Visa run Phuket to Langkawi
We've been in this area now for nearly a year, but the first thing that struck us when we first arrived was the 3 dimensional quality to the Islands. After seeing only flat Islands with palm-trees, the high limestone outcrops of the South Andaman sea are fascinating.
Since you only get a 30 day visa in Thailand, you have to leave every month to re-new your visa – most yachts seem to see this as a nuisance and tend to hang around Malaysia instead, where you get 2 months. We find it a great opportunity to force us to explore new islands, hidden lagoons and to spend time in the crystal clear waters and abundant coral gardens you don't find this close to Phuket. Some of our favorite places are on the 'visa run', so we always look forward it!
Most people are familiar with the beaches on the West Coast of Lanta, but few visit the small muslim floating fishing village on the south east corner of this Island. It is a really beautiful floating village, full of flowers and complete with inland banana plantation. The people are really friendly, and a walk through the village to buy a fresh chicken, the catch of the day (fish that is), or to just watch the children playing, can be most enlightening.
This is the most incredible hong (Thai for 'room'), accessed through a beautiful cave, given the name 'emerald cave' because of the way the sun reflects on the water inside the cave 'lighting' it upwards and giving the appearance of 'glowing' bodies when you swim through it!!! The cave itself has amazing stalactites and stalagmites dripping from the ceiling and walls, shimmering apricots, greens, yellows and amber. The light is at it's best when the sun is low (and the tourist have already gone home). Swim through the tunnel and as you approach the bend to the left everything goes completely black – you cannot see your hand in front of your face – keep swimming!!!! Only a few seconds of darkness and then you see the bright light of the hong right in front of you. Swim to the exit cave and welcome to the lost land of Jurassic Park – at least that's what it looks like!!! This enclosed lagoon has a white sand beach and gigantic vegetation which belongs in a completely different era.
KOH ROK NOK & NAI
These are actually two islands, which you anchor in between. The water is crystal clear and the coral is quite diverse, particularly with strange polyps which reminded me of the little multi-coloured wombles you use to display around your computer!!! They are all very bright colours like orange, red, neon blue and have little 'jewels' which make them sparkle!!! We usually get a really good deal from the fisherman here, last time landing a large bucket of tiger prawns, squid and 2 large coral trout for 100 bht!!!!
Is a small island with one very small bungalow development and not a lot else!!! Lovely beaches, white sand and clear waters. There is very little ambient light from the shore so it is a great place to go night snorkeling in the phosphorous – with no moon, the whole sea sparkles as you swim in the dark water – best to take a snorkel and swim in the stars!!!!! We have been known to 'speed snorkel' by dragging you with a rope behind the dinghy whilst you snorkel in the sparkling water!!!!
KOH BUTANG – Tarautao National Marine Park
Koh Butang is a tiny island which doesn't seem to get any visitors, has no inhabitants, and has the most incredible coral gardens I have ever seen. The variety of coral is the most diverse I have seen in the Indian ocean – I can only describe snorkeling off this island as flying over a rich rain forest with visibility so clear you can see the forest floor itself. The coral is so high in places, with visibility up to 30m that you feel you are viewing a mountain range, and every way you turn discovering a new plant, species, and of course, surrounded by colourful fish.
Close to this island is KOH LIPI, which has a couple of small bungalow developments right on the beach, with a choice of 3 or 4 restaurants which put their tables on the white sand beaches to watch the sun go down and eat under the stars. It's a nice laid-back relaxed island with clear water and bright white sand. You can take a walk over to the other side of the island and walk around the traditional Chao Ley village (sea gypsies) and watch them build wooden long-tail boats for fishing, and weaving traps or mending nets.
KOH ADANG is the neighboring island, and if you are energetic enough, can climb a beautiful forest walk up to the cliff view point – breathtaking views of the Butang atoll. You can also take a forest trial up to Pirates falls – which used to be really beautiful until they dammed it to provide fresh water to KOH LIPI (That's progress for you). On the West coast, the beaches are pure white sand, completely empty accept for large boulders which dominate the beach – they are quite spectacular to see and clamber over! The scenery here is very similar to the Similan Islands which are dominated by their gigantic boulders.
TARUTAO. This is the largest island of the 51 island national park archipelago. The densely forested, former penal colony, has many walking trials leading to streams, pools and lookouts. The scenery is breathtaking in the rainforest, with many strangler vines hanging in twisted shapes. There are many species of wildlife, but this is the only place in Thailand we've come face to face with a large aggressive wild boar!!!!! From here exploring the other islands, particularly the 'butang' group, live up to their national park status, with stunning coral reefs which look like forests from the surface.
Note: You are doing the Immigration formalities at the port of arrival (Langkawi harbour in Kedah etc.). Be sure to get both arrival and departure stamp!
Ports of arrival:
Teluk Ewa, Langkawi
Porta Malai, Langkawi
Tanjung Lembu, Langkawi