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James Bond fans may remember 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, starring Roger Moore as 007. Not one of the best Bond films, but memorable in part for the spectacular scenery of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand which served as the setting for villain Scaramanga’s hideout.
The movie drew attention to the area and put pressure on Thai authorities to preserve this natural beauty. In 1981, much of the area was designated as Ao Phang Nga National Park, including the many islands in the area. It has become a major eco-tourism destination.
On our second day in Phuket we booked an excursion to explore sea caves in the area. We boarded a bus near the pier in Patong Bay for the hour long drive to Laem Sai Pier at the northern end of the island. There we boarded a motor launch for the hour boat cruise to Hong Island and the surrounding area.
The scenery was, indeed, like that in the Bond movie. Spectacular islands densely covered in vegetation with deep pitting in the exposed limestone, particularly at sea level.
We dropped anchor offshore from one of the islands and a myriad of small three person canoes were launched – two tourists and a guide in each. Janis and I and our guide followed some other craft into a cave and out the other end into a sheltered area surrounded by steep cliffs, limestone rock formations and lush greenery.
An island near the end of the channel looked much like the island in the movie that had the solar power unit atop it, though it was not the actual island. One of the other excursions did go to that island, now actually called James Bond Island.
We paddled around, occasionally drifting in to shore to see the rock formations up close and on one occasion, we lay back as our guide paddled us into a deep low-hanging cave and back again.
The entire area was spectacular – stunningly beautiful with streaks of red sandstone interspersed with grey and yellow limestones.
We paddled around taking in the scenery for a good half hour before paddling around an outcrop and back to our ship.
We were allowed to swim in the bay, so I gave Janis the camera and went over the side, swimming behind our kayak to the mother ship. The water was very warm.
Once aboard, we tootled off towards another island – destination: the bat cave. Not that batcave! No Batman and Robin in sight. But we once again took to the canoes and went into a much deeper cave system. Here we entered total darkness, only the guides’ flashlights providing illumination. We saw dozens of bats hanging upside from the ceiling as we paddled deeper into the cave, then we turned around and paddled back. Unfortunately it was too dark for my camera to take pictures.
From there we headed off to another island, the crew serving us a very tasty lunch along the way. At Lawi Island we dropped anchor again and were able to go ashore to a nice beach. Janis took a canoe but I just jumped in and swam ashore. We enjoyed a pleasant swim and soaked up the sun for an hour and then back to the boat again.
Back on Phuket Island we took the long bus ride back to Patong, stopping at a cashew stand that I’m sure must give kick-backs to tour operators because almost every excursion available included a visit to the “cashew factory”. It was not a factory. It was a shop. I don’t know if these additional stops add anything of value to a tour. I could have done without it. But some people were buying so I guess it pays off for them.
The sea cave adventure was by far our favourite excursion on our cruise – and the most expensive at US$149 a person. Sometimes spending a little more pays off in a big way.
At 5:30 PM the cruise ship weighed anchor and we headed off back to Singapore. All in all, a great end to our voyage. You’ll find additional photos of our sea cave adventure linked below.
I’ll be adding an overview of our cruise as a whole next, with links to all ports of call and our extended visit to Singapore. Stay tuned!
Links of Interest
- Photo Gallery: Sea Cave Adventure
- Sea Cave Canoes
- First Port of Call: Kuala Lumpur
- Second Port of Call: Penang – Temple of 10,000 Buddhas
- Third Port of Call: Langkawi
- Fourth Port of Call: Phuket, Thailand
- Photo Gallery: Patong, Thailand
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