ISLAND-HOPPING IN A LONG TAIL
PHANG NGA, the bay that surrounds Ko Yao Noi, is simply sublime, a seascape of rocky islands emerging from the Andaman Sea and breaking the horizon in the most spectacular way imaginable. The jungly karsts are the backdrop to a brilliant boat trip, which chugs around four or five of the islands in the closest group, the PA KO ARCHIPELAGO, stopping for you to swim and snorkel amongst the colourful fish that dart along their craggy coastlines.
It’s easiest to arrange the trip around Phang Nga through your hotel on Ko Yao Noi [around ฿2000, ฿500 under-12s, under-5s free, includes snorkelling gear, drinks and snacks]. Look beyond the early start (around 7.30am, to avoid the crowds) and focus instead on the image of your long-tail boat skipping over the waves on its way to KO HONG. This first stop is probably the best of the bunch, as you get to explore both the hong, or lagoon, that gives the island its name and its beautiful white-sand beach. The lagoon feels like a secret world, hidden behind sheer cliffs and sheltering a calm, green sea, where you can snorkel around the roots of mangrove trees and spot fruit bats in the branches above. Ko Hong’s stretch of sugar-soft sand, further around the island, is picture perfect, but you’ll spend most of the time in the water as the reef here is teaming with angelfish, bigeye trevally and parrot fish amongst many others – Phang Nga Bay is one of Thailand’s largest marine reserves.
After Ko Hong, your boat will make a stop at KO PAK BIA, an island with an attractive little beach that you can swim off two sides. There’s more swimming and snorkelling at KO LADING, but as this island can get very busy you may make a stop at KO KA instead, for good snorkelling above a reef. On the way back to Ko Yao Noi, you’ll pull up onto the beach at KO NOK; you can swim on the southern side of the tiny spit of sand here (there are strong currents on the northern side), admiring the views of Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai, its bigger sibling, or you can make the hard-going twenty-minute climb up “The Cliff” for an incredible panorama. You’ll be back on Ko Yao Noi by lunchtime, ready to spend the rest of the day on the beach. Or by the pool. Or both.
TOP TIP It’s worth knowing that most boat tours of Phang Nga Bay from Ko Yao Noi don’t visit the most famous island in the bay, KO TA PU (aka James Bond Island, after its starring role in The Man with the Golden Gun – it was Scaramanga’s hideout). As the most famous island in the bay, Ko Ta Pu gets way too crowded for its own good.
WHERE TO STAY
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From jungle treehouses to floating bungalows – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Thailand
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Thailand’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around
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