Friday, July 27, 2007

Snorkelling in Thailand

Last updated Feb 2015

Snorkelling at Khao Lak (image Tourism Authority Thailand)

“Wanted, a nice bungalow place with good snorkelling right off the beach”This question comes up so often on travel forums I thought I’d try to put something together.


Answering is not that clear-cut because there are great differences in snorkelling ability and expectations.
- Ability: the majority of travelers I see snorkelling cruise along on the surface and may not be too impressed with some of those better locations where you have to dive down 3 or 4 meters to check a reef drop-off.
- Expectations: some people are used to top-notch snorkelling places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the nearby continental islands like the WhitSundays and so consider the best Thailand has to offer is pretty second rate. So if I say the area off Ko Ngai’s main beach is fairly good, they would think it third or fourth rate. Other snorkellers I see seem are easily pleased - are quite enthused about cruising around the swimming enclosure at PP’s Long Beach, which is mainly a sandy bottom and a bit of rock with a few fishies out further.

So keeping that in mind, the following are the good snorkelling spots I know about:



RIGHT OFF THE BEACH WITH ACCOMMODATON

The best I’ve found:
KO NANGYUAN - this has a mid-range resort one km to the north east off KO TAO (which is in the southern Gulf of Thailand north of Kos Samui and Phangan). There is good snorkelling and fishies in the bay to the north west of the sand spit which joins the 3 big rocks which make up the island. The fish are so used to being hand fed, they crowd around when you enter the water.
It is pretty good in the opposite bay, and I have read that if you are prepared to swim around the island some way, there are caves and some real nice fringing coral.
The resort is a dive resort but probably has more non-divers at busy times. I have stayed there twice when prices were a bit lower, once recently (2015) after it has headed upmarket and become a less idyllic destination. But in all visits it got real serene sitting on my elevated balcony after sunset with a bottle of that great Thai rum, watching the lights of the night-diving class flash and arc in the bay below.
You can also day-trip from nearby Tao (long tails shuttle across constantly) but the resort has recently levied a charge on day-trippers.

Nangyuan's attratcive sand spit - best snorkeling off the beach probably in the far (north-east) bay. Western bay on left wasn't too bad. Early in the day in this Feb 2015 pic but already plenty of daytrippers on the beach. 2015 saw general snorkeling poorer than earlier visits - but Thailand in general has deteriorated in recent years. Global warming? Increased tourism?


KO KRADAN (in the Andaman Sea south of Ko Lanta) - The reef off the main eastern beach here is not bad at the southern end where the beach starts to curve around to the National Park Headquarters area, but the best coral is found out from the southern beach - Ao Niang. Technically this does not have accommodation, but Wally’s Paradise Lost budget place which is 10 minutes nice rainforest walk away. The bigger main beach resorts are another 10. UPDATE JUNE 2010 - there is now a budget resort there, Ao Niang Beach Resort. But it may not last long - see the updated Kradan page for details and pix. FURTHER UPDATES DEC 2012/MARCH 2014 - place is still there, seems to be doing okay.
Note my March visit saw the best coral I'd spotted in Thailand in recent years apart from Ko Rok.
There are pretty good small bommies and patches of coral close to the beach, but the best stuff is out on the reef drop-off about 70m from shore. Look for the big and small commercial snorkelling boats from Lo Lanta, Pak Bara and Kradan’s adjacent islands - but note, this bay is big enough that even with the 5+ boats moored during my visits, it was never overcrowded and I found it easy to snorkel on my own.

Far south end of main eastern beach on Ko Kradan - if you swim perpendicularly out from the rocks in shot you will find the reef drop-off not too far out. Follow it in the direction of that snorkelling-trip longtail and further - you will now be off the adjacent Ao Niang for the best stuff.
Note if you swim directly off the beach heading left from the camera you will find Ao Niang's fringing reef continues around the corner of the island - the coral and fish are not bad without being up to the standard of Ao Niang.



The western beach on Kradan (once again 10 minutes walk from Wally‘s) is smaller and has a similar set-up except the quality of coral and fishies etc is not quite as good IMHO.

Note trip reporter wonderingstar has his own snorkelling blog and has a very good page on KRADAN SNORKELLING with lots of info, maps and pretty pix


HING WONG BAY (KO TAO - in the southern Gulf north of Kos Samui and Phangan) - technically not off the beach because this east coast bay has no beach. But some of the best easily accessed coral I've seen in Thailand is immediately to both sides off the end of the Hing Wong Bay Resort's pier in shot below, where big submerged granite boulders have attracted lots of good coral and fish and are spaced closely so that there are many narrow canyons to explore. Note that Hing Wong Resort doesn't mind daytrippers using the pier - everyone else seems to, including dive boats and even fishing boats replenishing supplies. Naturally if you spend a bit of time in their restaurant they appreciate it. I saw lots of daytrip snorkelling boats also working over the southen headland in background and the area around View Rock Resort to about 100m to left of shot
Hing Wong Bay Resort is a budget place as is the adjacent Mol's Homestay and Pub. View Rock is budget/flashpacker. There is a new flash apartment complex Shangrila part of which can be seen sticking out from behind one of the rocks in background.

Ko Tao is a bit of a gem for snorkelling - just about any bay in the eastern half of the island from Shark Bay in the south to Mango Bay in the north - plus the afore-mentioned Ko Nangyuan in the north-west has pretty good snorkelling by Thai standards. I personally found Hing Wong the best but I haven't snorkelled the other places exhaustively (nor Hing Wong come to that). Others claim the best snorkelling is at Ao Leuk, others go for Shark Bay. The headlands at these places get raves. Accommodation of all standard can be found in this wide area - see the Tao page for individual beaches and bays.
Snokelling and dive boats working over western headland of Shark Bay/Ao Thian OK at south-east Ko Tao.

Snorkelers and general visitor get good value from the AROUND ISLAND SNORKELING TRIPS at Ko Tao (see about 70% down THIS PAGE)

Guests enjoying the fish-feeding frenzy (boat staff throw in slices of bread) on the Ko Tao AROUND ISLAND trip.


KO PHI PHI (in the Andaman south of Phuket, north of Ko Lanta) - there is a reef about 70m off Long Beach which is pretty good and attracts the daytrip snorkelling boats. If you swim out from the beach you need to keep going past the broken coral on the inside of the fringing reef. There is also some pretty good coral fringing the low reef-islet at the eastern end of the beach.
Long Beach has some real nice places to stay ranging from budget to upper midrange and is the nicest beach on the island within easy reach of town.
There is pretty good snorkelling around this reef-islet and the rocks to the right off the eastern end of Long Beach. Note the snorkelling longtail boat parked to the left.

Additionally, just about all the east coast beaches have a fringing reef. I have snorkelled a few and they are not bad. I noticed in a recent visits the daytrip snorkelling boats were working over Rantee most intensely. Accommodation ranges from budget to very high end.
Bamboo Island off the north-east of Phi Phi is said to be pretty good too.

Probably the best snorkeling at Phi Phi is found in the various bays of Phi Phi Ley, the non-resort nagtional park island, but unless you are on an overnight camping trip, snorkeling here is not really off your accommodation beach.

Tucker time on the Maya Bay, Phi Phi Ley trip


KO LAO LIANG (in the Andaman south of Ko Kradan) - snorkellers will find the coral (some nice soft coral here) and fish off the northern end of Laoliang’s resort beach pretty good with even better stuff accessed via the snorkelling trips at Ko Ta-Kiang aout 10 km further west.

A nice coral bommie off Ko Ta-Kiang



THE SURINS AND THE SIMILANS (both in the Andaman north of Phuket) - see my comments down page about my Surins and Similans Island visits - the Surins used to be very good off the beach and on short boat trips away from the main beach but was suffering badly from coral bleaching in March 2011. The Similans needs boat trips to the best locations but these too were suffering when I called by in April 2012 and Nov 2014. According to trip reporter MV both were unimproved early 2015.



DOWN A STEP OR TWO BUT STILL OKAY:

KO PHANGAN (in the southern Gulf north of Ko Samui) - there are nice coral/fish by Thailand standards around Ko Ma which is joined by a sand spit to Mae Had beach in the north-west of KO PHANGAN. This is a popular spot for the around island trip boats to stop for a snorkel. There are also some okay lumps of coral and rock right off the beach, but this area can get a bit shallow at low tide.
Mae Hat is a laid back beach with mainly budget and flash packer bungalows.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of coral and fish right off the beach at Had Thian (Tien) and adjacent Had Wai (Why) Nam in the south of Phangan's east coast. These quiet and pleasant little beaches have accommodation mainly budget and flashpacker.

Those underwater rocks above are in fact pretty good coral at laid back Had Thian, the new-agers' beach east coast Phangan. Click this shot to expand.

KO PODA (in the Andaman not far from Krabi) - this is one of the offshore karst islands a short distance out from Railay/Ao Nang beaches. It has a fringing reef with okay coral. Note the bungalows here are high range - associated with one of the more expensive hotels in Ao Nang. Most people visit Poda on daytrips out of Railay and Ao Nang - the daytrip area is towards the northern end of the long curved beach - the bungalows are at the far eastern end, so if you shell out big money for a place you will not be inundated with daytrippers. UPDATE - last I heard the bungalows had closed down.

KO LIPE (in the southern Andaman not far from the Malaysian border_ - there is a fringing reef off the southern of the small twin bays where Viewpoint bungalows resort is located. This is just south of the big eastern Andaman beach. Viewpoint is a funky budget place and there is a lot more accomm on Andaman itself. The small islands near Viewpoint have okay coral fringing them.
At each end of the main Pattaya beach are sections of coral which are okay. Acomm here is mainly flash packer and better. I was also pleasantly surprised by the okay coral lumps and fishies in the swimming enclosure in front of Varin resort which is almost mid Pattaya beach.

KO BULON LAE (in the Andaman east of Ko Lipe) - reasonable coral to the west of Bulone Resort and off and to the south of Pansand resort, but we are talking down at least two steps here. The coral directly out from Bulone is okay as is the stuff off the end of the spit where the main beach curves. These two resorts are flash-packer to midrange, but there are some budget bungalows quite close to the beach.

KO NGAI (in the Andaman just to the north of Ko Kradan) - snorkelling is not bad along the fringing reef off the main eastern beach. Accom ranges from budget tents to real high end, with a few very nice midrangers here.
I thought the coral etc was just as good (but we are talking down at least two steps again) across in the south-western bay. The budget Paradise Beach Resort has this nice beach all to itself.

KO WHAI (WAI) (in the eastern Gulf of Thailand south of big Ko Chang) - I had an okay snorkel along the reef off Ko Whai Paradise, which is a nice budget place. On later trips I found this reef extends further south-eastwards to Pakarang beach.

KO LIBONG (in the Andaman east of Ko Kradan) - this one is tricky because I only swam around with my lap-swimming goggles and some posters have mentioned unimpressive snorkelling here. I saw a sandy bottom with lots of lumps of coral, but I couldn’t tell the quality through the weathered plastic lens.
However judging by the time guests of Ko Libong Beach Resort were spending as they snorkelled, it must have been pretty interesting.
UPDATE DEC 08 - I felt duty bound to do a snorkel on my next visit to Libong. Yep, the coral is pretty ordinary in front of Beach Resort/Le Dugong. Gets better towards the north headland but in no way can compare to say Kradan.

I know I should always check the snorkeling if I’m gonna write island reports, but I’m a bit slack in some places unless I think it is going to be totally excellent. This is partly because the best coral in Thailand (SIMILAN ISLANDS) is 2nd rate and partly because I snorkel at home most days in a spectacular place. I go after lobsters and abalone in the small rocky bay behind my house - it has underwater caves, canyons and crevasses, heaps of fish, eels etc plus lots of long seaweed swaying in the swell. And this place often picks up big swell - just getting in and out off the rocks can be exciting.***

Snorkelling in the Similans (image THAILANDMAGIC.COM)



SNORKELLING SPOTS ACCESSED BY BOAT
Snorkelling trips are offered on just about every island. Some islands have not got very good snorkelling off the beach but pretty decent stuff on their daytrips.

THE SIMILAN ISLANDS had the best coral in Thailand I have seen (although my latest trips in 2012 and 2914 saw a sad decline due to global warming - see down page).
One reasons coral is normally good here is the distance from the mainland, which ensures cleaner water. But this also gives a problem - the trip out takes a hell of a long time and is expensive. When if first did this I was crammed with a bunch of other people into a not-so-big speedboat, with insufficient room to move around, so it was uncomfortable. In all, I didn’t think it was value - I’ve snorkelled better coral in the Philippines and on Fiji’s barrier islands for a quarter the cost.
Most boat trips leave from the Khao Lak area.
UPDATE - recent years have seen much bigger more comfortable speedboats plus a lot of people from Phuket doing the daytrips. Wow, that's a hell of a long time in minibuses and speedboats, as I found out in November 2014.
Note that you can stay on the Similans in National Park huts and tents. The transport cost plus the 200baht entry fee makes this not all that cheap. Accommodation and food are not top value either. I finally got around to this in 2012 and have a section on this on my Similans page.

I’m a sucker for live-aboard island boat trips.......IMHO a far better way of doing the Similans is by Poseidon Bungalows' 3 day/2night snorkelling trip.
http://www.similantour.com/similan.html
On an early Thailand visit I stayed at the bungalows (flash-packer in a lovely setting - see the website mainpage) but couldn’t afford the trip at the time. Returning guests said it was excellent.
UPDATE - FEB 08 - I did the Poseidon intrip in late January and my report is down page.

Preparing to hit the water off Poseidon's live-aboard Similans boat (image Similantour)

TRIPS OUT OF KO LIPE are good value. Once again distance from the mainland ensures clear water and pretty good coral. The trip I took included fringing reefs on adjacent Ko Rawa and Ko Adang plus a mid ocean bommie which had a bunch of divers at lower levels.

TRANG ISLAND SNORKELLING TRIPS are pretty good too. You can do these from Ko Lanta (info and pix starting 30% down THIS PAGE) on the fast daytrip speed boats and ferries which go down each day and include the Emerald Cave and beach time on one of the islands, on similar trips from Pak Meng and Ban Chao Mai, and on cheaper long-tail trips from adjacent islands like Muk, Ngai and Libong. The snorkelling usually takes in the southern (and maybe western) bay at Kradan plus the fringing coral around the small karst islets of Ko Ma and Ko Cheuk between Ngai and Muk.

Snorkellers off Ko Ma near Ko Ngai shot from the Petpailin Trang islands daytrip boat out of Lanta. Note my latest visit in December 2012 saw the coral sadly diminished - global warming is not only impacting the Surins and Similans. Fish okay but like just about all Thailand spots, no really big fish.

There are also snorkelling trips to KO ROK and KO HAA, two of the other more western Trang islands in the Andaman. Coral and fish quality have always been said to be very good. Some reports compare these to the Similans/Surins at their best. I haven't done Haa yet but Boleslav has a report of a visit HERE.
I finally got around to visiting ROK in November 2014 and found coral and fish there the best I'd seen in Thailand and much better than any other place in recent years. More info and pix about 65% down THIS PAGE.

KRABI SNORKELLING TRIPS - the 3 AND 5 ISLAND TRIPS out of Railay/Ao Nang/Ton Sai and Krabi town usually include Ko Poda and Hen and Chicken Island. My very first also included a snorkel thru a hollowed karst stack to a big coral bommie on the seaward side which was quite spectacular. But in 2 subsequent trips we did not return there. I haven't done these trips in recent years but 2 Aussies told me in 2014 that Poda and Hen and Chicken are overcrowded, overflowing with trash and that the snorkeling showed signs of over-visits and maybe global warming.

I have done one trip out of Krabi to Ko Hong and Ko Lading in the southern Phang Nga Bay and another out of KoYao Noi to the same area. The snorkelling here is not great (the water this close to the mainland is not all that clear) although the beaches and landscape/seascape are very nice. Once again Boleslav has been ther and has some info and pix in the trip report of that island.

Nice seascape at Pak Bia island on my day trip from Krabi to the southern Ko Hong area (there is also a northern Ko Hong in the same Phang Nga Bay - even more spectacular and with even more cloudy water)

Note that snorkeling off Krabi's more popular mainland beaches (Raily, Phra Nang and Ao Nang) is very ordinary. But again the landscape/seascape is fantastic.

PHI PHI SNORKELLING TRIPS vary in destinations, but full day ones will take in Maya Bay of The Beach fame on PP Ley, Bamboo and/or Mosquito Island to the north east of PP Don (lovely beach stop here) and that reef at Long Beach mentioned before. Many do the fringing reef off the east coast too. All these places have reasonably coral, although it has suffered in recent years.
You can do these trips by long-tail out of PP and big ferry or speedboats from Phuket and Ao Nang/Railay. I have also mentioned I did an overnight live/aboard (was supposed to be live-aboard although we camped) trip to Maya Bay, leaving from Phi Phi Don.

Snorkelling the fringing reef off Bamboo Island's lovely beach (image TheTravellersLounge)

KO RAYA/RACHA is a popular daytrip island a relatively short distance from Phuket. I wasn't whelmed by the snorkelling off the beach when I stayed on the island a few nights (although fun snorkellers won't mind the gorgeously clear water, coral patches and tame fish to the left of the pier at the gorgeous main beach) but a Phuket based dive guy said the daytrip boats visit a few spots hard to access from the shore where the coral and fish are better. Um, well not my boat on my return visit in February 2014.

CORAL ISLAND - another short daytrip from Phuket. Once again I found the snorkelling off the beach pretty ordinary when I stayed there, but unlike Raya the daytrip boats didn't seem to take guests elsewhere. A couple of fellow guests at the resort there were hard-core and spent hours each day in the section between eastern Long Beach and the start of Banana Beach.

Down another step IMHO is the snorkelling on the ANG THONG MARINE NATIONAL PARK TRIP out of Samui or Phangan (the trip itself is great but I though the snorkelling was ordinary) - and down two steps: the KO CHANG SNORKELLING TRIP out of White Sand Beach which goes to the  fringing coral around a small islet a few km south.
However people tell me the longer trips from Chang to the areas near Whai and Muk are pretty good, but I haven’t done them. I have snorkelled the reef at Whai itself and off tiny Ko Kham near Mak both of which are stops on most of these trips and these are not too bad at all.


THE DECLINE OF THE SURINS AND SIMILANS
People would argue whether the Surins has the best coral and fish in Thailand or if it was the Similans. I can't say even though I have snorkelled both.
In March 2011 I went to the Surins, stayed in the camping area and snorkelled off the beach and on boat trips - sadly the place was under the influence of global warming and the coral and fish were very very underwhelming. Not worth the effort of getting out there. However I knew beforehand it had suffered badly - my main reason for visiting was to see just how good an island destination it is. Sadly that disappointed me too as you can read on my Surins page.
Similarly, I found snorkelling conditions pretty poor when I returned to the Similans in April 2012 and November 2014, way down on earlier visits.
Hopefully both locations will recover in the near future although my mate MV reporting in early 2015 said things had deteriorated further..

Ao Mai Ngam, the main camping beach on the Surins is a pretty nice beach - good enough to make my list of Thailand's best beaches. But the snorkelling both off the beach and on the National Park snorkelling boat trips was pretty poor in early 2011.



PLACES WHICH ARE NOT SO GREAT FOR SNORKELLING OFF THE BEACH
This includes locations like BIG KO CHANG itself, KO MAC (MAK, MAAK), KO SAMET, KO SAMUI, KHAO LAK, PHUKET, RAILAY/PHRA NANG/TON SAI/AO NANG, KO JUM, KO LANTA itself and KO MUK - these places aren’t known for their snorkelling. BUT all have headlands and other rocky areas, and so there would always be patches of coral and fish which could keep a not too discerning snorkeller occupied.

Some places are a bit too close to rivers on the coast and so have cloudy water at times which aint good for either coral or visibility - examples: KO PHAYAM, LITTLE KO CHANG, KO SUKORN and KO YAO NOI (although I found reasonable coral off the lovely little sand spit on KO NOK, a small uninhabited double-karst islet about a km out from the south east corner of the Yao Noi. I hired a kayak from Coconut Corner bungalows for 300 a day and paddled the 3km or so from there in maybe a half hour).


BRING YOUR OWN SNORKELLING GEAR?
Many bungalows, beach-eats places and similar hire gear - 100baht per day is common.
Snorkelling daytrips usually have no extra charge for their gear.
In the past, problems with old and leaking gear were widespread, but I’ve noticed that most of the stuff now is in pretty good condition. However it is often a hassle adjusting the fit to ensure comfort and no leaks, so if you have your own gear, I’d advise bringing it.
I always carry my snorkel and mask; they take up little room in my pack - forget about the fins, they are heavy and bulky and can damage coral badly.

IMAGE REMOVED ON DIRECTION OF GOOGLE. GOOD GRIEF, WHAT SORT OF WORLD DO WE LIVE IN WHEN READER WOWSERS CAN DICTATE WHAT WE POST AND VIEW?
Why Tezza likes snorkelling


The following information was provided by Thorntree posters when I published the above account on that forum:

Bob1971 - I seem to recall Had Yao, KPN being pretty good snorkelling, The immediate bay is very shallow and sandy but if you venture out through the tiny boat channel onto the reef it was pretty impressive with some serious coral and great variety of fish. Tanote Bay KT was pretty good as well. Less for the Coral but more for the spotted rays, coral trout and odd reef shark cruising around.

islandboi321 - Regarding snorkelling trips out of Ko Lipe to the other nearby islands such as Ko Adang or Ko Rawi:
Try to get a decent sized group together to rent a longtail... Up to seven is a good number. It works out to be very economical for everyone. Most of the tours out of Lipe take you to some decent snorkellin/coral.
Some of tours also give you a lunch included in the price. Ask around.


gregybn - A fav. spot on Lipe - swim across 400m from Sunlight beach to small Koh Kra (can be about 1 kn. current)
kinda shallow on the W,S,N sides... but swim around and it's a pretty nice deeper area with lots to see on the E side.
if you head out there at sunrise, guaranteed you will be the only ones there... with a couple very pleasant, small private beaches on the N & S.
a very nice circumsnork., about 1.5 km. total swim, depending on how much you meander... private rest beach is a bonus.
don't know the name of the other small island off Viewpoint... about a 200m. swim over, but no beaches on it, even so, a nice trip to circumsnork.

KevinCorr - Because you mention Ko Maak near KoChang, Trat, I must say that MOST of Ko Maak and Ko Chang should be on the list of places NOT good...
... although there are places nearby by boat.
(I am a surface snorkeler, not a dive down snorkeler.)


Dominic77 - From the north-eastern end of the bay (Shark Bay-Ko Tao) at Rocky Resort (Ko Lanta), enter the water and snorkel around the headland to the north. There is an excellent reef there where there we saw not only sharks, but also Barracuda, Batfish and plenty of other species of fish.


***One time I was hauling myself out of the water in the small bay behind my house in a really nasty swell - one-handed, with a fishing-line ensnared gull in the other. Gulls often swoop on fishing baits and get hooked - this fisherman cut the line off long and that bird couldn’t have got itself bound up better by Barbie The Bondage Bitch at Barry’s Bad Boys' Barn in backstreet Byron Bay.
Ol’ Jonathon Livingston was being blown towards the rocks and certain oblivion. I was sinking the usual 5pm 2 to 5 glasses of elcheapo red with Lady Tezza in the sunroom checking the gnarly Pacific - she suggested it might be worthwhile to go down and haul the dumbass bird out.
Just as I was regaining my footing, I got smashed by a big wave. So there I was on a blustery winter day, no protective wetsuit on, getting dragged across the rocks by the swash and then sucked back into the water by the backwash, all the time holding the gull up so it didn’t get mashed. Real exciting.
But Lady T was right - it was worth it. The seagull stew was great.
See the pictures at the foot of the Ko Libong page.

IMAGE REMOVED ON DIRECTION OF GOOGLE. GOOD GRIEF, WHAT SORT OF WORLD DO WE LIVE IN WHEN READER WOWSERS CAN DICTATE WHAT WE POST AND VIEW?
Why Tezza LOVES snorkelling (image ?? - arrived by email from Sam)


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UPDATE - FEB 08 - 3 DAY SNORKELLING TRIP TO THE SIMILAN ISLANDS

Back-bay and beach at Similan Island #4 - some opportunities for beach time and short treks on Poseidon's Similan Islands snorkelling trip.
I finally got my wish and did the 3 day-2night live-aboard snorkelling trip to the Similans put on by Poseidon Bangalows out of Khao Lak in late January.
I found it one of the best live aboard trips I’ve done and highly recommend it to not only to people who like snorkelling some pretty good reefs and checking excellent marine-life, but others who simply like chugging around on a comfortable slow-boat thru a series of scenic islands (the Similans are a string of 9 hilly forest clad islands about 70km off the Andaman coast and roughly the same distance north of Phuket’s northern end).

I intend to do a newspaper submission when I get the time, so I’ll just give a summary in point form for the time being:

* We snorkelled over a dozen locations at 6 islands, got several hours beach time on 2 gorgeous beaches and had time for a bit of trekking to some pretty nice island viewpoints.

Viewpoint at Donald Duck Bay, island #8.
* There were 17 guests on the boat - one Orstrayan, 2 Yanks, 2 Finns and 12 Swedes. Poseidon is a Swedish-Thai owned operation.
5 crew - Lars, the young affable Swedish snorkelling guide (who gave his laid-back review at every new stop in excellent English), the Captain Chuy and his deckhand , plus the 2 cookies, chef Mai and helper Su.
Lars was a good snorkeller and Chuy was the best Thai in the water I’ve seen. He had an amazing eye - he could spot lobsters and octopuses from the surface in 8m of water - I had to take his word and follow him down close before I saw them.

* Food was outstanding - not the usual bungalow stuff (not that I don't enjoy that) but similar to a good Thai banquet where about 5 different courses are handed around. There were always coffee, tea and fruit on offer. You can buy beer and soft drinks on account.
Tucker-time - snorkelling all day builds a good appetite - food quality and quantity matched it.

* The boat Duang Ta looks to be a converted small Thai style ferry and is very comfortable and well appointed.
There is plenty of room so you aren’t tripping over other guests like some of the Aussie trips I’ve done (see Cruising Tropical Islands on a Budget)
Sleeping quarters in the hull is a long dorm-like area with wooden partitions and curtains for privacy, mattresses and pillows I found comfortable, a light for reading and aircon at night for non-swelter zzzzs. About half the guests elected to sleep on deck under the stars.
There are 2 spacious areas for sunbathing, which is an excellent way to spend the time when chugging between islands. The big covered dining area was ideal for shade lovers.

The Swedish connection gets some sun between islands.
Fresh water is usually limited on smaller boats but we were told we could shower after every snorkel and any other time we liked, but not to stay under for a huge amount of time. The shower is located near the rear platform used to access the ocean - rinse off as soon as you hop out.
There are 2 western style toilets.
Duang Ta (image Poseidon Bungalows)
* Lars and Chuy take lots of photos both in and out of the water which Lars burns to CD (including top shots from previous trips and a video) and makes available about 20 minutes after return to Poseidon - for 600baht from memory. I had to scoot to try and make an un-booked Ranong bus and so can’t show you any of the shots. But the Poseidon website has some nice general ones.
http://www.similantour.com/photos.html

* Similans coral is supposed to be some of the best in Thailand. It is the best I’ve seen in Thailand.
But it is a step down from the best I’ve seen elsewhere (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and nearby islands). And it isn’t as good as some Pacific island coral I’ve snorkelled. It lacks the variety of colour and form you see in the best places. AndI didn’t swim through any deep coral canyons where you surprise the hell out of divers - or find any submarine caves you can swim into and pop out thru a hole in the top of the reef.
Similans coral shot by Crocodrilo - hey, the water is pretty clear here!

I thought the other marine life was top-grade. Besides the multitude of fish, I saw several turtles following one for about 10 minutes, lots of morays and other eels, several octopuses, one sea-snake, a couple of lobsters and a few small rays.
Maybe BIG fish were lacking - no giant wrasses the size of small cows you see in Australia (I’m not exaggerating). But other people in the party saw barracuda and harmless black-tip reef sharks . We detoured away from the Similans to nearby Ko Bon because dive boats reported manta-rays, but didn’t see any. Ko Bon was a duplication of the Similans otherwise, so was still an interesting snorkel.
Being so far off the coast visibility in all areas was very good.

Captain Chuy had a good eye on the surface too and spotted this turtle as we were chugging along. The turtle hung around for about 15 minutes.
Update July 2011 - I was recently checking some websites to see what other live-aboard Similans snorkelling trips were available, and found my pic above on one dive-snorkelling outfit's site - no acknowledgement to me or to Poseidon. Cheeky but typical. I bet they won't offer me a discount on one of their trips for later this year.

By the way, the 2 mature age Finns on the trip were diving and snorkelling fanatics - they were always first in the water and last out, and could get way down to where the captain was peering under mushroom corals for lobsters etc. They had just come off a trip to the Surins where they stayed at National Park HQ and took long tails to various locations. They told me the Surins were not quite up to the standards of the Similans coral and fish etc wise. The said nearby Richelieu Rock was slightly better than both, but a step down from the best they’d seen - the Red Sea.

But listen up, even for people who have seen the best, the Similans are still excellent value. They appeared to be having the time of their life and I enjoyed my trip immensely.

Lisa from Idaho tries fire-stick twirling under the tutelage of fellow countryman Blaiz at Donald Duck Bay on island #8. The sand here is about the whitest I've seen in Thailand. As a matter of fact it don't get too much whiter anywhere. My 1999 daytrip visited this beach, the old NP Headquarter's beach - the nicely tree-shaded area behind was packed with tents, picnic tables, NP bungalows and admin buildings. The tsunami trashed them - there was a small group of Thais rebuilding but it will be a long time before this area reopens to accommodation. The other NP Headquarters beach on island #4 faces north and had minor damage. It is a real nice location, again with bungalows and tents where I aim to spend a few days during some future trip.



* Complaints? Well I can’t really think of too many.
-About half the sleeping-berths were doubles and these looked a bit narrow for 2 to me. I noticed the Finns who were on their second Poseidon trip, grabbed single bunks.
-Maybe we didn’t make full use of the last day - we left island #4 not too long after luncheon and were in port soon after 4pm. But a few of the guests were wanting to pick up booked Bangkok buses, so maybe this slightly early return isn't always the situation.
In any case it 's balanced by the early start - we were chugging out of harbour at 0745 first morning, all seated around the table up in the scenic dining area as the first delicious trays of breakfast food were passed around.
Beach at National Park HQ, island #4.

For an update and some nice underwater shots, see Crocodrilo's
photo trip report in the new Trip Report section.
You can also check MV's interesting photo-report about his stay on Ko Tachie - this lovely little island is a fair distance north of Similans 1 to 9 islands but is part of the Similans National Park.

If you want to do a trip report on the Similans or any other location please send text and any shots to lajolla22@hotmail.com


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PEOPLE CONSIDERING DAY TRIPS TO THE SIMILANS - I did a day trip out of Phuket in November 2014 - I have a report HERE

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If you are planning to visit the Similans you may be interested in nearby Khao Lak
and the Surins Islands.
A couple of very relaxed seldom visited islands in the area are Ko Kho Khao and Ko Phra Thong. The latter has a dive operation, Blue Guru which must be the closest such outfit to the Surins and Richelieu Rock.

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OCT 2012 - trip reporter wonderingstar has started his own snorkelling website - it's a work in progress and eventually will have stuff on Thailand, Malaysia, Indo and the Philippines. Already it has a heap of useful info and maps plus a lot nice underwater pix. WHAT'S THE SNORKELLING LIKE?
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If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ABOUT THIS TRAVEL SITE

WHY DID I START THIS SITE?
On travel forums I try to answer as many questions as possible, particularly the repetitive “boring” ones which tire many regulars. And when I answer I try to give as much info as I can. But I found I was spending huge amounts of time rewriting the same answers day after day. What I needed was a site where I could put heaps of info - allowing me to give shorter forum answers with reference to the site for additional stuff.
Thorntree was no good at the time because threads dropped off the forum after about 3 months. The new version since the Brit takeover is much better in this respect, but too late for me - and displaying photos is difficult.
After a few other failed experiments I figured I could take a blog format and use it as a host for my travel information and advice..

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
Why do any of you answer questions on travel sites? Because you want to help other travellers and share what you know.
Vanity and pride come into it. I can’t believe how good Blogger makes my stuff look and I do like the many thanks I get. I get a real kick when I see how many people have clicked on my pages.
I am not paid by TAT, I don’t get freebies from bungalow owners - no-one knows who the hell I am. I am not a professional journalist hoping a publisher will pick up my stuff - AS IF. See below for the farcical amount of money earned from Google advertisements and where it goes.

MY STUFF ISN’T REALLY A TRAVEL BLOG - I DON’T TELL YOU WHAT I DID.
Nope, that aint the idea. I figure potential travelers are not interested in reading a boring account of my day to day experiences. They want info about what is there, not what I did. So I leave that part fairly limited. UPDATE 2017 - this has changed: I've found it much easier writing recent post such as SICHON to treat it as a WHAT I DID thing. This is largely because I'm getting way too old to ride the bicycle another 10km return to see one more waterfall (which is probably no better than the dozens I've seen in SE Asia) or riding the motorcycle 40km return to check that northern most beach (if I can find a place which rents motorcycles).

WHAT ABOUT THE ADVERTISING?
3 reasons why I have the adverts:
- As a thank you to Google for hosting the site. They do it for free, other than the money they make when people click their ads. I don't believe in a free lunch - if Google doesn’t make money, it won’t offer the service.
- Google Adsense gives me a very good page counter way superior to third parties if I display their ads. This is the way I see how many people are reading my stuff. Like any author, I’m real curious about this.
- To make heaps of money so I can upgrade the '57 Eldo to a 911 GT3. Kidding - Adsense Reports tell me that over the past week I have had 3321 pages read, 19 ads clicked and got $4 dollars 71c total for them That’s 67cents per day (wow!) and 14/100 of a cent per page read (forget about the GT3- I‘ll go for the Veyron).
(update March 2012: now averaging abt 1100 hits per day - earning a bit under $1).
If you don’t like this, it’s real simple. Read the page but don’t click any advertisements.

Note that every dollar (less than one per day) goes to the SurfAid charity. This was set up by a NZ big-wave surfing doctor visiting the Mentawi and Nias islands off west Sumatra (one of the poorest areas in Asia) who realised when he jumped off his live-on boat to visit one of those idyllic villages behind the beach just how far a few dollars on anti-malarials, water-purification etc would go to help the locals. SurfAid had a boat in the area and was thus a first responder when the 2004 tsunami hit and again when a less publicised 2010 one slammed the islands. I think most of you have a tame charity, but if not this is a good one to support.

UPDATE JAN 2010 - the new READERS' TRIP REPORTS section is advertisement free because I figure some potential contributors don't want their stuff associated with commercialism.

WHAT ARE THE MOST READ PAGES?
In the past week:
Some Tips on Not Drowning 133
Tioman 121
Which Island or Beach 115
Phi Phi 104
Bali 77
Krabi 69
Stones From the Joker in the Glass House 68
This is June 09 - Thailand islands will pick up in high season. In high season Phi Phi and Which Beach or Island? rate highest.

UPDATE JAN 2010 - Phi Phi is indeed #1 island page. But "Stones From the Joker" is outrating them all since I added some silly pictures.

WHICH IS MY FAVOURITE PAGE?
Some Tips on Not Drowning - if it helps save just one life or avoid a big scare, it has been worth while.

HOW COME THERE ARE 2 INDEXES?
When I first started, Blogger was much less user friendly unless you had a working knowledge of html. So when I decided to get a page counter by pasting some Google Advertising code, the ads came up on the INDEX PAGE as a long vertical column at the top - when people clicked on to it all they saw was the ads - no Index contents.
I thought this was a turn-off - a lot of readers would not bother about scrolling down past the ads to find the Index itself. So I did a second index page with no ads. The only way to do this was to start a second blog - there are actually 2 blogs - THAILAND, BALI AND OTHER BEACHES and TEZZA’S BEACHES AND ISLANDS - the indexes are crosslinked and will find a page on either blog. You can see the other index by clicking BACK TO INDEX at the top right of this page - notice it has different pictures top and side.
Blogger is much more user-friendly now. Arranging ads just where I want them is a doddle, so both blogs now have them - because I want to keep checking readership of both. And to make $millions.

UPDATE JAN 2010 - there are now 3 separate blogs. In order to keep the new READERS' TRIP REPORTS advertisement free I had to start a new blog. Well maybe not HAD TO - but I don' t know enough about Blogger to make individual pages ad-free.

HOW COME OTHER PEOPLE HAVE COPIED MY STUFF?
Several people have asked to display some of my pages, like Brent’s BACKPACKING THAILAND
Marizamelia’s KenapaEndonesah Project
And some lady runs a travel site for Turkey wanted my Paragliding and Cruising Threads. I have lost the link.
TALES OF ASIA has also got a lot of my early Thailand Island pages in a special section, but none of these has been updated as on my site.
My stalker, the miserable Singapore Slim (all names changed to protect the guilty) has also copied and pasted quite a lot of my pages to make his ISLANDS AND BEACHES blog (over 90% is my stuff) http://kanangasthaiinfo.blogspot.com/2007/07/koh-bulon-leh.html claiming it was his own writing, but when he got ridiculed by other readers he changed some wording to try to differentiate it and in some parts to make it satirical. The loser couldn’t do satire if his life depended on it.

WHY ARE THE INDEXES FUTURE-DATED?
Blogs automatically post the last input at the top of the page. So to keep the indexes at the top of the page I have to date them as if posted some time in the future - Dec09 at this time of writing. Blogger allows this.
Similarly, I can put a new page anywhere by juggling its posting-date. For instance this page will be posted in June 09, but I don’t regard it as a key page so it will be given a date which places it somewhere down the blog, not near the top. I just decided July07 which should put it 2nd from bottom.

WHY ARE SOME PHOTOS TAKEN BY OTHER PEOPLE?
I used to be a camera fanatic - had a top range SLR with all the accessories. But I got sick of carting all this stuff everywhere - so for a long time I travelled with NO camera. I had lots of info but no shots, so I looked at Google Images and similar and used shots from there. I always acknowledge the source and give a link to the photographer when possible.
On more recent trips I’ve taken an elcheapo digital which is compact enough to not be a hassle, and cheap enough to not worry about theft. Any unacknowledged pix have been taken by me.
But even after I started lugging a camera again I see fabulous shots from a website or traveler and just have to include them. Several examples are on my Ko Kut page - the fact that my camera's backup batteries were on their last legs there is another factor for borrowing pix on that particular page. Got worse a few days later on Whai were they failed completely and there were none for sale.

ARE THERE ANY PIX OF ME?
Plenty, but all but 2 (on the Laoliang page) don’t identify me. This site is not about me**, it’s about the locations. Ignore the obviously dummy shots I claim are me, like the babe on the bowsprit of the WhitSunday Cruise yacht.
**although this page IS about me. Sorry, but people are always asking about why I do the blog.

SOME PEOPLE SAY THE STUFF LOOKS LIKE A TAT WHITEWASH - THERE ARE NO CRITICISMS.
They don‘t read the pages, just knock my efforts. Some criticisms I can think of off the top of my head:
THAILAND
PHI PHI IS OVERPRICED, AS IS RAILAY AND LIPE.
RAILAY AND MOST OF PHI PHI ARE OVERCROWDED IN SEASON.
MUCH OF PHRA NANG IS OVERCROWDED IN SEASON.
AO NANG IS A HOT DUSTY PLACE IN DAYTIME, FULL OF TOUTS AND HASSLE MERCHANTS. AND MUCH OF THE BEACH IS UNATTRACTIVE.
PATTAYA BEACH ON LIPE HAS JUMPED THE SHARK (since improved) AND THE FISHING VILLAGE IS A DISGRACE (since improved).
THE SEA GYPSY VILLAGE AT BAN CHAO MAI AT HAT YAO IS A BIGGER DISGRACE.
SO IS THE FIRST 500M PAST THE ENTRANCE TO THE NATIONAL PARK ON SAMET - DOES N.P. DO ANYTHING FOR OUR 200B?
THAI SNORKELLING LOCATIONS CAN’T COMPARE TO WORLD’S BEST (the best in Thailand is 3rd rate).
RAILAY BUNGALOW PEOPLE DON’T PULL THEIR WEIGHT ON GENERAL INFRASTRUCTURE.
EAST RAILAY IS A MESS AT HIGH TIDE.
BEACHES AT YAO NOI ARE MOSTLY 2ND RATE (by Thai standards).
BEACHES AT SUKORN ARE 3RD RATE.
BEACHES AT SIBOYA ARE 4TH RATE.
WATER CLARITY ON ISLANDS CLOSE TO THE COAST AND BIG RIVER MOUTHS OFTEN LEAVES YOU LESS THAN GRUNTLED.
THAI LONGTAIL BOATS ARE A JOKE - POOR IN ANY SORT OF SWELL OR CHOP AND NEEDLESSLY NOISY. AND BECAUSE THEY ARE SO EXPENSIVE TO BUILD/BUY, TRIPS ARE OVERPRICED (well, that's one reason).
THAI ATTITUDES TO RUBBISH ARE A JOKE.
SOME BUNGALOW OWNERS’ APPROACH TO ELECTICAL SAFETY IS NEGLIGENT.
SPEEDBOATS TO LIPE AND SURROUNDS ARE OVERCROWDED - YOU CAN GET VERY WET AND POSSIBLY INJURED IF THE SEA IS CHOPPY OR ROUGH.
THE SLOW BOAT TO PHAYAM IS AN UNCOMFORTABLE AND SLOW CRATE AND OVERPRICED (there is now a second faster boat, but the original still runs).
THE AO NANG LONGTAIL MAFIA AND KRABI AIRPORT TAXI CARTEL ARE A PACK OF RIP-OFF MERCHANTS. SO TOO IS THE PHUKET BEACHES TUK-TUK ASSOCIATION.
THE SAMET AND big CHANG SONGTHAEW MAFIAS OVERCHARGE BETWEEN BEACHES.
THE NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE FEE IS STILL A RIP-OFF AT 200B.
NATIONAL PARK EMPLOYEES SPEND MOST OF THEIR TIME SITTING ON THEIR BUMS DOING ZILCH.
SOME BUNGALOWS IN SOUTHERN SAMET HAVE BLOCKED THE COASTAL WALKING TRACK WITH FENCES.
THAI HIRE BICYCLES ARE NEARLY ALWAYS WRECKS WHICH REQUIRE MINI-REBUILDS AT START OF RENTAL.
THE DOG SITUATION IN THAILAND IS OUT OF CONTROL AND REQUIRES A BALI STYLE MASS EXTERMINATION (Muslim areas have puddy-cats, no problems).
LONE WOMEN TRAVELLERS SHOULD MAYBE AVOID SINCHAI'S AT HAT YAO.
SOME PEOPLE RECKON NATURE RESORT ON LIBONG IS WAY OVERPRICED.
MANY PEOPLE ARE LESS THAN WHELMED ABOUT THE RUBBISH ON LIPE.
IF YOU GET UPSET ABOUT PILES OF BUILDING MATERIALS/ACTIVITIES AND BEACHES NOT YET CLEANED DON'T VISIT ISLANDS DURING LATE WET SEASON/EARLY DRY SEASON.
CORAL BLEACHING IN 2011 MAKE THE SURINS A MUST MISS.
SURINS BUNGALOWS ARE GROSSLY OVERPRICED
FOOD IN THE NP CANTEEENS AT THE SURINS IS OVERPRICED TASTELESS CRAP. YOU CAN'T BUY A BEER - ALL N.Ps STARTING 2011 ARE DRY
STRUTTING SELF-RIGHTEOUS ARROGANT FRENCH SELF PROCALIMED ISLAND GUARDIANS AT THE SURINS CAMPING AREAS WILL TRY TO PUSH THEIR SELF-MADE RULES DOWN YOUR THROAT.
THE "TRADITIONAL" MOKEN VILLAGE AT THE SURINS (PAY TO VISIT) FEATURES TRADITIONAL GIANT PLASMA SCREENS IN THE HOUSES.
MY MOKEN SNORKEL TRIP LONGTAIL GUY IN THE SURINS DIDN'T SEEM TO SPEAK ENGLISH OR KNOW EXACTLY WHERE THE "GOOD STUFF" WAS AT SNORKEL LOCATIONS. I DON'T THINK HE COULD SWIM - CERTAINLY HIS OFFSIDER THRASHED AROUND ON THE SURFACE IN AN INNER TUBE AND MASK.
PEOPLE HAVE COMPLAINED ABOUT THEFTS FROM UNDERBUS LUGGAGE COMPARTMENTS ON KSR TO CHUMPON/SURATHANI BUSES (exception seems to be Lomprayah) AND ON KRABI TO SURATHANI BUSES RUN BY PP FAMILY COMPANY.
THE LATTER COMPANY SEEMS TO ATTRACT COMPLAINTS ABOUT WASTING LOTS OF TIME SITTING AROUND IN OUT OF TOWN DEPOTS, SWITCHING BUSES TO CRATES ETC
TRAVELLERS' MINIBUSES ARE OFTEN OVERCROWDED, UNCOMFORTABLE AND DRIVE TOO FAST - AND SOME DO SIMILAR TIME WASTING THINGS AS PP FAMILY CO

INDO:
THE BEACH AT BINGIN AINT GOOD.
THE BEACH AT CANDI DASA IS NON EXISTENT AND NEARBY WHITE SAND BEACH IS PRETTY ORDINARY.
DREAMLAND ON BALI HAS BEEN SPOILED BY DEVELOPMENT.
THE SURF AT DREAM BEACH ON LEMBONGAN IS DANGEROUS.
KUTA BALI IS CROWDED, TOUTS IN YOUR FACE, NOISY, TRAFFIC JAMMED AND THE BEACH IS NOT GREAT.
WATCH YOUR PROPERTY AT KUTA LOMBOK.
GILI TRAWANGAN IS CLOSE TO JUMPING THE SHARK.
LABUANBAJO IN FLORES IS NOISY, DUSTY, DIRTY, WITH RUBBISH EVERYWHERE, JAMMED WITH TRAFFIC AT TIMES.
THE LOMBOK - FLORES OVERLAND TRIP IS FULL OF DELAYS AND HASSLE.

AUSTRALIA
ACCOMMODATION AT BYRON BAY IS OVERPRICED.
STRUTTING SELF-RIGHTEOUS PC GAY PEAKOCK LITTLE HITLERS AT KING'S BEACH NEAR BYRON WILL TRY TO PUSH THEIR SELF-MADE RULES DOWN YOUR THROAT.
HOOK ISLAND BUDGET RESORT AINT EXACTLY BUDGET THESE DAYS.
IF YOU DON'T LIKE PRETENTIOUS TRENDSETTERS BUNGING ON SIDE, YOU WILL HATE BYRON BAY. IF YOU ENJOY THEIR ACT LIKE ME, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE THE PLACE.

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CRITICS OF THE SITE?
For a start we have the remnants of the CHAT GROUP MAFIA - a bunch of deadbeats thought they owned Thorntree Thailand branch some time back. They engaged in huge amounts of puerile chat about non-travel things, abused posters about "boring" questions re travel basics, attacked backpackers and other budget travellers mercilessly, harassed posters about typos and grammar, picked arguments with everyone they could - and if posters complained, gang attacked them with ferocity including stalking them all around Thorntree Thailand and onto other branches . Lots of posters with good info were scared away - who needs aggro like that?
A bunch of regulars including me took them on in what was called THE GIMP WARS at the time. Eventually a new moderator with some backbone, Wazza, banned most of their arses from Thorntree. Unfortunately Wazza was let go when LP got into a financial crisis at the time of the SARS scare - and wimp Roman reinstated some of the key players. Since that time they have gone back to their harassing habits, including stalking me all around the Thorntree and onto other travel forums like Travelfish. They hate my travel site - as I have already said, one of these losers has even pasted and copied a lot of my pages onto his own pathetic site with no acknowledgement.

Then we have people who don’t get why I created the site. They think I am an agent of TAT or that I do it for the money. They get annoyed by my constant: “There is a lot more info in the first link below”. They don’t understand that I created this site to give people access to as much travel info as I can - and the above phrase informs them where to find it.

We might even have some jealous types. No need to - I reckon there are plenty of people who have as much or more knowledge than me, but most don’t have the time to create their own site.

WHY DO I HAVE SO MUCH TIME?
Simple - I grew up poor but my parents made sure I got a good education. I worked real hard when out of school, often at concurrent jobs. I saved like crazy instead of spending my dough on bling. I studied investment carefully and put my savings to work. Today, Lady Tezza (who comes from a similar background) and I have property and financial-assets worth many truck-loads of cash. We have been able to give up work at an age most people are still hard at it.
But one of our principles of investment is to target capital gain, not yield - so we are assets rich and income modest. Which is why I am a budget traveler.

I’ll bore you with TEZZA’S INVESTMENT 101:
Yield won’t do it - as above.
Neither will having lots of your wealth in cash - particularly right now when those idiots at The Fed and Bank of England are printing money to finance the government deficits. Inflation will murder you.
If an investment sounds too good to be true it is.
If you don’t fully understand it don’t go near it. How many of those overpaid Masters of the Universe buying CDOs and similar for their banks, investment funds etc understood them. None - resulting in the present World Financial Crisis.
Invest for the long term. Realise you will go backwards at times and don’t jump at shadows. Don’t try to time the market - only 2% get it right, and 100% of them are lucky.
Dollar cost averaging is a no-brainer.
So is diversity.
If you are dealing with a broker, financial agent etc negotiate 50% off their commission or fee. If they won’t play, one of their competitors will. Study the concept of CHURN and don’t let these shonky coupon-clippers do it to you.
Similarly, never pay full list price for any substantial retail purchase. Sales staff hate hard bargainers but they regard punters who pay list with contempt.
Make sure your partner is not a spender. If she/he is - take a course in bankruptcy accounting so you can administer your own insolvency. Lady Tezza came from an even poorer family than me, but had bulk money in the bank at 16 when I met her, on account of part time jobs. This one was a keeper. It don’t hurt that she is gorgeous. She is better educated, way smarter than me and has a complete disdain for any wasteful spending.

WHAT’S WITH THE COMEDY STUFF?
When most of the Chat Group Mafia got banned, the remnants posted in and said it wasn’t fair, these guys were SO FUNNY. Sure they were, if you think repetitive schoolboy obsession with lady-boys, Thai prostitutes and what they called fudge-packers is funny. Not to mention original lines like TOOT TOOT and EAT MY SHORTS. Oh yeah, and one dude would copy and paste the JOKE OF THE DAY from some web gag-site, to cries of BRILLIANT! Such talent.
Anyway these sycophants said the Forum was now boring - so I thought, what the hell, I’ll try some comedy writing - I reckon you can do just about anything if you work at it. So I wrote LATEST NEWS FROM THE LAND OF SMILES, which seemed to go down okay, seeing it’s been on the permanent sticky at the end of the Thailand forum for about 6 years.
And every now and then I churn out something else and fire it in. Best received is STONES FROM THE JOKER IN THE GLASS HOUSE which satirises the behaviour of some of the CHAT GROUP MAFIA and other pains that at times pop up on the forum. On my site, THE JOKER often gets 30+ hits per day for a week or so - it’s almost as if some English Lit teacher has said - “Okay class, this is how you DON’T write satire”.

WHAT ARE MY FAVOURITE BEACH AND ISLAND?
I don’t have a favourite island, but if I could be on any island right now it would be Naxos in the Greek Islands. It is not on this site on account I haven’t visited for 5 years. Update - is now.
Australia’s Whitsunday Islands which kill anywhere in Thailand.
My favourite beach is White Beach in Broken Head Nature Reserve in northern NSW. You can see a pix about 55% down the Byron Bay page.
That aint the best beach I’ve seen - that’s Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands (2 pix 70% down page).
In Thailand the best beach I’ve seen is probably the blinding white sand job at Donald Duck Bay in the Similans - abt 65% down this page.
Although good old Phra Nang is pretty spectacular if you can get it below full tide and uncrowded. Good luck with the latter.

But if you ask me when I'm away from the country to pick one LOS place I'd like to be right now, I always picture Viewpoint's southern beach on Lipe. A rock at the side of the beach meets the sand at a perfect backrest angle, a real nice spot to sit with a cold Chang from Viewpoint's rustic restaurant and check the scene. Beach is popular with people from around the island but never super-crowded.

IS MY STUFF LEADING TO THE OVERCROWDING OF POPULAR DESTINATIONS?
A lot of us tend to kid ourselves about our impact. Every second traveller you see has a LP or competitors’ guide book, but few people I speak to have even heard of Thorn Tree or Travelfish, let alone used them.
If that is so, how many people have seen my inconsequential site? Maybe the following will give some idea of my influence:
Last month I went to a top value guesthouse on Gili Trawangan I have used before and praised on my page. It had SHUT DOWN.
SO TOO had the restaurant with the best views in Pandangbai on Bali.
One of the best value and most scenic bungalows on Lipe is Viewpoint on one of the nicest sections of beach. I have a review and multiple pix on my page. When I returned in early Dec of last year it had NO CUSTOMERS.
So much for my influence on overcrowding.
UPDATE NOV 09 - I just got info from Khao Lak local Similan Diver that Nature Resort, another place I've stayed at and praised, has been shut down for some time. Jeez, the kiss of death!

HOW UP TO DATE IS MY STUFF?
I try to get back to all places at least once every 3 years. That makes my stuff on average as up to date as most guidebooks and it gets published more quickly.
For popular locations I try to revisit more often - even once or twice per year.
This is kinda frustrating in that I spend too much time revisiting places rather than going to new locations I want to see. The fact that family commitments (driving, shopping etc for an elderly infirm relative) tie me to Australia for longer than I would like also limits things.
The page most needing updating is Kuta Lombok in Indonesia. I haven’t been there for 4 years and ran out of time for a revisit last month (May09)
Ko Tao and little Ko Chang Andaman side have not been visited for 3 years - I aim to get back to them and do some first timers like Ko Racha, Ko Bu Bu and the Surins early next year. I’m going to update Phangan and Phuket plus do a page on Samui (I haven’t been there for a long time) in August and update Lipe and Bulon Lae in late Nov-Dec. I’ll also revisit Langkawi in Malaysia on that trip and do a page.
I also want to get back to Sumatra, eastern Indo, the Philippines, Pacific Islands and Europe. And Australia out-beaches and out-islands them all.
So many places, so little time!

UPDATE JAN 2010 - in order to get real up-to-date stuff I've started the new READERS' TRIP REPORTS section. If you want to contribute some stuff, send any text and a few pix if you have them to lajolla22@hotmail.com - the pix + few lines of caption is a time-effective way of doing the report.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Don't Drown on Your Thailand Holiday

THERE IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS PAGE WITH DIAGRAMS AND PHOTOGRAPHS HERE.

Most tourist drownings in Thailand involve people caught in RIP CURRENTS on popular beaches. Phuket and big Ko Chang have the worst records, but rip currents can occur anywhere there is a surf running. All that water heading beachwards has to get back out to sea somehow, and that is the rip current.
Waves in Thailand are more a wet season thing, during and after periods of prolonged strong winds. Waves are absent to very small 99% of dry season.
Inexperienced people finding themselves shooting out to sea in a rip current try to swim against it, get exhausted, take in water, and drown.

THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN! Anyone who can merely tread water, let alone swim, should never drown in a rip.
First DON’T PANIC.
Surfers use rips all the time to take them “out the back” to the take-off zone. They don’t even have to swim. I suggest poor swimmers do exactly the same. ALL rips dissipate in the deeper water just behind the wave breaking zone. They have done their job, and do not go further. The longest rip I have ever seen went 400 meters from the shore in a HUGE SURF, much bigger than anything Thailand gets. Most rips last for 100-150m. Once you are out in the calmer water past the break zone, tread water, put up your hand and wait for someone with a longtail to pick you up.

Treading water is a minimal effort activity, something the average person could do for maybe 24 hours in Thailand before dehydration becomes a problem (the water is too warm for hypothermia). Hell, even TT Thailand’s svelte-challenged and lethargy-enhanced mr. nasty and big time plagiarist of this blog, Singapore Slim (all names changed to protect the guilty) would probably last to dinner time, when the aroma of chips and gravy would force a do-or-die dash for the shore.

DON’T TRY TO SWIM AGAINST THE RIP. A world champion will go backwards against a strong rip. All but very fit swimmers will become exhausted swimming against even gentle rips.

DON’T WORRY ABOUT SHARKS - tens of thousands of surfers and ocean swimmers in Australia and other much sharkier places than Thailand individually spend hundreds of hours yearly swimming and surfing without worries. Hell, I’ve never heard of a shark attack in Thailand, except in that heap of nonsense book by Alex Garland.

DON’T WORRY ABOUT UNDERTOWS - there is no such things as a rip which will drag you under, let alone keep you under.

DON’T WORRY ABOUT WAVES BREAKING ON YOUR HEAD - rip currents move out thru the deeper channels between sandbars - waves break in shallow water (largely on the sandbars) so these deeper channels often have no waves or few waves. If one does come when you are in the rip, take a breath, dive down or duck your head. You are gonna pop up on the other side - that breath guarantees it.

THE OLD SWIM SIDEWAYS TRICK.
Surf-lifesavers in Australia say if you are caught in a rip, SWIM SIDEWAYS TO THE RIP (parallel to the beach). Even big rips are never more than about 30m across, so you will soon move out of the current and hopefully into the shallow water of the sandbar where you can stand**.
I think this is good advice for people who are not exhausted and who start swimming sideways immediately. Wait too long and you are likely to end up on the sandbar but in deeper water, unable to stand up, more exhausted by the swim and with big waves breaking on your head, which can be pretty frightening for the inexperienced. I reckon it is much cooler to allow the rip to take you seaward, then float around out the back waiting for someone to pick you up. It’s nice out there.

HOW TO SPOT A RIP CURRENT.
*Look for the sections where no waves or fewer waves are breaking (note what a trap this is for the inexperienced: “this looks safe, NO WAVES, I’ll swim here”
*Big rips often scour sand as they go and look sandy.
*When the wind is blowing in the opposite direction, the surface of the rip is often disturbed and choppy looking.
Note however, many rips are very difficult to spot from beach or water level.


SOME OTHER FACTS ABOUT RIP CURRENTS
*The bigger the surf, the stronger the rip - there is more water to move back out to sea.
*Rips are strongest at low tide when all that water has to move through a shallower channel; and there is a greater quantity of water to move out because the waves breaking on the shallower sandbars tend to be bigger and more frequent.
*At the ends of beaches there is usually a rip running along at least one of the headlands, maybe both if the swell is coming in exactly front-on to the beach (most swell has a slightly oblique angle of approach).
*A longish beach like Patong or Karon typically has more than a half dozen sandbars separated by channels containing rip currents if surf is running.
*Rips are fed by FEEDER CURRENTS, which run parallel to the beach just off the sand, in the (usually small) channel between the sandbar and the beach. These feeders get stronger as they approach the big channel between the sandbars, where they turn right angles and head out to sea as a full blown rip. Sometimes FEEDER CURRENTS are strong enough towards their ends to drag non/poor swimmers sideways into the rip proper.

Don’t confuse FEEDER CURRENTS with CROSS DRAG and TIDAL CURRENTS which operate further from the beach.

CROSS DRAG or SIDE DRAG:
Most waves approach the beach at a slightly oblique angle - ie not exactly parallel with the beach. This sets up a sideways current (parallel to the beach) known as the LONGSHORE CURRENT, LONGSHORE DRIFT or colloquially, SIDE DRAG, which tends to be located out near the break zone.
Usually this current is not strong, and gives no problems, but if the swell approaches at a bigger angle to the beach and is big, it can be powerful enough to drag swimmers sideways off the sand-bar, and into the rip current in the adjacent channel. It can also be powerful enough to drag the swimmer thru the rip-current and continue on its merry way down the beach.
No problems, just make sure you are not still in the rip-current channel (wait 'til the waves are biggest) and then swim towards shore. The waves will help wash you in.
If you are a poor swimmer and don’t like the idea of getting pounded by breaking waves, just cruise on down the beach and wait for someone to haul you out with a boat. Or swim out to sea a bit, you will move out of the side drag and stay in the one spot.
If you are a NON SWIMMER and get swept sideways off the sandbar, you are gunna drown. But you should have been nowhere near the break zone, which is usually a fair way from shore. Non swimmers should never go in more than thigh deep in any surf, and even then should be aware of the FEEDER CURRENTS mentioned before.


ARE ALL BEACHES DANGEROUS IN WET SEASON?

NO.
Because strong winds in Thailand’s wet season come from the western quadrant, it is usually the WESTWARD FACING BEACHES where the swell can get up, creating sizable surf and dangerous currents.
So unless you are an expert at swimming in big surf, you should avoid such conditions. If you want to cool down, don’t go out more than thigh deep (I’ve found it difficult to walk against a strong rip or side drag in even waist deep water. Sometimes it can be difficult to even stay on your feet).
Good news is that often winds are benign in wet season and the swell stays very small. It's pretty safe to swim on these westward facing beaches in these conditions, although in any surf there will be some type of outward current. There can also be the less troublesome TIDAL CURRENTS I describe later, particularly along any fringing reef and headland. So still be aware.

Another option is to seek an island with EASTERN FACING BEACHES. These beaches are sheltered from the western winds and swell of wet season. Unfortunately, more beaches in the popular Andaman face WEST than east - eg all the good beaches on Phuket, Lanta, Jum. There are nice eastern facing beaches on Phi Phi, Ko Ngai, Ko Kradan, Ko Bulon Lae, Ko Taratao, Ko Lipe.
Away from the Andaman, there are nice eastern facing beaches on Phangan*, Samui*, Tao*, and Samet. The northern beaches at Mak and Ko Whai near big Chang are also pretty sheltered in wet season.
Sadly all of big Chang’s good beaches face west into the wind and swell.

Eastern facing beach areas can be subject to TIDAL CURRENTS, described below.

* ThornTree poster dearsirsam also points out that when the north-east trades get up on island like Samui, Phangan and Tao, so too does the swell, and you can get rip-currents at these beaches. Fortunately in my experience this does not happen too often, mainly in the months Oct thru Dec, but be aware. People have drowned at Thong Nai Pan. And at Hat Rin (and away from the drunken party times).

TIDAL CURRENTS
When the tide rises and falls, water moving into and out of narrow inlets and passages between islands, and over shallow reefs, result in TIDAL CURRENTS. These tend to be strongest mid-tide and usually run parallel to shore.
In places with HUGE tides, they can be awesome, running at 30km+, with associated vortexes (whirlpools) and standing waves of 2m where strong winds blow against them.
In Thailand, the tidal range is not huge and so these currents are not all that strong - as a matter of fact they are good for a no-effort (no need to swim or kick) drift along the edge of a fringing reef checking the coral and fish. When you get tired of that, you swim into the beach, walk back up to the starting point, and repeat as needed.
However, I have seen a few Thai tidal currents which would be difficult for a poorer swimmer to swim against. A Brit guy once told me he found himself being carried along the headland at the south of Hat Rin and had a hell of a time getting back to the beach. At one stage he thought he would not make it.
I reckon poor swimmers should not try. Swim in to the rocks and rock-hop back. If this looks too difficult (sometimes hauling yourself out of the water in rocky areas is near impossible) swim OUT into deeper water. The tidal currents do not run here. Then swim back to the beach in stages, with periodic tread-water rests when needed. Or wait for someone with a boat.



After all this depressing stuff about drowning it’s time for some LIGHT RELIEF, folks:

- **A few years back I saw a girl with the smallest bikini in the world enter the water in what I considered a risky spot at one of my local beaches. Sure enough, she got caught in a rip. She stuck her hand high in the air which is the signal for help in Australian surf.
I just had to haul this lady out personally. Trouble is a skin-diver resting on the adjacent headland rocks figured the same thing. BIG RACE - he had the fins for speed, I had the rip for velocity. I was winning, and only 15 meters from the girl, when suddenly she stood up and walked away! Wise girl had done the sideways-swim trick onto a shallow sand-bar.
- One time I was board-riding Queensland’s Alexander Bay in a big nasty surf. Alexander Bay is popular with surfers and NUDISTS. A girl got caught in a rip and as I paddled across my heart leapt - she was totally gorgeous and would soon be spread-eagled on my board!
She also turned out to be the only girl on the beach wearing swimmers.

Stone the crows trendsetters, sometimes I think Hui, the God of Surf, has a personal grudge against me. And not only in the surf.

Like the time I was doing 130 on the Coolangatta by-pass and the board-racks, containing my full quiver of 5 boards, flew off the roof and was run-over by a tour bus.
Or when I gave a lift from Byron Bay to Sydney to a posse of surfer-groupies who had run out of money to get home. Going thru Ballina, they stuck their cute bare arses out the windows at a couple of cops doing roadside radar duty. The cops radioed their mates down the road, who pulled me over, gave the girls a lecture and me 5 defect notices for the tezza-waggon. Jeez, justice works in strange ways.

Oh yeah, another incident which now makes me smile but wasn’t all that funny in the execution, was the rescue of Johnathon Livingston Seagull from a certain watery death. You can read abt that at the end of my Ko Libong info thingy on this site.

EXTRAS - Thorntree poster ALLY found this pic of a rip at Palm Beach in Sydney. Note how small the surf is. This would be a pretty gentle rip but could still give poor and average swimmers a tough time. Note too how easy it would be to wander off the sand-bar into the deeper channel, not too pleasant for a non swimmer. Note how the rip dissipates "out the back".

Ally also provided this beach-level pic of a rip. His label: "DON'T SWIM BETWEEN THE RED POINTERS!" Once again a pretty small surf. Note how waves are not breaking in the channel.

And some very good pix, a video and info on rips HERE..

If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.

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THERE ARE ACTUALLY 2 BEACHES AND ISLANDS BLOGS (for reasons explained in " About This Site" accessed thru the index) SO THERE ARE MORE BEACH AND ISLAND PAGES HERE