Phuket is surrounded by many beautiful islands and each one of them has something different to offer. Only minutes away from Phuket there are sandy beaches, secluded coves, rare birds and fauna with beautiful weather thrown in for free. Island hopping by speedboat is a way of taking all this beauty in.
We arrive in the east of Phuket at a stunning beach called Ao Yon. Pearl cultivation farms float out on the calm waters of the bay and king palms lean over the strand, lending shade and a stereotypical but nevertheless gorgeous tropical vista. A reception area is right on the beach and it’s not long before we’re clambering aboard a single-engine speedboat and skimming along due south. Koh Lone is to our right and the Big Buddha on top of Kata Hill is visible through the morning mists (‘Koh’ is Thai for ‘island’). Although we have chosen an itinerary we don’t actually have to keep to it and that’s the beauty of it all.
We sweep past Koh Aew and slow down for the approach to Coral Island. Ton, our guide, sprays and rinses off masks (we had been fitted for fins at Ao Yon) and hands them out. It’s not difficult to negotiate the steps down off the speedboat and soon we’re in the water, surrounded by the likes of sergeant majorfish, coral rock cod, barracuda, moon wrasse, different coloured parrot fish, moorish idols, rabbit fish and one giant puffer fish.
We are able to identify them from a coloured laminated information chart on board. This is Banana Beach and the coral here is particularly healthy. Some two hundred metres to the west is Coral Island Beach Resort where people are parasailing, banana boat riding and generally going in for all the thrills and spills of aquatic sports. Here, it’s all thrills.
After oohing and aahing at the sub-aquatic charms of Coral Island for a good 20 minutes we dry off and our captain revs the motor then we shoot off west toward Racha Island with us hanging onto the safety rails. This machine can move quicker than mud off a stick and when we hit the higher waves out to sea it’s a white-knuckle ride for the next 25 minutes.
We head down to the south of the island – to Ban Raya Resort – and drop anchor (‘Racha’ means ‘royal’ in Thai; Raya is southern Thai for Racha). The very definition of the colour turquoise is to be found in the waters here and if you don’t believe me go and see for yourself.
Ton remarks that he often visits this location and that on some days a pod of dolphins shows up to say hello but for the moment we’ve got more than enough fish to handle. There are thousands of them teeming below the surface and it’s quite a feeling to brush up against them and dive through the fishy masses. The sea off Koh Racha is as clear as glass and visibility, as divers say, is at maximum.
It’s also fresher here and when we eventually motor round the north coast, past Ao Thung to Siam Beach we wade ashore to take a little rest in the shade at the water’s edge. Vividly painted longtail boats are loading up to go out fishing and it’s quite a sight watching them struggling to get out to sea past the breaking tide with Phuket lying in the background haze.
Still, time waits for no man and the next stop is Pak Tok, further up the coast of Racha. One of the charms of island hopping is that if you don’t particularly like a location then you can simply head off to one that pleases you more and when we decide not to stay at Pak Tok (read about The Racha located on Pak Tok Bay) and head for Koh Kaew off the coast of Phuket, it comes as quite a surprise when one of the girls aboard lets out a scream – “Pla loma! Pla loma!”
The captain revs right down and there to our right is a pod of five dolphins gliding through the briny and looking as happy as… well, dolphins. Come to think of it, have you ever seen a dolphin looking unhappy? They eventually dive and as we don’t see them any more we set off to Koh Kaew.
‘Keeyao’ means ‘green’ in Thai and yes, Koh Keeyao is as green as a Welsh valley. This island lies just off the southwest coast of Phuket and is home to a Buddhist monastery housing fifteen monks. You can see it from Phrom Thep – Phuket’s most famous sunset-watching venue and from there it looks mysterious and alluring.
Close up, it’s just as mysterious and alluring but our captain decides that the tide is too low for us to go any closer so we head to Koh Bon.
Koh Bon is an island directly south of Phuket and when we arrive it’s deserted; just granite boulders, white sand, a view over the water to Rawai and us. Ton sets up a small table, bringing out baguettes, a tuna mix, salad, a plate of cold cuts, pasta and various extras and we tuck in for a sumptuous lunch.
After all this hopping we’re pretty tired so we take a break but pretty soon we’re on our way again to Koh Lone, the next island due east.
Motoring around Koh Lone is an interesting adventure as the island is only a stone’s throw away from busy Chalong Bay on the east of Phuket but it is largely uninhabited except for a small Muslim fisherman’s village on its northwestern side. It’s lined with exotic-looking beaches and fauna. Still, we’ve all had quite a bit of sun and we decide to motor back to Ao Yon.
It’s been a full day and we’ve seen a lot of fish and beautiful beaches; what’s more we’ve well and truly enjoyed ourselves. The whole beauty of the trip was its flexibility, the opportunity to do exactly what we wanted and when. Of course, our excellent English-speaking guides know the region like the backs of their hands and can offer sound advice as to where to go and what is the best time of year to do it. There are some 25 islands near Phuket to choose from and you can work out any number of exciting itineraries before setting out.
Island Hopping Programmes Available by Area
Routes: Phi Phi
- Island 1: Phi Phi Lei
• Viking Cave
• Pi Lei Lagoon
• Coral Seeker Cove
• Maya Bay
- Island 2: Phi Phi Don
• Hidden Lagoon
• Monkey Beach
• Loh Sama Bay
- Island 3: Bamboo Island
• Hin Klang Reef
- Island 4: Kai Nok Island (Optional)
Route: Phang Nga
- Island 1: Panak Island
- Island 2: Hong Island
- Island 3: James Bond Island
- Island 4: Mangrove Rivers & Grotto Cave
- Island 5: Sea Gypsy Village
- Island 6: Naka Island
- Island 7: Kai Nui Island
- Island 8: Kai Nok Island
This tour can include a 1 hr guided kayak tour through the caves and mangroves.
- Island 1: Koh Pang
- Island 2: Koh Phak Bia
- Island 3: Koh Ka
- Island 4: Koh Hong
- Island 5: Railey Beach
- Island 6: Phra Nang Beach
- Island 7: Poda Island
- Island 8: Chicken Island
- Island 9: Hin Mu Sang Nua
This is very much a sightseeing and swimming tour