The Phang Nga Bay close to Phuket, Thailand, is primarily known for its tourist hotspots such as the James Bond Island where thousands of visitors hop on and off each year. However, there is much more to see in this bay - therefore, I decided to pay it a visit in November 2017 as one of the spots on my Thailand Packrafting Roundtrip.
Packrafting in this bay is awesome and a unique experience, although it is part of the ocean, the currents and winds are a little bit softer. The touristic hotspots are crowded most probably throughout the complete year, but there are a lot of nice small island, hidden mangrove channels etc. which you can explore with a packraft and where you will be completely on your own including an amazing wildlife.
The different piers make up an easy way to get in and out of the water. Renting a scooter is probably the best choice in order to stay flexible especially in case you intend to raft on different spots of the bay. Flying to Krabi or Phuket directly is the easiest way to get there.
Leave your drysuit at home, take plenty of drybags for your stuff instead since I didn’t have any day in November without rain. The temperatures (incl. water) were quite high - I did not even bring a sleeping bag, just an inlet. Don’t forget to bring plenty of sun protection.
In case you want to do a multi-day trip with camping on some islands, make sure it is allowed to do so (check with rangers in case you enter the Ao Pang Nga National Park). Also keep in mind to scout for a potential place to camp beforehand. On some islands and the mainland shore as well it will be very complicated to find a suitable camping place due to the dense jungle/mangroves - a hammock should be better suited for these scenarios.
You will come across several fisherman buildings, floating houses etc. in the bay - please show some respect as a guest. Outside of the main tourist routes people are less used to tourists, according to my feeling.
On the west coast, I can heavily recommend to stay in the wooden huts at the the “Ao To Li View Point” (
GPS: 8.226429, 98.44554) for little money and great, lonely views over the bay. The owner is super friendly and his huts are simple but functional. I was in late November the only person staying there potentially caused by the fact that there is a new and more fancy viewpoint called “Samet Nangshe Viewpoint” just 2 kms North from here which has great food but I cannot recommend to stay there since it’s simply too crowded/noisy.
For the east coast, I can recommend to stay at “Baan Suanthip Homestay” which has a very friendly and helpful owner.
- Though the winds and currents are weaker in the bay, never forget that this is still part of the ocean. So you get all the risks that you get when packrafting the ocean in general. I heavily recommend not to go solo as I did, 2 or more people is much safer.
- Make a plan about the start / exit points before you go there. Most of the bay is surrounded by mangroves / jungle that you won’t be able to cross by foot. So I recommend to mark some potential exit points based on satellite footage for your routes which you can take in case needed (see KML file below).
- Be aware of the tides, when they come and go. This is the secret sauce needed in order to be able to enter some of the caves and not so popular spots. They will also heavily influence your speed.
You can download the KML file here which contains some trip proposals (unzip zipfile first). Some of the proposals can be done in a few hours, some probably require more than 1 day. Please keep in mind that I cannot report whether all these trips are doable since I didn’t do them all on my own in practice yet. Know your risks - do your own research.