Island-Hopping Sailing Cruise near Phuket

Phi Phi Sailing Cruise Logbook

An island-hopping sailing cruise from Phuket is practically a dream come true. Our four-day trip aboard catamaran Cataleya departs from Chalong bay in Phuket to take us to the following destinations: Koh Racha Yai, Koh Racha Noi, Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Leh, and Koh Maiton. An overnight join-in cruise is a very special and cosmopolitan experience: we are nine people (passengers and crew) with six different nationalities onboard! Cataleya can comfortably accommodate up to 14 guests, and there’s no ‘crowded’ feeling whatsoever onboard.

Different types of cabins are available: from en-suite queen-size bed cabins to more Spartan-like and narrow bunk-bed cabins, they all have the comfort and well-being of passengers as their top priority. The open-air dining area consists of two large tables and leather-like sofas – all under a roof. It is the place to be while hopping from one island to the other, and we spend time reading, chatting, playing guitar or cards, and fishing – all great ways to socialize.

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Cataleya offers three different join-in sailing cruises from Phuket in south Thailand: a Phang Nga Bay cruise, Koh Lanta/Koh Rok cruise, and a Phi Phi Islands cruise; we’re on the latter. Our itinerary takes us first for lunch in ‘Home-Run Bay’ at Koh Racha Yai. This bay gets this name from Phuket diving companies that hold their last dive here before getting back to Phuket during their Racha Islands’ day trips. The place is great for snorkelling and diving and is about two hours south of Chalong Bay.

After lunch, we sail for Koh Racha Noi’s southern end where we’re to spend the night. The bay is splendid and we moor some 50m from a charming small white-sand beach. Koh Racha Noi is uninhabited, and there’s no other boat around: what a feeling of freedom! We swim, snorkel and visit the beach before getting back onboard for dinner. A fresh tuna sashimi is our starter; it had been caught along the way by one of our trolling lines.

Khun Joy, Cataleya‘s cook, is extremely talented in the galley: during our four days on board, we don’t eat the same dish twice and the seafood, fish, meat, vegetables, and indeed everything is prepared with panache; it’s almost a Thai culinary cruise! After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast (with crepes no less!) we go for the longest sailing part of the cruise: it takes a leisurely five hours to reach the Phi Phi Islands from Koh Racha Noi. Again, time is spent chatting and learning new words in the different languages spoken onboard: Dutch, Japanese, German, French, English, and Thai. We reach Tonsai Bay at about 16:00 and anchor not too far from the island’s main jetty.

After the tranquility of Racha Noi, Koh Phi Phi Don is another world! The buzzing village filled with restaurants, bars and shops offers other types of entertainment; we walk around Tonsai Village, enjoying this abrupt return to civilization. But after a few drinks and a bit of shopping, we head back to the tranquility of our vessel for dinner. Afterwards, as no one wants to go and party onshore, we enjoy the relaxing gentle rocking motion of the catamaran in the bay’s waters before going to sleep.

Most of the passengers are still in Morpheus’ arms when Cataleya departs very early for an outstanding breakfast at Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi Leh. The morning’s rainfall does not alter our mood as the fact of being alone in this magnificent bay – which became famous by being part of the movie ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DiCaprio – is really something unique; our captain knows very well that after 10:00, the bay will be crowded with dozens of long-tail and other types of boats: the perverse and reverse side of success… After breakfast we sail along the superb east coast of Koh Phi Phi Leh, which has beautiful snorkelling areas – Loh Sama and Pi Leh Bays – as well as a large grotto – the Viking Cave – in which locals harvest birds’ nests for the expensive soup.

We hop over to Koh Phi Phi Don again and carry on following its east coast, which is still pretty wild and occupied only by a few resorts. We spot two dolphins when we reach Phi Phi’s northern end, they cross our way, heading south, while we take a north-west route, on the way to our last stop at Maiton Island.

Koh Maiton is something of a mysterious island near Phuket: for years it was occupied by a single hotel hosting mostly Japanese visitors. Then the entire island was sold to a Thai citizen who closed the resort and left the island uninhabited apart from a guard who makes sure that no one comes ashore but the good side of this is that the coral reefs around the island are in a superb state. We moor in a bay at the southern end. Again, we are alone here, and the snorkelling is some of the best near Phuket: hundreds of fish with at least a dozen coral species, the underwater landscape here is amazing. We leave this special place in the morning and arrive back to Chalong Bay after breakfast.

Summing up, this sailing trip has been a fabulous experience: our captain and crew are real professionals who enjoy sharing their knowledge with their guests and help them discover the best places at the best times. Four days at sea is certainly the best way to take a break from the stress of life, as the pace of the catamaran lends opportunities to recharge and put things in perspective while idly watching the horizon. Good times, good food, and new places to discover – a great recipe for a memorable vacation.

Cruise Itinerary Map

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