Southern Thailand is home to some of the world's most extraordinary landscapes. Towering limestone karsts rise majestically from the waters of Phang Nga Bay and lazy rivers meander through the mangroves that lie in the shadows of cloud-piercing mountains. Azure waters, colourful corals and pocket-sized islands are all accessible for a day or two's adventure. Take a road or boat trip to explore the picture-perfect destinations within a short journey from Phuket.
Everything You Need to Know About Phang Nga Bay | Credit: Hotels.com
From Ao Po Grand Marina, charter a boat and head in wonderment to the spectacular marine playground that is Phang Nga Bay. Jungle-shrouded karsts rise majestically from the waters. Your captain will navigate you through hidden bays and coves.
A popular attraction is James Bond Island that appeared in the 1974 film 'The Man with the Golden Gun'. Further afield, you can explore the floating village of Koh Panyi, home to Malay fishermen settlers, a splendid gold mosque, school and Panyee FC, one of the most successful youth soccer clubs in Southern Thailand, which boasts a floating football pitch.
Continue to the mangroves and weave your way through the ancient and mysterious water-lands. You'll find the odd-looking walking mudskippers, caves of bats, and if you are very fortunate, families of otters playing in the shallows.
Khao Sok National Park: Guide for the Best Things to Do | Credit: Places of Juma
Koh Sok National Park is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world and home to many rare species, including wild elephants, the Malayan sun bear, marbled cats, 300 species of birds and the largest, stinkiest flower in the world, the Rafflesia Kerrii which only grows in Khao Sok.
Explore the breathtaking Cheow Larn Lake in the heart of the National Park and stay in one of the floating raft houses or luxury tents. Breathe in nature at its very best and hike through the jungles, seemingly endless caves and cooling waterfalls or discover the waterways in a traditional long-tailed boat.
Similan Islands | Credit: Hotels.com
The 70 sq-km Similan Islands Marine National Park boasts smooth granite islands topped with rainforest, edged with glaringly white sandy beaches and fringed by colourful coral reefs. Soft corals and abundant fishes attract snorkelers and divers alike.
A little further are the Surin Islands, an archipelago of five islands within Mu Koh Surin National Park. You'll have the opportunity to spot large pelagic species like manta rays and whale sharks, particularly between February and April. The islands close during the rainy season. The marine life diversity of the islands is one of the best in the world, with almost 300 species of reef fish and 107 known birds. The beautiful Surin bent-toed gecko is an endemic species only found on these islands. You'll also find the clouded monitor and water monitor here.
Phi Phi Island | Credit: Royalphuketmarina.com
The breathtaking archipelago known as Koh Phi Phi is home to abundant coral and marine life, limestone mountains with cliffs, caves and white sandy beaches. When approached by boat, the islands seemingly rise from the sea as an impenetrable stronghold. The towering cliffs are met by powdery beaches and swaying palm trees. In 2000, Phi Phi became famous as the setting for the Hollywood film, 'The Beach', starring Leonardo DiCaprio.