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The challenge with a destination like Thailand is that there are too many islands and not enough time. But chartering your own yacht means leaving the daunting task of choosing only one island to other travelers. You will be cruising at your own pace and dropping anchor at distant islands you will probably never read about in your guidebook.
The most popular cruising grounds for yachts are the western islands that encrust the glittering Andaman Sea. The largest, Phuket, bustling with cultural activity and nightlife, has excellent marinas and is your gateway to more of these stunning islands and remote beaches..
The sea-mountains and intriguing caves of the sheltered Phang Nga Bay are best explored by yachts and then kayaks and offer endless adventure to scuba divers too. Cruise a few miles north and reach the “James Bond” island of Ko Tapu, where Roger Moore and Christopher once tread for the filming of 1974’s “The Man with the Golden Gun”. And to the south, the superstar Phi Phi islands, where Alex Garland’s film “The Beach” was shot in 2000, are not to be missed. Snorkeling, swimming and diving here is unforgettable.
Fifty miles northwest of Phuket are the Similan Islands, Thailand’s majestic playground for scuba divers. Huge boulders on the seafloor and shallow coral gardens are perfect for snorkeling or diving and the waters are perfectly calm and crystal clear. To leave the tourists completely behind, cruise a further 50 miles north to reach the Surin Islands, home to fishing tribes and a renowned hot spot for whale shark sightings. And with a fully-equipped dive centre on board you’ll soon be jumping into the warm Andaman waters and marveling at magnificent manta rays, giant turtles, and moray eels, squid, octopus. And if it really is your lucky day, the whale shark will pass you by on its tranquil underworld travels.
On the eastern side of the country, Thailand’sexclusive yacht club, the Ocean Marina Yacht Club at Chon Buri, is only 80km drive from Bangkok and is your gateway to the lively tropical islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Chang teems with wildlife and activities amid stunning scenery of waterfalls, mountains and mangrove forests. Say hello to the monkeys you meet on your morning stroll to the beach and stroke the elephant’s head while it sways from side to side as it carries you gently through the tropical forest. Koh Chang is also a hot spot for scuba divers, the naval shipwreck, including the Thai Navy ship, Thonburi, sunk by the French in 1921, make fascinating dive sites.
Further south is the slightly bohemian Koh Samui, next to Koh Phangan, where the famous Full Moon parties invite thousands to dance in the sand. Koh Samui is fast becoming a built up resort island with five star hotels and some of the country’s top restaurants. It is an excellent choice for those wanting activities and great nightlife. But it isn’t hard to find enchanting, tranquil corners and there are wonderful temples and coconut plantations, superb Thai cooking and Thai massage courses, a golf course, elephant trekking and reptile parks – where a Thai with his head between the jaws of a crocodile is not an unusual sight. All around the Gulf of Thailand there are beautiful islands but whether you choose to cruise east or west you can be sure that your cruise around Thailand will give you some of the most magical days of your life.
Thailand – Country Fact File
Population: 65 million (95% of which practices Buddhism. Muslims and Christians make up the balance)
Language: Thai, English is widely understood, ethnic and regional dialects
Weather /When to go: West Coast – Nov to April, East Coast – Jun to Sept
Currency: Baht (BHT) of 100 satang
Attraction: Yacht charter in Thailand is relatively easy and relaxing with well-charted waters, small tidal ranges, and an absence of strong currents. The country offers mystique and the promise of paradise, and arguably the world’s best food.