A day sailing from Phuket

By Chantana Jasper

The sailing here is incredible

Phuket provides plenty of gorgeous weather for enjoying the coastlines and the Andaman Sea. Water sports are of course plentiful, ranging from banana boat rides and scuba diving to kite-boarding and surfing. However, the most rewarding water activity is sailing.

Phuket is renowned for its excellent sailing, and the marine industry has been flourishing since the government reduction in boat import tax from 200 per cent down to 0 per cent. Sailors have the best of both worlds on Phuket: the deep blue seas and stellar boating conditions in the high season off the west coast, alongside the year–round shelter and unique features of Phang Nga Bay off the east coast.

The west coast of the island is popular for its white, sandy beaches and deep blue seas. More recently, the east coast has started to boom with spectacular high–end developments offering amazing views across Phang Nga Bay.

“The sailing here is incredible,” says Bob Welders, a tourist from Australia, “I spend most of my time on the water and the rest eating the great seafood and partying in Patong – you can’t beat Phuket.”

Marinas are springing up everywhere to accommodate all the new yachts coming here from around the world and those that are moored here as their base. Phuket is shaping itself as a major international marine destination, and you’ll find no shortage of ways to get on a sailboat.

It’s easy to hire a boat if you’re a seasoned sailor, or you can opt for sailing lessons if you’re a novice. A range of sailing companies provide ASA and RYA certification. There are also plenty of sailing trips lasting from overnight to 10 days.

For those who are just looking to cruise the Andaman for one day, there are lots of great options. Probably the most spectacular place to head for on a daytrip in the high season is the Similan Islands. You’ll cross the most beautiful deep blue waters of the Andaman and head north to this stunning collection of nine islands, technically located in Phang Nga province.

The Similans are located within a marine national park and have retained a pristine appearance that is so stunning you must visit in person to believe it. Above the water, you’ll find the finest, powdery white sands contrasted with lush green forests. Off the shores and into the deep are clear waters filled with amazing tropical marine life and bright corals, perfect for snorkelling or scuba diving.

The Paradise on Koh Yao Noi

Visitors should take note that the islands close during the green season (April to October) and if you are visiting Phuket in the high season, you shouldn’t miss out on the unique experience of visiting this beautiful marine park. Be sure to pack drinks and food, as there are no restaurants here!

Any time of year, you can enjoy the sailing off the east coast of Phuket, in Phang Nga Bay, and most daytrips will take you in and around this area as there’s so much to see. Hundreds of islands and karst rock formations jut out of the waters here, providing spectacular scenery unlike anywhere else in the world.

As well as sailing to the tiny uninhabited rocks and beaches, and exploring the ‘haung’ (‘rooms’open to the sky and surrounded by rock, accessed by walking or wading through a cave entrance), there are some excellent inhabited islands where you can tie up and have a picnic or stay overnight at a resort.

You can sail to Koh Yao Noi and visit The Paradise, where lunch is served in an open–air pavilion on the beach. Koh Yao Yai is the largest island in Phang Nga Bay and it takes roughly an hour to get here by sailboat. Koh Yao Noi is the most developed of the two islands, but it still has a refreshing sleepy fishing–village feel and unspoilt beaches. The nightlife is virtually non–existent and is limited to quiet dining and resort bars.

There’s also Phi Phi Islands, just a few hours sail away. Lined with cute bungalows and more than enough dive shops, Phi Phi Don is the largest island and popular with a younger crowd. The pristine national park beaches of Phi Phi Leh, the location for the filming of the 1990s movie The Beach, have a laid–back and enjoyable atmosphere.

Beyond Phi Phi is Krabi. Reminiscent of a more peaceful Phuket of the 1980s, Krabi is a great destination for families and couples who want to enjoy the beach and relatively untouched nature. The main strip of Ao Nang has all the amenities you require, while Railay Beach is only accessible by boat and is famous for its rock–climbing.

Koh Racha Yai and Noi can be seen from the southern end of Phuket as they lie just 20kms offshore. They are still delightfully undeveloped for the most part, and only Racha Yai offers accommodation. There are two beaches on Racha Yai, one deep and one shallow – but both lovely. Racha Noi has just one tiny beach with the rest of the shoreline being rocky; however, the waters surrounding it are nice enough to be used for diving. Koh Khai is just a 20–minute sail from the eastern shore of Phuket and is a tiny island with coral and white sands. This is a great place for snorkelling on a daytrip.

Where ever you choose to go, you are sure to enjoy a day sailing trip from Phuket.

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