal for snorkelling. Camp out in bungalows and visit its three main beaches: Sunset, Sunrise and Pattaya (whoever gave the paradise-like beach that name has a completely different view of Pattaya to mine).
Go for: Snorkelling and diving, as the corals here again are fairly untouched by humans. Or take a boat out on a fishing trip at night with a local. Lipe is surrounded by other small islands from Tarutao National Park to Ko Rawi and Ko Adang.
How to get there: Ferries leave from Trang, Satun, Phi Phi Islands and even Phuket, where Pak Bara is the main port to reach Lipe via speedboat. Koh Lipe has no pier and it costs 50 baht to reach the island by a long-tail boat driven by a local. Don’t worry, Lipe may look small but there is accommodation on the island itself.
Visiting the Andaman Sea Islands is easy, cheap and comfortable so there is no excuse whatsoever not to go there at least once in your life. It’s even easier if you have a yacht — refuel at a Marina yacht club in Phuket and you’re good to go. There are such things as Paradise on Earth.