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Fancy an eight-day sail around the hongs, caves and islands in Thailand but don’t know where to start planning? We’ve got the lowdown for you with tips and advice, our suggested itinerary, yacht details and how to enjoy the view without the tourist hoards getting in the way!
DAY 1 – Phuket and provisions
We collected our yacht, a Catana 43 Catamaran, from Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket.
One of the first things you need to think about is provisions. If you are just passing through, there’s a small café and a couple of restaurants within 10 minutes walk. You’ll need to stock up, so our top tip is to consider completing a provisioning order prior to your charter, or allow enough time to shop at to the nearest supermarket, which is just t 15-20 minutes away by taxi.
Planning your supplies is vital as, depending on your itinerary, there might not be anywhere to re-provisioning for a few days. As a guide, we didn’t see another shop for three days but, fortunately, we had enough beer and local rum to survive!
For the first night we stayed in the marina as some of our crew were arriving late, but we could have easily sailed out to an anchorage if we’d left by about 4pm at the latest.
DAY 2 – Phuket to Ko Phanak and Koh Hong
We left the marina around midday to head to to Ko Phanak . At this time of day, there is usually very little wind , which is a feature of the afternoons in Thailand. Keep in mind that during the nights and mornings, the winds are good, but if you sail around lunchtime, you’ll need to turn the engine on.
We arrived at Ko Phanak and had lunch at anchor before heading by dinghy to a popular nearby attraction – a series of fascinating, 50-metre tunnels and sea caves, or “Hongs”. If you want to explore the tunnels, our top tip is to take a torch. Also, those with a bat phobia,might want to sit this one out! The area is a popular spot, so there are day trippers being ferried in and out on kayaks. If you fancy a paddle, this is great place to hire a kayak.. We were warned against feeding monkeys on the island, but we didn’t manage to spot any, let alone feed them.
In the evening we headed from Ko Phanak to Koh Hong to anchor overnight. As soon as we dropped anchor for the night, we promptly got the BBQ started for dinner. The entrance to Koh Hong has the appearance of a sea cave until you get to the other side where you’ll discover a high cliff on all sides and open to the sea. As s you go further, Koh Hong opens up to a beautiful, secluded lagoon. This is a great spot for a selfie!! We were one of just two charter yachts at anchor, so it feels like a special and quiet place.
Day 3 – James Bond Island to Koh Roi
First stop was James Bond Island, which we knew was quite a tourist trap, but we wanted to tick it off our list, so a fly-by was in order. While the limestone tower karsts, made famous by the James Bond films, are a marvel, part of the spectacle is the sheer number of day trippers crammed in the area! We had paid 400 bhat per person in Koh Hong for the national park fee, which also covered us visiting the island. Our onboard water tanks were still pretty full for this leg but we were unable to use the watermaker until we got further South in the Andaman region with deeper waters. The skipper advised that it would destroy the filter in about 20 minutes and still only come through as sludge.
After the island we headed to Koh Roi for lunch Here you can see another Hong and a mangrove-style river meandering into the island through low hanging trees with a backdrop of stunning hills and cliffs teeming with wildlife. Just around the corner, we found a little sandy beach which was perfect to explore and enjoy a swim from.
After our bathe we pushed on to Ko Phak Bia for the evening. At anchor we had company for the evening by the way of a Super Yacht called Flying Fox, a thing of wonder and complete with a shadow yacht carrying a helicopter and submarine. The beach spit is stunning with islands to both sides. Our top tip is it’s important to arrive at the right time as you will be stranded at low tide if you came ashore by dinghy. We swam ashore but after we’d run out of beers (and sunset), we had to navigate 20 meters of rocks before swimming back to the yacht. Also, definitely invest in a waterproof bag as there are many spots like this to enjoy, as well as going ashore the more built-up islands.
Day 4 – Ko Phak Bia to Rai Le Beach, Krabi
We were planning to stop at Ko Dam Hok, but the wind picked up and we promptly got the sails up and changed our plan to go straight to Krabi. Rai Le Beach is a great anchorage and beach just outside of Krabi. We took one of the many longtails, traditional Thai boats, into Krabi centre to have a look around (about 30 minutes each way). Our tip is to barter the fee to around 1250 baht each way, as we found guides were not all up to date on prices to expect.
Krabi has lots of markets, tourist shops and a bustling town, great for re-provisioning but it didn’t take long for us to pine for our calm anchorage to get away from the traffic and noise! The beach is great in the day, but for eating out in the evening it is worth avoiding the tourist-laden beach front restaurants. Instead, take a back path to the east and you will find a long street of bars, street food, music and thai massage offers.
We asked the longtail to take us back to the boat rather than the beach, which was maybe a brave ask as the young driver struggled not to crash into our yacht. The skipper managed to get some fenders out quickly to avoid any damage, but we did drop about 20 beer cans into the sea which we promptly all dived in to rescue…let’s focus on the important things first!
If you fancy stopping here for a couple of days you will have plenty to do – the Railay area is popular for rock climbing. There are many shops if you go north to the next bay rather than going into Krabi main town. There is also a temple inland (about a 20-min taxi ride) with 1300 steps up to the entrance. It’s a cultural must-see.
Day 5 – Krabi to Phi Phi Don
After a three-hour sail south we had to run the engine for the watermaker, even we were in clearer waters as we were running low. We headed to a bay north west of Phi Phi, called Lanah Bay, for lunch and snorkelling. This is a great place for exploring coral and watching fish, encouraged by excited day trippers throwing bread into the water. We found better snorkelling spots later in the trip with fewer day trippers so this stop off can be skipped.
We sailed onto Loh Dalum Beach in Yongkasem Bay, which sits to the north of the main party town of Phi Phi. We anchored well off the beach and took the dinghy ashore. It is a buzzing town with lots of bars, restaurants and massage parlours. There’s plenty to see in the day and the sunset (or sunrise) is breathtaking. But the town really comes to life at night with eight or nine beach bars with competing dance music, free shots for skipping rope challenges and limboing under a fiery bar… even more free drinks if you do it topless! You get the picture, but it’s also a very friendly atmosphere.
Day 6 – Phi Phi Don to Phi Phi Le
We had a lazy day in Phi Phi Don, a great lunch at Papaya, browsed the numerous streets and did the tourist trail. You could definitely spend a couple of days here if your schedule allowed. We then set sail for Phi Phi Le, and specifically Maya Bay, made famous by the film The Beach.
There’s a couple of good stops for snorkelling on the east side of the island (relatively tourist-free later on in the day) at Viking Cave and Hong Pileh. Arriving in Maya Bay, we found lots of day trippers crowding the beach, but we dropped anchor and only had to wait about an hour before they all left. We then had the amazing sunset, beach, bay and sunrise to ourselves. It was a perfect spot and there was only one other charter yacht there. Be aware that a warden patrols the beach until about 6pm, so we waited to go ashore for free exploring time. There is a reason it is so popular and was used in the film, it is a stunning spot and a must-see on your itinerary.
Day 7 – Phi Phi Le to Koh Yao Yai
For our last night on the yacht, we anchored off Yao Yai resort and beach on the west of the island. There is an exclusive resort one end of the beach and the rest of the beach has a couple of authentic restaurants, as well as the opportunity for a massage on the beach,which we duly took advantage of as the sun dipped on the horizon.
Day 8 – Koh Yao Yai to Yacht Haven Marina
It is always sad when you have to leave your yacht and start thinking about heading home! Our final sail was straightforward and we refueled and docked. The base staff were very helpful and we were soon in a taxi heading for the hotel for one last night in Thailand. If you can spare a few extra days to stay on land or do some diving excursions, it is well worth it. Hotels are very well priced, whether you are looking for a cheap stay or a 5* luxury. We only had one night, so we opted for the latter!
Yacht review: Catana 43
Pros: Dagger boards are great to have, 4 cabins and 4 heads to suit a group wanting this layout. Watermaker is invaluable when away from marinas. The Catana 43 is designed with sailing performance as a priority, and this can mean some compromises made elsewhere.
Cons: Helm positions are exposed to the elements, heads are quite small, and steps from cockpit to saloon could be a trip hazard. In short, no deal breakers for chartering, but maybe a factor if you were looking to buy one.
As a general rule local guides run tourist activities ferrying out to islands, hongs, famous beaches, caves and other attractions until about 5pm and then head back before dark. So if your perfect spot is overtaken with day trippers, just wait a little while as they will leave and you can enjoy yourself.
If we’ve got you exciting about Thailand, talk to our experienced team on 01227 479 900 or click HERE to find charters and the very best deals.