For Steve's birthday we hired a 25' speedboat for the day. We decided to re-do the islands in Phang Nga Bay which was really good, because when we did it ourselves on our boat, we had no guides to give us additional information.
We engaged Phuket Master Team Co. as they had the best boat we inspected. It included 'outside' seating as well as sheltered seating whereas a couple of others just had uncovered seating. Too much sun for a whole day.
These guys ended up being about 7,000 baht cheaper too, which was a great bonus. Our day-trip (10.00am-6.30pm) cost only 15,000 baht. We had 6 people, but there was room for many more.
Instead of the usual 'cowboy' Thai speedboat driver I was dreading, our driver Thar was an excellent boatsman. He manoevered the boat incredibly well through the hongs (caves) in Phang Nga. He let us cruise at an appropriate speed instead of banging our way through the water. I was VERY impressed with him and his mate.
These guys also run day tour excursions to Phi Phi and Khai Islands at; adults 2,800 baht and children 1,400 baht including cool drinks, fruit, lunch, National Park admission fees, transfers and snorkelling gear. I have included an itinerary on my tips for any who are interested.
We have been on Sea Canoe Tours 3 times on previous trips with various companies (which we thoroughly enjoyed) but this was our first time with John Gray Tours and there was definately that little something extra on the John Gray Starlight Tour.
The tour cost 3,250 per person and pickup was about 12.30pm. Lunch as well as a seafood dinner is included in this tour.
First thing we noticed that was different is that there is a lot of emphasis on safety, we were impressed with this.
Both meals supplied were very good, with lots of choices.
At the end of the tour the Lead Guide after thanking everyone etc didn’t ask the passengers to make sure they tip their guides well. (This has happened every time we went with other companies) Of course we did tip our guide, but it was nice not being told to.
The guides are very environment friendly, picking up any rubbish they see in the Hongs. Was surprising the amount of plastic bags they picked up.
Of course the making of Kratongs?? with our guides then going into the caves at night was very special.
Though I still don’t enjoy the extremely tight squeeze we had to get through for one of the caves, actually I hate that part, it seems to take so long, and slowly slowly you are inching forward thru what seems like a hole of a few inches then whoosh you’re propelled thru with a burst. I always say I’m not doing it if it’s like that again but I do.
There is only ever a maximum of up to 24 people on this tour, all the guides are highly trained in cave-kayaking, natural history, lifesaving, first aid/CPR and they can all swim and are trained lifeguards.
It’s a great tour with some spectacular scenery and well worth every cent. We absolutely recommend doing the John Gray Starlight Tour.
Lots More Photos
Like I've said, the sea-canoe tour offers you views of those stalagtites (stones that grow from the ceiling in limestone caves...stalagmites are those that grow from the ground)... the Geography buffs would love this tour!
We signed up for a day-trip to Phang Nga Bay through a tour operator (CCSP Company). Our hotel helped us to book and confirm the trip. We paid 1300 baht per person. This package includes hotel transfers, tours to Phang Nga, sea canoe tour, lunch at Koh Panyee and an ox cart ride. After being picked up from our hotel by a minibus, we were later transferred to a bigger coach, and reached Phang Nga Province in about 1.5 hours.
The first stop was cruising in the Bay on a longtail boat, traditionally used by fishermen. Here's a tip: sit nearer to the front of the boat, as the rear end is terribly noisy (the truck engine is situated right at the back). Along the way, we took in the beautiful scenery (mangrove plants, the rock formations that jut out of the water, etc).
Besides the longtail boat, another option would be using speedboats. After some consideration, we decided to choose the longtail boat instead. Although it's not as fast (meaning that we won't get to see as many islands, as compared to travelling on a speedboat), it has a "local flavour". Speedboat trips would also cost more (an extra 500 baht per person) due to its higher fuel consumption.
To see the limestone caves and lagoons up close and personal, our tour included a sea canoe trip. It's quite safe (lifejackets are provided), and you don't have to paddle....each canoe takes 2 passengers and 1 Thai guy will sit at the back and paddle the canoe to take you to the various caves. At certain places, you'll have to lie down on your backs to get into the caves, as the crevices are quite small.
The John Gray Hongs by Starlight was just sensational! Good crew, not too many on the boat (16), good food for lunch and dinner, and the hongs were unbelievable. Phang Nga Bay reminded me very much of Halong Bay in North Vietnam and I understand John Gray is now operating similar tours there as well.
A nice day out crusing around Phang Nga Bay in a speedboat. See the amazing ecosystem around Phang Nga Bay, visit "James Bond island", and relax on the small but beautiful Khai Island. A wonderful day out.
What you will be doing
Land transfer to pier at Boat lagoon Marina
Depart to Phang Nga Bay
Arrive at Phang Nga Bay and discover the fauna and floral of this amazing landscape at Koh Panak and Koh Hong learn more about the eco-system of this bay.
Visit Tapu island and Ping-gan island for 30 minutes. (Tapu island is also called "James Bong island")
Continue to Koh Talu to explore the labyrinth of mangrove swamp and pass through Tham Lod Noi and Tham Lod Yai. (Depending on the tide level and weather conditions)
Enjoy a great lunch at Panyi Village, after lunch a guided visit to a surprising village and free time to look around.
Depart to Koh Khai Nai island
Arrive at Koh Khai Nai island for snorkeling, swimming, or simply relaxing. Soft drinks, beach chairs and umbrella are free of charge.
Time to go back.
Arrive at pier at boat Lagoon Marina and transfer back to your hotel.
Tour leader, boat trip, insurance, lunch, fruit in season, drinking water, coffee, tea, full snorkeling equipment, land transfers, national park fee.
I had a fantastic time in Phang Nga Bay because I splurged a bit on this tour because they had cut the price to half during this time. The tour operator picked us up from the hotel and brought us to the pier where we went on a private boat complete with our own canoe guide. Food and drinks were plenty onboard and the hour journey to Phang Nga was comfortable.
The first stop was to the infamous James Bond Island where the famous flick, "The Man with the Golden Gun" was filmed. Then, it's a fabulous lunch onboard the boat of Thai food. Then, the tour operator took us to two islands where we went on the canoe and made our way through the limestone structures. The area is predominantly mangroves, but you do get to go throught a bat cave in pitch dark. The experience was wonderful because it can get really quiet when you're in the middle of the island. After canoeing, we headed back to Phuket but before that stopped at a deserted island to catch some sun & laze around on the beach.
This is a must if you want to visit phuket. Explore the caves, admire the beauty of limestone creation, the serenity of the sea. A picture speaks a thousands words.
We paid 2000 baht per person for the phang nga bay ferry/canoe ride. The packages includes canoe to 2 caves, visit the famous james bond island and to another island for swim, canoe. The distance from patong beach to the ferry is about 45 mins.
Well this was a great day out, it was part of a three in one tour that included an elephant ride through the jungle, a long tail boat trip, canoeing the caves and a trip to James Bond Island, and lunch was included as weill.
The bus picks you up from your hotel and then drive's you to the elephant camp for a show of baby elephants, which is great fun, you then go for an elephant ride through the jungle up a small stream.
After this you are then drivin to a small harbour where you will then take a large long tail boat to the Phang Nga Bay Caves, once there you are put into a canoe for about an hour os paddle through the caves, this was great, loads to see.
After the canoe trip you then take the long tail boat to the Muslim floating village for a wonferfull lunch, and some shopping.
After a great lunch you then hope on board the long tail boat again for the trip to James Bond Island, here you can shop and take a nice walk around this small island and take some photos in front of the famous rock.
Then its back into the long tail boat for the trip back to the harbour where you then travel back to your hotel.
This was a great day out and great value for money, you can book thi tour at any of the travel booths around the island.
Phang Nga bay - is awesome - beauty from the madness of Patong. Go on a canoe trip for the day from phuket, for 1800baht. Go through caves and visit islands! a great day out. Also stops at james bond island.
Hire motorbikes and explore the island - for just 200 baht for a day, a bargain - the best way to see the island!
Enjoy Patongs nightlife!
Go to the small shops offering tour package and bargain for the best price.
A cheaper package ranging from 650Bht-1,100Bht
will include a little bit of seacanoeing when possible and the rest of the journey is using a long tailboat.
Sea canoeing package with excursion by big faster boats with buffet lunch onboard usually goes to Phang Nga and will tour few islands.
I got my tour priced at 2900Bht per person for only 1500Bht.
Tour includes transfer from Hotel,Cruising to Phang Nga by big boat,Seacanoeing at Panak Island (where caves accessible during low tide water), Canoeing to Hong Island where u can view the Hongs (rooms), short trip to James Bond island (nothing special,a tourist trap) buffet lunch onboard before stopping by at Lawa Island to relax /swim and heading home
Overall its a good value for money trip
An experience to be remembered.
We did the John Gray Starlight trip. It was awesome. If you do one tour in Phuket I would recommend this one. They take you into caves and hongs, and you feel that you are the first person to have been there. It is such a serene and peaceful journey. The guides are so mindful of protecting the environment as well. It is worth every cent that it costs. An excellent experience, and one we will never forget.
John Gray was the originator of these kind of "eco-tourism" that has spawned dozens of copycats; as informed by my guide, there were at least 16 different companies providing this service but none compares to John Gray's (well, i haven't really tried the others but this was what i gathered from the forums).
JGSC provides sturdy inflatable canoes, that can withstand the ragged edges of the oyster shells, as well as knowledgeable guides who can speak English.
What was special, was that we got to see weird limestone mountains, throw meat at Brahminy Kites (eagles) and watch them swoop down the sea to pick up their food, explore sea caves where you have to lie flat INTO the canoe, and SEE plantkons sparkle while in the dark.
For more pictures, please refer to my travelogue.
We went with John Gray Sea Canoe on a 3 day private excursion from December 23-26 2004 in Phang Nga Bay. It was the most fabulous trip - we had our own support boat, a guide and a cook, and we went from island to island, dropping into our kayaks with Pong the guide to see beautiful sites, while Tui the cook made another wonderful meal from fresh-caught fish. At night we camped on shore. It was totally well organized, specatacular, and peaceful. I would recommend John Gray's trips, whether a regular day trip, or a personalized trip like we had, to anyone who wants to see the most beautiful places in Souther Thailand & really 'get away from it all'.
Also, we are particularly grateful for John's in depth knowledge and preparedness during and after the tsunami. We and others were alerted, and protected during the event, and suppoirted afterwards. All of John's staff and customers survived, despite being in vulnerable places, thanks to his action and knowledge.
Phuket and in particular Phang Nga Bay are as beautiful as ever, I totally encourage people to go - I will be back as soon as I can, and I plan to bring lots of friends on another John Gray trip.