Our original island hopping itinerary included the famous Koh Khai islands; an itinerary which was quickly dropped following advice of the resort and their apt description of “more Chinese ass underwater than fish”. Instead we join a less travelled itinerary booking a 5 hour private long-tail boat tour of the Phang-Nga area including some of the nearer islands of Krabi. We pay 2,800 Baht through our hotel and while shopping round would have been the savvy option; we honestly find few tourist options on Koh Yao Yai. They are few and far between. Snorkelling equipment is included on our tour but we make little (no) use of it. While the Phang-Nga area is rich in marine life, the visibility underwater isn’t great due to the limestone karats surrounding the waters. That being said the Phan-Nga area is still perfect for the first time snorkellers with easy walks to coral and with marine life right up to the beaches. On our island hopping tour we find a unique and diverse range of destinations; not just being rushed from one tourist beach to to the next. We start at 11.30am which is later than most but it does miss the early morning tourist rush.
Koh Phak Bia
After a quick stop at a cliff cave (above right) we arrive to our first island destination at Koh Phak Bia which out of all island hopping destinations may just have been the most beautiful. At Koh Phak Bia you will find two islands split by a thin and shallow stretch of water and the surrounding cliffs and leafy karats are loud with wildlife, insects, lizards and birds (eagles). Koh Phak Bai was not far from paradise but was let down by rough and stony sands and a tree line of tourists… and speedos.
As we pull between towering limestone karats it is hard to not be wowed by the white sands and coconut palms of Koh Lading. No doubt this picturesque, beachy alcove is close to perfect and while it does appear somewhat hidden from surroundings it is in no way hidden from tourists. There are lots of them and out of our island hopping destinations Koh Lading is the most lively of them. On the back of the beach you will find a small hut bar for refreshments (80 Baht for a small beer) and hanging rope swings to play with. A quick walk to waist-height in the sea finds hundreds of coral fish and other marine life. Koh Lading is perfect for snorkelling but again there’s a whole ‘lot of ass’.
Steering between another tight cliff gap we find a hidden “room” of shallow waters known as Koh Hong or ‘Room Island’ with all four sides are boxed in by towering walls. Shallow seas means our boat fails to go far inside and we jump out next to some local guy collecting objects from the seafloor, “What are they?”, he slaps a starfish in Fanfan’s hand. I have no idea why he’s collecting starfish but I’m certain it was for no good. I frisby the starfish back to safety with the other hundreds which lie on the bed of Koh Hong. Walking around is easy here as the waters are hot and the seafloor is soft and sandy. Walking to each perimeter finds empty beaches lined with noisy birds and wildlife. Koh was was no doubt another unique island experience.
Koh Bi-Leah (National park)
The tourist entrance fee to this National Park is 200 Baht (locals 60 Baht) and at first glance Koh Bi-Leah doesn’t offer much more than what we had already covered. I give it a miss to kick back on the boat while Fanfan explores alone. Fanfan’s verdict: while nothing is new, everything is better. Sands are softer and coral fish swim happily to your feet. For those new to islands it is definitely worth paying the extra and out of all destinations the snorkelling will more than likely be better here.
We spend no more than 3 minutes on Koh Nok. We jump from the boat, paddle through the stony sands and waters, take in the nice but mediocre views then climb back into the boat. While Koh Nok is a beautiful island it offers nothing more to the island hopping tour. However it maybe worth visiting by Kayak if staying on nearby Koh Yao Noi which many do; otherwise if renting a long-tail boat for the day, there is so much better to explore in the area. We arrive to Koh Nok on our return journey (16.30) when a private barbecue was being set up for one of the high-end hotels in the area.