Phang Nga Bay: Everything You Need to Know

You’ve probably seen pictures of this magical place in Phuket before. If you’ve watched James Bond or The Beach, you’ll have seen stunning vistas of Phang Nga Bay. The famous spot is characterized by sheer limestone cliffs rising majestically from the aquamarine sea and regular boats take tourists from Phuket to visit the Bay. If you want to experience this gorgeous place for yourself, here’s what you need to know.

Image via Robert Haandrikman / Flickr
Image via Robert Haandrikman / Flickr

Background to Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay is actually a collection of more than 3,500 limestone islands. Some are tiny and uninhabited; others are larger with space to walk around. Many of the smallest islands can only be reached by inflatable kayak, and contain ancient cave systems and interesting examples of flora and fauna to discover. The largest island is called Koh Tapu or James Bond Island as this was where the movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed, and Koh Pannyi is another popular island to visit. Sea Gypsy Island is actually a stilt village where families live on wooden structures in front of a giant rock island.

Phang Nga Bay is north of Phuket, immediately off the island’s coast. The larger province of Phang Nga also contains the stunning island groups of Mu Koh Similan and Mu Koh Surin National Marine Parks.

Phang Nga Bay Tours

You won’t find it difficult to get a tour operator to take you around Phang Nga Bay. There are numerous boats and tour companies vying to take visitors on the route around the bay. On the standard “tour” you’ll take a small passenger boat around the dramatic rock formations, visiting tiny, forgotten lakes and small caves, and stopping at Khao Ping Gan (Leaning Rock), Koh Tapu, and to the stilt village of Koh Pannyi. You may pass through this interesting location or have the opportunity to stay the night. An overnight stay is a valuable experience as you can experience the island life first-hand and eat with the locals.

Koh Tapu also means Nail Island and it is certainly the most popular stop on the entire tour itinerary. You will certainly encounter many crowds here as tour operators line up to give their passengers the best photo opportunities.

Choose a tour carefully so you are certain you know what is included and where exactly you will be going. Don’t buy the first ticket offered to you – do some research and find reviews from other visitors who had good experiences. You will be able to take a half-day tour, a full-day tour, or an overnight tour. Tours are also available with a sea kayaking option.

Sea Kayaking and Sailing in Phang Nga Bay

One of the most rewarding ways to see the bay is from a sea kayak. There are many areas that are only accessible by such a small mode of transport, and you also get to experience a more peaceful side to the bay.

The whole area is generally safe for boating as the waters are calm and there are many safe places to anchor if you are traveling under your own steam and without a tour leader. The bay is largely protected from the monsoon weather; therefore you can enjoy calm waters year-round. The calmness of the ocean also contributes to the fact you can see plenty of wildlife, and the area is ideal for snorkeling and diving.

Image via Gregg Tavares / Flickr
Image via Gregg Tavares / Flickr

Natural Geography of Phang Nga Bay

The towering cliffs in the bay are made of limestone, a mainly white rock that has been formed over millions of years from sediment and calcium carbonate. The limestone cliffs are so dramatic because over the course of history they have formed into strange and exotic islands with sheer sides and colorful deposits within the rocks. A variety of flora and fauna make their homes within the caves and on the surface of the rock islands. Inside some of the islands are “hongs” – collapsed cave systems that have an open roof and are now home to a stunning array of wildlife – these caves are a peaceful place to paddle in a kayak.

For more information on the beauty of Phang Nga Bay, visit PhuketOn. Find the best hotels and the best restaurants on Phuket with PhuketOn – your Thailand guide.

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