Koh Phi Phi: one of the best known destinations in Thailand. The name alone conjures up images of pristine beaches, coral reefs, paradise spots, you name it.
The aim of the speedboat trip was to see for myself the natural beauties this Krabi archipelago reserves. I was in the professional hands of one of the best tour operators in the area: Phi Phi Tour, a company that has gained popularity in the past few years and now stands out from rest. At eight in the morning we met the tour supervisor in their office. The tour guide was a friendly Thai man fluent in English. He gave instructions to his staff, and at 8.30 the anchor was drawn, the engine started; we were on our way to the magic of Phi Phi.
It was an exceptionally clear day; the sea was calm, the sun was warming the air. Koh Phi Phi’s mountainous shape could be clearly seen in the distance. The boat jumped on the gentle waves of the open sea while the shape of Phi Phi Don, the largest of the Phi Phi archipelago, approached. We passed Phi Phi Don’s Laem Tong cape and navigated along the westward side of the archipelago; the captain sailed near the island to give us a perfect view of the magnificent colors of the cliffs entirely covered by thick tropical vegetation. On the Phi Phi Don bay, sailboats and longtail boats were anchored and swimmers enjoyed the clear waters; a line of palm trees dotted the coast and dominated the horizon, providing shade and a natural hiding cover to the hotels present on the island.
Our first stop of the day, an hour from Ao Nang, was in Maya Bay, in Phi Phi Ley, the location of the filming of “The Beach”. We were well ahead of the crowds and were left on a marvelous sandy beach where we sunbathed, swam and explored the bay. The scenery was stunning. A couple of paths take to the inside of the island, where thick and lush vegetation soon blocks the way to the hills. We stood on the sand, looking at the cliffs’ vegetation that was reflected in the water and created a varied palette of greens and aquamarine blues. A look at the sky above rewarded us with the sight of a big eagle regally flying in circles before disappearing behind the top of a mountain.
We left when the bay started to get overcrowded with numerous speedboats and huge tourist boats; we passed the southern tip of the archipelago and stopped for snorkeling near Ao Loh Samah bay. We were provided with quality masks and snorkels, lifejackets for those who needed them, and we were given a generous 30 minutes to swim around the area while the boat crew fed the fish with loaves of bread. The water was warm and transparent, 10 to 20 meters deep; fish abounded in quantity and variety and the time allowed to us passed in an instant. We saw lionfish, orange and white clown anemone fish, parrotfish the colors of the rainbow, lovely moon-shaped black and yellow striped banner fish, and many different species of giant clams that hided inside their huge shells as soon as we approached them.
Those were just a few of the more than 500 species of fish that are strongly dependent on coral reefs in the Andaman Sea, notably using the corals as physical habitat and shelter sites, and also by taking both corals and coral reef associated food resources.
The following stop, a few minutes away, was in Ao Phi Ley lagoon, a bay enclosed on its near entirety by the high limestone walls of the island’s cliffs that make it appear to be an inland lake. We did some snorkeling there too; before leaving the driver circumnavigated the inside of the bay, getting near the thin and high fissures on the surrounding rock, their walls covered by impenetrable jungle. On some tree branches, giant bats rested hanging upside down, their black shapes barely visible amongst the millions of dark green leaves.
Sightseeing outside Viking Cave, in the northeast side of Koh Phi Phi Ley, is limited as tourists are not allowed to disembark there. This large cave is considered sacred by locals who collect swallow birds’ nests climbing tall bamboo ladders that find their way up the high entrails of the cave. Inside Viking Cave are ancient pictorials of elephants and various types of boats originating from other parts of the world. These are believed to be the work of sea merchants or pirates as the area might have been a stopover in the ancient sea routes for boats seeking shelter from storms.
The next activity was another snorkeling stop in Ladin bay, where the shallow waters allow a clear view of an exceptional variety of corals. Coral reefs are made up of different types of corals that are made of calcium and are produced by a small organism that can only survive in tropical waters. There we could observe cauliflower corals, brown or yellow staghorn corals, mushroom corals, bush corals, brain corals, table corals, entire expanses of sea anemones and a huge colony of sea urchins, their single orange eye observing us from below, their thorns threatening anyone who accidentally placed a bare foot onto them.
It was midday and all the physical activity had opened up our bellies. The speedboat docked in the Loh Dalam Bay of Phi Phi Don. The set menu was a treat for all of us and a distinction from other tour companies that usually feed customers in more commercial establishments.
The Phi Phi Tour crew returned on board to get everything organized while we drank our coffee in the restaurant. It was soon time for our speedboat to depart again towards the last snorkeling stop. Hin Klang is a location so full of corals and fish that in a way crowned the whole marine sightseeing of the day. After snorkeling we were rewarded with an excellent surprise: a group of dolphins was swimming around our boat, their fins emerging form the water from time to time. The driver did not waste time and quickly put into practice his skills, pushing the speedboat in motions at medium speed following rotation patterns and loops. The dolphins, attracted by the waves the boat was creating, followed them, jumping out of the sea in their entirety. Their massive body flipped in the air like feathers, pushed by their enormous strength. We continued this game for a few minutes, with other dolphins joining the initial group, until we could clearly see the huge shapes of many of them underwater, swimming very near to our boat and even under it. It was an exciting experience that left all of us speechless while our cameras tried to get some good shots of the special event.
It was with this good memory in mind that we disembarked in the last stop of the day, Koh Phai, or Bamboo Island. Koh Phai, not far from neighboring Koh Yung, has marvelous sandy beaches and an impressive bank of coral reefs that stretches from the north to the south of the island, the perfect place for relaxing, walking along white crystalline sand and taking the last swim of the tour. Koh Phai is considered by many to be the most beautiful and perfect island of Krabi.
The day was still glorious and our tour was heading to an end. The cruising to Ao Nang was smooth and pleasant; in the proximity of Chicken Island we could spot dark clouds forming inland from the coast. During the last minutes of our journey the speedboat had to negotiate some strong waves that were gradually growing in size; the sun disappeared, the gentle breeze became a strong and cold wind. The very moment we descended from the boat in Ao Nang beach the heavens opened and thick rain started to hit the ground. We thanked the ever so helpful guide and the crew and made our way home.
You might argue that, with 18 kilometers of coral reefs surrounding the Phi Phi archipelago, and the amazing spots that allow wonderful snorkeling in shallow and deep waters, with snorkeling allegedly being better than scuba diving for fish viewing, having fun on a day boat trip to Phi Phi should be guaranteed on any tour. While this can be truth, I must spend a word to congratulate Phi Phi Tour and their staff for guaranteeing everything was well organized and ran by the book. The dedication of the crew ensured we had a pleasant and worry-free day at sea, as we felt in the hands of professionals and could really enjoy this experience.
All Phi Phi Tour boat tours include round trip transfer from/to your hotel, drinking water, seasonal fruit and a local cake, life jacket, mask and snorkel. Last point to note is that both the guide and the crew confirmed that the dolphins were just part of our luck. It had never happened before on one of their tours to Koh Phi Phi; it was an unusual event, so don’t expect it on your tour, but you might be lucky enough…
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[wptabtitle] Map[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent][map id=”1219″][/wptabcontent]
[wptabtitle] Itinerary[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
Only 45 minute boat trip is needed to reach the archipelago of Phi Phi Island. We will stop on Bamboo Island and on Maya Bay where the world famous Di Caprio movie was shot. Lunch served at a restaurant. Mask and snorkel are available.
07:45 to 08:00 Departure from your hotel by minibus and transfer to the embarkation point. The exact time depends on the area your hotel is located and will be communicated at the time of booking.
08:30 Departure by speedboat towards Phi Phi Island.
• Stop at Bamboo Island. Free time on the beach, where you can bathe and will have the chance to do some snorkeling.
• Stop at Hin Klang, a rock in the open sea where you can do snorkeling directly from the boat.
• Step at Pi Leh Bay to admire this beautiful fjord.
• Stop at the Lohsamah Bay where you can do snorkeling directly from the boat.
• Stop at world-famous Maya Bay, where the movie “The Beach” was filmed.
• Stop at Monkey Beach to relax on the sand and to play with the monkeys that regularly come down from the rocks above.
• Stop for lunch at a restaurant on the beach.
The package includes:
Transfer to and from your hotel, mask and snorkel, life jacket, water, fruit and dessert on board, lunch at a restaurant, English speaking guide, entrance fees in National Parks.
What to bring:
Sunscreen, swimsuit, beach shoes, beach towel, camera
• tips are not included
• the program may change due to weather conditions
[wptabtitle] Booking[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]For more inquiries or for booking, contact asianitinerary.com through the “contact us” page [/wptabcontent]