Phang Nga Bay Tour from Phuket

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When in Phuket there’s so much to do on the water as well as at the beaches. While there are many islands less traveled you may visit, as a solo traveler I decided to put my fate in trusted hands and signed up for a tour to Phang Nga Bay by Two Sea Tour, the #1 Phuket boat and watersports tour according to TripAdvisor. I had heard rave reviews from a fellow hotel guest staying in Thanyapura, so I went for it without hesitation.

Phang Nga Bay Day Tour

I booked the day tour during the Phuket offseason from May to September; my preferred day had been a Tuesday but Two Sea Tour could only run the tour that day if the minimum number of guests was met. Meanwhile I had made a mistake on the booking form and had paid for a Wednesday trip — but that was my scheduled departure day! Anyway, a group of tourists booked on Tuesday, so Two Sea Tour graciously moved my reservation fee from the Wednesday to the Tuesday.

Very early in the morning, a shuttle van picked me up. Along with the other tour guests, we drove to Ao Por pier where our yellow boat stocked with lifejackets and kayaks was waiting.

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The shuttle van dropped us off and we took a ride on these converted trucks to the end of the pier. [flickr id=”24041746992″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
Ao Po Grand Marina houses most of Phuket’s yachts

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and we’re off!

If you’re flying into Phuket on a daytime flight, on the approach to the airport you may see some curiously-shaped islands next to the bridge that connects Phuket to mainland Thailand. These are the limestone islands of Phang Nga Bay. Our main guide and tour operator Philippe explained that these islands used to form part of a huge coral reef and were broken and pushed above water into their strange and fantastic shapes by tectonic plate movement and water erosion. Furthermore, during the last Ice Age the water levels were much lower and it was possible to walk from Phuket and Krabi.

He explained that Phang Nga Bay’s water was brackish and a murky emerald green because it combined both freshwater and silt from the mainland and salt water that filtered in during high tide from the sea beyond the bay. Most of Phang Nga Bay is part of a national park which also protects the mangroves and ecosystem within.

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the islands of Phang Nga Bay [flickr id=”24041672002″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
the limestone island shaped like a sleeping person [flickr id=”23781907459″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
this one looks like a sleeping camel to me [flickr id=”23852606800″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
sheer limestone rock faces [flickr id=”23522886843″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
tidal cave

Because Two Sea Tour starts its run so early in the day and does the tourist sights in reverse order, you’re never sharing the same space with another tour group. There are also no additional rental fees for kayaks, and plenty of snacks and a sumptuous midday lunch are already part of the package. I didn’t spend a dime after paying the balance of the tour fee, and I wasn’t interested in any souvenirs afterward because, as Philippe jokingly noted, the plastic trinkets were all made in China anyway.

The main agenda was a tour of the strange rock formations in the island group, as well as the famous James Bond Island that featured in the Bond movies Man with the Golden Gun and Tomorrow Never Dies. Most of these islands have networks of caves inside them; some are accessible only if the tide is right.

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Look! A shark/piranha/fish face! [flickr id=”24149107025″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
creepy stalactite ghost

The kayaks were put to good use over the course of the day: while the big yellow boat docked, we launched kayaks with our local guides who paddled for us into the caves and tunnels. The larger islands had collapsed caves that opened to the sky above.

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our awesome boat! [flickr id=”23521418954″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
Here we go

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inside a lagoon created by a collapsed cavern

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Mangroves grow inside the lagoons from mangrove seeds that travel on the currents. They provide habitation for fish as well as fowl and are buffer zones against tidal surges on coastal areas.

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My local guide let me take the paddle inside some of these lagoons and took some great photos. I was thankful I had some practice paddling that year due to some stand-up paddleboarding in Boracay. At the very least, I wouldn’t inadvertently sail off where they couldn’t come get me.

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no lifejacket because, um, I can swim? [flickr id=”24123120956″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
getting some sun [flickr id=”23522301783″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
sun breaking through one of the smaller caves [flickr id=”24066448511″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
emerging from the caves [flickr id=”24123277806″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
a stationary kayak rental outpost [flickr id=”24149242675″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
a private tour boat out on the water

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If you look hard enough, that little rock jutting out on top looks like Scooby Doo. [flickr id=”24041062262″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
our little tour group [flickr id=”24066466561″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
speedboats on the horizon [flickr id=”23852401510″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
amazing and peaceful panorama

Our penultimate stop was at James Bond Island (local name: Ko Tapu, literally “nail island”). It’s actually quite small and you can’t really go to the island. Instead, you view it from 40 meters away on the island of Ko Khao Phing Kan, which is so named because two limestone cliffs have fallen inwards and lean against each other.

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a longtail boat docked at Khao Phing Kan [flickr id=”24122769696″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
little Ko Tapu [flickr id=”23853178090″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
Khao Phing Kan, the “hills leaning against each other”

There’s really not much else to do but take funny photos, pretty much like what you would do at, say, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Here were some of the poses my guide came up with:

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the dramatic “looking off into the distance” pose [flickr id=”23853207710″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”center”]
they had a golden gun to pose with, but not my style hehehe

We were done with most of the tour before lunch, which was served on the boat while we were heading to our last stop. We had noodles, chicken, vegetables, and rice. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I dug into my plate — and it was gooooooood.

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Our last stop on the way back to Ao Por Pier was a little beach where we could swim, kayak, lie in the sun, and eat watermelon (which was the sweetest I’d tasted). It was a great way to cap a visit to the fantastic islands of Phang Nga Bay.

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chilling like a Bond girl… maybe should have worn my white bikini

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I was back in Phuket by mid-afternoon, so there was still plenty of daylight to relax by a beach and watch my last sunset before I would leave for Manila the next day. I would definitely recommend a tour of Phang Nga Bay (but most especially the tour run by Two Sea Tour) to anyone traveling in Phuket.

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