What could be more exotic?
We’re flat on our backs in a lemon-yellow inflatable canoe – sea canoeing Phang Nga Bay – our noses just inches away from the sharp-edged roof of a pitch-black cave tunnel, as our Thai guide leads us into a hong (an open-to-the-sky lagoon inside a doughnut-shaped limestone islet).
Inside the hong, we admire mangroves sprouting all around, and shrubs and trees struggling up rock crevasses. We also try to spot snakes and lizards.
But after a short paddle around this inner sanctum, it’s time to glide out again – we don’t want to be trapped inside by a rising tide.
Sea canoeing Phang Nga Bay
We’re exploring Thailand’s fabled bay with Sea Canoe, the eco-conscious adventure outfit that pioneered sea canoeing excursions into the tidal sea caves here.
The sea is littered with jagged, green-covered, rocky outcroppings jutting abruptly out of the water – many with caves – making it a wondrous place to spend a day.
Caves, lizards and monkeys
We first motored out from Phuket on a large wooden boat with Sea Canoe.
At Koh Panak, we clambered into our inflatable canoe for our paddle into the hong, and our guide sat behind us.
As the air shimmered with heat and humidity above the water’s surface, our guide/paddler also took us past several islets, their bases eaten into by the tide. Along the way, we spied well-camouflaged, two-foot-long monitor lizards eating crabs.
Outside one cave, agile locals – balanced high up on rickety bamboo ladders – collected nests for bird nest soup, a local delicacy.
There was more too. Monkeys swinging in tree tops. Sandy coves beckoning. And other caves waiting to be explored…
Not a secret anymore though
We’ve gone sea canoeing twice now on two separate visits to Phuket.
Certainly Phuket is much more developed than it was, almost the Hawaiian equivalent of Maui or even Oahu. And sea canoeing Phang Nga Bay has become so popular that many other tour operators also paddle visitors through the hongs. (Don’t expect “un-discovered” – you will meet paddlers from other tour groups.)
But the experience still reveals a unique and special side of Thailand – and one not to be missed if visiting Phuket.
Indeed, we were so taken with the sea canoeing that, even though we wrote a bit about it in an earlier post on some of the adventures we’ve experienced in exotic Thailand, we wanted to share a little more with you just on sea canoeing Phang Nga Bay.