Island hopping in Krabi is a massively popular activity. Thousands of tourists flock these islands on a daily basis. With such a huge tourist onslaught, the actual scene at the islands and beaches can be a little off from the perfectly crafted pictures and movie scenes. In spite of all the negative reviews on the internet regarding overly touristic beaches, the crowd, littered water et cetera, we would still recommend island hopping in Krabi as a must-do activity. All because the white sand beaches and the majestic limestone cliffs along with the “Pirate secrets” beat everything else. Take it from the Pirates; if you didn’t do island hopping in Krabi, you missed half the fun. If you want to know about the Pirate secrets, read on.
The Krabi coastal province covers about 130 islands in the Andaman sea. Cruising through the azure blue water with a stunning view of the gigantic limestone cliffs, makes island hopping in Krabi an immensely popular activity. The popularity shot up many folds after Hollywood captured few of the islands in 35mm. Leonardo Di Caprio swimming to Phi Phi island in “The Beach”. Our own Hrithik Roshan shaking a leg in the pristine beaches of Hong and nearby islands in “Kaho Na Pyaar He”. Who can forget the crystal blue water and white sand beaches against those steep limestone cliffs at the backdrop?
Island hopping in Krabi – things you must know
Island hopping in Krabi is no doubt a must-do activity. However, there’re few important things to consider before you make your dash to the booking counter. This is largely from our own experience and we hope it might help a fellow traveler someday.
1. Get the weather right: We would rate this as the single most important thing to know before booking an island hopping tour. The weather can make or break your day. As it happened, we encountered rough waters with +10ft waves on our maiden voyage and had to return midway. All because both of us were too lazy (or probably too drunk 😉 ) to google about the weather, the previous evening. The shops mean business so if you decide to agree with their information, you are putting yourself in the corner. The weather information is readily available on the internet and most of the resorts have wifi. So should not be an issue digging out the required information.
2. Get your boat right: If you are a budget or semi-luxury traveler like us, then you have two options. Long Tail boat or Speed boat. For short trips, you have the option to chose either of them. For long trips, the only option is a speed boat. Now for a short trip which one would you choose?
Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to find a picture of the beaches in Thailand without a colorful long tail boat in the foreground? Why it is always a Long Tail boat and not a speed boat or a dive boat. Yes, you got it right! the Long Tails or Ruea Hang Yao (in Thai) are the hallmark of water navigation in Thailand, with a long history and relation to the Thai culture. So our first pick for island hopping in Krabi would be the Long Tail. However, there’re merits and demerits to the same. The long tails are small wooden boats capable of navigating small distances. If your island hopping itinerary includes Phi Phi island then your only option is to go for a speed boat.
If you are a couple and want to charter a boat all for yourself then Long Tails are the best choice both from experience and cost perspective. The boats are cheap to charter and we would highly recommend them for an authentic Thai experience. One word of caution here. From our very own experience, Long Tail rides can get pretty rough if the sea gets choppy. We experienced this first hand and we would be more than happy to save anyone from that. Unlike us, make sure the weather is good before you proceed to the counter.
Also embarking and disembarking is a factor you might want to consider while booking a long tail. Generally, the boats provide a metallic ladder for this which you have to climb up and down. For us, it was not a concern at all, but I had the feeling it might create some issues for elderly tourists, especially someone with knee issues or arthritis.
3. Get the fares and islands right: The first one should not be a major concern since the fares are pretty much standard and I would be highly surprised if someone gets ripped off here.
To choose the right island tour would depend on your preferences. Primarily there are four tours that cover four major island groups.
- Four island tour covers Poda island, Tub Island, Chicken head island and Phranang Cave. Usually, costs around 500-600 THB per adult for a long tail boat and approximately the double for a speed boat. This one is short and can be done in a Long Tail.
- Hong Island tour covers Hong island, Pakbia and Lading islands. Costs around 800 THB for a long tail.
- Phi Phi tour covers Phi Phi don, Maya bay etc. Should cost little less than 2000 THB for speed boats. This is usually recommended for snorkeling enthusiasts as the boats make several stops for snorkeling on the way. We skipped this tour so we don’t have any personal experience of it.
- James Bond island tour: Costs around 3000 THB for a speed boat ride. I read reviews that the James Bong island doesn’t have too much to explore. However, you might want to see it for yourself.
- Additionally, there are other activities you can club into, like canoeing, rock climbing etc.
Our island hopping in Krabi experience
We booked the four island tour on our second day in Krabi. It started off pretty well with a clear sky and no sign of the impending storm. About an hour into the ride, the weather changed drastically. It started to rain heavily. The sea got very rough with big waves crashing on our long tail. As I said before, the Long Tails are small wooden boats with wooden planks inside to park your bum. When our boat was braving the storm, each big wave crashing to it made a loud sound with a big jolt giving us the creepy feeling that the boat was going to tear apart anytime. Thankfully nothing like that happened. We can place it easily as one of the most thrilling experience we have had till now. An adventure uncalled for and free of charge 😉 . After taking shelter in a lagoon covered by limestone cliffs for about an hour, finally, our guide decided to call it day and return back. This experience was so thrilling that I would require a separate post to share every detail about it.
The next morning, I really had to fight it hard to convince Stuti for another ride. She was shell shocked from the previous day experience. We argued for about 2-3 hours and I even skipped breakfast as a protest. The good thing is it worked 😉 She finally agreed for another trip but decided to keep it short this time. We chartered a private Long Tail to Koh Poda. Poda island is the nearest island to Ao Nang and takes about 25 minutes to reach by a Long Tail. We had a great day at Poda.
If you are here, I presume you have read through half the post, and as a token of thanks, let me share a Pirate secret with you. Don’t tell this to anyone. I need to preserve this just for my readers 🙂 .
The Pirates Secret
As you arrive at Poda, be ready for the usual scene with so many Long Tails and speed boats parked at the beach. There will be hundreds of tourists surrounding you at any moment and it is really difficult to click a picture with just the majestic limestone cliff behind. It was so annoying with all those heads popping up in the background. We actually planned to self-shoot some romantic couple pics against the gorgeous backdrop but got disappointed with the results. Every pic we clicked had people in the background.
Finally, in frustration, we started to walk along the beach, away from the crowded landing area. This is when the magic happened. If you keep on walking along the beach, after about 20minutes (considering a brisk pace), you will arrive at the other side of the island. What’s so special about this side? Well for starters, it was just us there. We could not believe there was not a single soul around. We had a deserted beach all to ourselves Yayyyyy! I quickly set up my tripod for some hurried pics that turned out exactly the way we wanted. After the pics, we did a long and slow walk on the soft white sand with the crystal blue water crashing on our feet. It was an amazing feeling with just the two of us, perfectly secluded, taking in the moment all to ourselves. We spent about two hours there just exploring around. All this time, we had just two couples and a family walking into our private beach 🙂 . Luckily they left sooner than we expected.
Let me tell you one more Pirate secret now. Plan your return time as late as possible. Since we arrived late so by default our return was late. As we arrived at the front beach, most of the boats were gone. The beach now looked empty with just a handful of tourists around. We re-clicked some pics here and this time only with the backdrop we wanted. The sea was very calm that day and our return journey was as peaceful as our arrival. Perfect to make the wife happy.
We do hope this post will help you in planning your island hopping in Krabi. Do let us know if you have any comments on the same.
Signing off for now…..