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Serving up captivating beauty, gorgeous beaches, delicious food and plenty of diversions on shore and beneath the water, Thailand’s Andaman Sea checks off nearly everything on a charter wish list.
Exploring its islands by superyacht provides an unparalleled experience, allowing you access to quiet harbours and exciting activities in equal measure. The 68.5m Amels yacht Lady E spent early 2019 in Thailand, inviting guests to discover the country’s stunning islands and unique charms. Whether you prefer to scuba dive or lounge on the aft deck and watch the world pass by, this is a charter holiday you won’t soon forget.
Phuket is the jumping off point for cruising this region of Thailand. While the island attracts its fair share of tourists, there are also serene places to slip away and bask in nature. Before you meet your yacht, you can hole away for a day or two at the Anantara Layan Phuket Resort on the northwest corner of the island.
Its hillside villas provide sweeping views of the beach below and sea beyond. Start to unwind for your charter with a visit to the lush spa and then dine at the acclaimed Zumba restaurant that overlooks the beach.
Phuket is also home to the first elephant sanctuary in Thailand, which proves an excellent outing for both families and nature lovers. The sanctuary rescues, rehabilitates and provides a home for elephants who have spent their life indentured to commercial work or touristic displays.
Instead, the elephants here get to roam a giant jungle and while away their days being fed fruit by visitors or bathing in a giant Hydrotherapy Pool.
After watching the elephants frolic, soon you’ll be craving to jump in the water yourself, and for that the protected national park of Phang Nga Bay makes for the most wonderful of swimming locales.
KAYAKS, CAVES AND CLIMBING
Phang Nga Bay is the stuff of Thailand postcards – giant karsts loom tall, dotting the horizon. As the charter yacht glides between the islands, heading deeper into the Bay, you are surrounded by the picturesque limestone rock formations.
Khao Ping Kan and neighbouring Tapu Island were made famous by appearing in The Man with the Golden Gun starring Roger Moore and they’ve collectively been known as ‘James Bond Island’ since the movie debuted in 1974.
There are myriad secret coves to seek out. Some are accessible by tender, while others require the narrower beam of a kayak to poke through caves and glide into hidden lagoons. Guides and kayaks can be hired for such purpose.
Once the yacht moors for the evening, against the backdrop of an imposing limestone cliff, it’s time for that swim. It’s likely you will be the only yacht in the anchorage and as you dine on board, you can revel in the picturesque views and perfect solitude.
The island of Koh Yao Noi is set on the outskirts of the bewitching Phang Nga Bay, where the Six Senses Yao Noi is perched on a verdant hillside. Guests might decide instead to take the tender to dine ashore at one of the Six Senses renowned restaurants. Or better yet, start or end the trip with a stay here.
Each villa has its own pool, but the Ocean Pool villas, which look out from a tall hill, are truly spectacular with infinity pools and views all the way across Phang Nga Bay.
One of the finest assets of these cruising grounds is that it’s equally well-suited to those with a thirst for adventure and those who prefer to relax.
The active among the group can dive or even climb a limestone wall. Cue the next stop on this itinerary, Railay Beach, which is regarded as one of the top rock climbing areas in Thailand.
Railay Beach is set on a peninsula, but it’s cut off from the mainland by giant cliffs that surround it. Many visitors come to Railay just for the rock climbing and it’s an ideal spot to learn to climb, with a variety of easy routes for beginners and more advanced pitches for experts.
There are few better ways to burn off some energy than by donning a harness and scurrying up a cliff wall. If heights aren’t your thing, the peninsula also has a few lovely beaches with excellent bars and restaurants, making this a good place to get off the boat for dinner and sample local fare or a cocktail served up in a fresh coconut.
There are other ways to find adventure in this part of Thailand that don’t require scaling any cliff faces. The next day, on the island of Ko Muk, guests have the chance to visit the once-secret Emerald Cave, said to be used by pirates long ago to hide treasure.
The only way you can enter the cave is by swimming or kayaking in through a dark tunnel for a few moments, but fortunately the illumination from a flashlight can reduce any major fear factor.
Emerging on the other side, there is a beach ringed by cliff walls and lush vegetation – the green leaves reflect off the water and give the cave its patented emerald hue. Koh Muk itself has a large beach framed by cliffs and you can see little monkeys playing in the mass of jungle that backs the beach.
WHO LET THE TOYS OUT
An activity that is sure to please children and adults alike is stopping in a remote anchorage to launch all the water toys. Koh Rok Noi and Koh Rok Yai, two islands further south, offer the ideal place.
Lady E has all the accoutrements one could need for a fun day on the water, from a giant waterslide to underwater scooters and jetskis to wakeboarding. There is snorkelling to be found along these islands’ rocky shores as well, but for those who are especially interested in life below the waterline, then scuba diving in Thailand’s Andaman Sea is a must.
Some of the best diving is found off the Phi Phi Islands. Scuba divers can enjoy thrilling current dives or magnificent wall dives, where bright blue starfish cling to the rocks and brightly coloured fish dart around in huge schools, overwhelming your view in the most beautiful of ways.
Those who prefer to soak up the scenery from a bar stool instead will not be disappointed. On Phi Phi Don, just sidle up to a seat on a quaint beach bar or dance the night away at a pulsating night club, with your feet in the sand, celebrating the wonderful week you’ve just had exploring these islands.
Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, and a week spent cruising its many islands will leave everyone on board with a very satisfied grin.
The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 48. Email [email protected] for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at: www.magzter.com/SG/Lux-Inc-Media/Yacht-Style/Fashion/