Caves and Coves of Phang Nga Bay

Caves and Coves of Phang Nga Bay
Caves and Coves of Phang Nga Bay

We stayed on Koh Yao Noi, Thailand for the month of February at an AirBnb hosted by the guy who runs An Pao Ocean Safari tours. We felt like James Bond characters upon arrival when we took a speedboat to our accommodations. Definitely one of the perks of staying at this particular villa!

We loved watching the sunsets over the Andaman Sea each night but vowed that by the end of the trip, we’d get back out in the water to see all those amazing towering rocks, referred to as karsts, that surrounded our little island. Our friend Jinnee, who loves to come visit us in exotic locations, would be staying with us for a week. We knew that would be a great time to take our sea excursion (even if she does get motion sick and seasick). So the plan was set, whichever day had the best tides and weather, we’d hit the water for the Caves and Coves tour of Phang Nga Bay.

It would be an early morning but we didn’t mind, we had snacks to eat on board as well as some fruit and plenty of bottles of water! David, our host, brought us over to the dock to meet the crew, and also gave us the list of activities we could choose from during our tour. We had our tentative itinerary and Jinnee was under the influence of her non-drowsy dramamine for daytime fun 😉

Within our first 20 minutes we were already arriving at our first cave, on Phanak Island. This cave, that locals call Ice Cream cave, has smooth rocks inside that look like scoops of ice cream. We made our way in to start our caving. Maria isn’t really a fan of tight spaces but knew this would be a cool thing to see. We all had our flashlights going on our phones to make our way through the shallow river inside the cave. That’s a lot to take on from the start, but the walls were pretty awesome so you don’t really worry about the rest. Once you get to the end, you’re outside in a kind of secret cove with trees, so we explored that part and then went back through Ice Cream cave and took more photos.

We hopped back on the boat to make our way to Koh Hong Island where we’d find our second cave. This one is called Elephant Cave and honestly, I only just now realized that the rocks did look like elephants, as I’m writing the entry. This cave was a bit darker than the first but the stalactites and overall appearance were very different. The spaces were a little more narrow and since it was so dark, it wasn’t as easy to navigate. I hung on to Neil to make my way though and almost decided to turn around but did make it to the end. Here you could look out a little cave window to see the water outside. We all took some photos there and then turned around and went back through the cave. Although a little nerve-racking, the caves were really cool.

David had mentioned the chance to ride the sea canoes but when we came to the first set of them, it looked packed, so we asked the guys to bring us to the next place so we could just enjoy our time on the boat for a bit.

We arrived at James Bond Island, made famous by its appearance in the Man with the Golden Gun, shortly after that. How funny that there was actually a James Bond connection after I was already imagining that I was in one of those movies when we took the speedboat to our AirBnB! The thing everyone goes there to see is The Rock, so we went around the island to see it and take our photos like good tourists should. You can walk around the island too but we were happy to get back to out to sea and have the wind in our hair!

There was a National Park where we could hitch a ride on some sea canoes. Although we were afraid that the first set might be overrun with tourists, we decided it was worth trying. There was a separate entrance fee for this activity but overall it was pretty minimal. Our boat parked next to a bigger boat that had snacks, some restrooms and the area where the canoes launched from. Each canoe held two guests and a “driver”. We were really living the life, everyone was just driving and rowing us around that day!

The Big Boat with the Restrooms
The Big Boat with the Restrooms

It was so relaxing to be rowed around, Neil and I were in one canoe while Jinnee had a private one. The guys were hilarious and kept saying we were on the VIP tour. They took so many photos of us and even had a prop so that we could have a heart around us in the picture. You can explore so many places with the sea canoe including mangrove forests and more caves.

The first time we rowed up to a cave, they casually tell us, lay down for a minute and you go through this tiny space that you can only navigate depending on the tides. Our timing worked out great because we must have gone in like 4 of them and they said when the tide is higher they aren’t possible to enter. We had so much fun and by the end, it was like second nature to lay down upon entry and then look at all the cool rocks surrounding us. Each cave did get pretty filled up with boats but then you’d be back out on the water enjoying your time in nature.

What a fun experience, so happy we took their advice to try it out! I think that was probably the highlight of the tour for me.

By this time we were pretty hungry and as we were about to dig into our boat snacks, we arrived at Koh Panyee Floating Village. We didn’t realize this would be part of our trip so we were pretty surprised that we’d have the option for lunch. Given that we’d be getting back on the boat, we opted to share some dishes and keep it a little on the lighter side. Well it didn’t end up being all that light because both our Whole Sea Bass and Vegetable Fried rice were huge! You even had the option to choose which specific fish you wanted out of the fish net off the side of the boat, but we just took what they gave us. There’s nothing like eating fresh fish! We didn’t think we wanted much food but we cleaned both plates!

Since we all had full bellies, we were feeling pretty content but apparently there was still a bunch to see. Our crew brought us over to Lo Patong. We got to take a break at the beach for about an hour. There were snorkels, beach mats, and towels and we pretty much had free time to do whatever we wanted. They brought us over some nice cold fruit slices too. It was a fun chance to swim and do a little sunbathing. Neil even did some snorkeling and found a handful of rocks that had holes in them (as if they were drilled and ready to become necklaces). The scenery was amazing between the striped walls and the water as far as you can see. Such a great rest area!

We could have gone back at this point but our boat crew knew we wouldn’t want to miss out on seeing the Sea Arch. So we continued on to Roi Island beach and lagoon. They gave us a warning that some of the rocks on the bottom were sharp and they weren’t kidding. If we had known this earlier we might have left our sandals on.  We made our way under the sea arch and into another cove with trees. You really can’t describe how beautiful it all was so I sure tried to capture it with photos. We were all snapping all day, it’s a miracle any of us had battery left at this point!

We had one last stop to make at Kudu Island Cove. Here we saw the 3 famous vertical rocks but we were all pretty much spent. We got back to our place just before 4 and we were all ready for a nap. And although Jinnee ended up being totally fine with her motion sickness, Maria still felt like she was moving. Luckily we didn’t have much that had to be done that night!

What a cool trip that I’d say is pretty unique to the Phang Nga Bay. We must have been meant to stay at that airbnb so we could hear about the boat trip. Despite that fact that we were pooped, it was a terrific day!