One of Thailand’s best island beach destinations
Phi Phi Islands in southern Thailand would be an excellent choice for a relaxing tropical island holiday should you only have a couple of weeks stay in this beautiful part of our planet. Your best choice would be to start from Phuket, as once there, you’ll have a choice of several islands in the area to explore.
The main tourist island is shaped like a lopsided butterfly, and only 45 minutes by boat from Phuket and by far one of the very best islands in this region. The turquoise waters and soft white sandy shores must surely be what dreams are made of. Can you just imagine lazing on the palm-fringed shores with thick and lush forested limestone as your backdrop? I shall simply leave you with those thoughts.
Just be aware that the prices of curios on some of these islands are relatively quite expensive so it’s better to buy handicrafts and other gift items on the mainland.
Phi Phi Leh, not far off, is an uninhabited island with spectacular sheer cliffs and caves. A long-tail boat ride will take you to Viking Cave on the island first. Here in these caves, sea swallows build their nests which they produce using their own saliva. This delicacy is then made into a soup much loved by the Chinese. There are a number of restaurants around the country catering to their needs.
I came across a restaurant in Pattaya where you can actually dine on the finest Bird’s Nest Soup as well as Shark Fin Soup. The Supermarkets and the Seven Eleven stores also sell a beverage made from the bird’s nests. I have a jar of the stuff at home but have yet to open it. I have tried to temp my friends with the product, but so far, have been unsuccessful. I now dare you to give it a try.
Many of the caves around this region are now patrolled by armed military personnel to protect the nests from unauthorised persons and possible poachers.
Mayo Bay, situated on the western shores of Phi Phi Ley Island, is famous for the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But then again you probably knew that all along now didn’t you. The film was partly filmed around this island.
They do seem to film a lot of movies in Thailand. Must be the stunning beauty of this amazing country. Either that or perhaps the government was having a cash flow problem at the time. Just kidding!
Nevertheless, the locals seem to capitalise on these movie locations and I have to admit, it does seem to work for them. Nonetheless, the relatively deserted soft white sandy beach of Maya Bay is an excellent place to stop over for a bit of snorkelling in the surrounding coral reef.
A short history lesson: Did you know that each year parrot fish munch their way through about 12 kilogrammes or 26 pounds of coral which are then digested and later excreted as fine sand? So if you hear grinding noises while snorkelling, you’ll know that there are hungry parrot fish nearby. Check out the photo above!
You get the impression that all the boats on these shores are suspended in the crystalline waters here. Luxury cruise vessels can be arranged through numerous tour companies from Phuket as well as Krabi. The Islands here are arguably some of the most beautiful in Thailand, especially for diving enthusiasts where you as a visitor can earn your open-water dive card from any one of the dive shops.
Getting to the Islands
Tours and cruises can be arranged from the island of Phuket with public ferries departing from the Phuket Ferry Pier. The journey takes about 2 hours depending on weather conditions. Should you be going directly to Phi Phi Don Island from Phuket International Airport, allow for an extra hour for road transport.
Want the ultimate convenient experience! An alternative option would be to hire a private speedboat. This way, not only would you not have to wait for other passengers to arrive, but you have the advantage of arriving much earlier as well as being able to disembark at a beach possibly close to any resort hotel that you may have a booking. Remember, there are no roads on these islands. Tonsai Bay is where the main Phi Phi Pier is located.
There are a number of speedboats to choose depending on the size of your party. The smallest single-engine speedboat can carry between 2 and 4 guests, another between 6 and 8 guests and the larger twin-engine speedboats can accommodate up to 20 guests including all your gear should you want to explore the superb dive sites around the islands. Departure starts from Phuket at 7 am until 4.30 pm with the journey taking as little as 45 minutes.
Boats also depart from Krabi town and Ao Nang beach several times daily during the high season between November and April. During the low season between May and October, there is far less activity. And departures depend on weather conditions. The duration of the trip takes approximately 90 minutes with a further 30 minutes if you are going directly from Krabi Airport to the Krabi Pier.