Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ko Ngai Updated


Last visited December 2012
Last updated April 2014


Outlook from the main eastern beach on Ngai is pretty sweet – small karst islands in foreground, Ko Muk middle background, Ko Libong far right background and mainland far far background. This is all reflected light at sunset – camera is pointing east away from the sun. This shot will probably look pretty nice if you click-expand.

After too long I finally got back to Ko Ngai in April 2012 and then took Lady Tezza there in December 2012. Things had certainly changed with several new resorts - and some older ones shifting position. However it remains one of the more relaxed islands in the Andaman with an attractive main beach, reasonable snorkelling and an outlook to some pretty scenic landscape/seascape. It is small, hilly, rain-forested, has some walking tracks but no roads except for a mid-island one associated with a farm. There is no village.


Ngai is one of the Trang Islands and is about 15km southeast of Koh Lanta and less than 10km northwest of Ko Muk. Trang (top right is) the main regional town with a station and airport. If coming by boat, the Trang island daytrip boats and several daytrip longtails come down from Lanta each morning, Tigerline arrives from Phuket and via Phi Phi and Lanta in the morning and from Hat Yao (origin Langkawi via Ko Lipe) in the afternoons. Some resort transfer boats come from the mainland pier at Pak Meng, others from the smaller pier at Kuan Thung Khu east of Ko Muk (modified Google Earth image).

Ko Ngai is a fairly compact island with a backbone of rainforested hills which are catching the clouds in this image. Note that the reef drop-off is pretty clear at main beach - at low tide you can wade right out to the drop-off. There are trekking and accommodation maps down page.


BEACHES.

MAIN BEACH

Most of Ngai's resorts are located along this 2km long strip of sand on the east coast. I've modified this oblique Google Earth image to show the best swimming area in the southern half - conditions can get real shallow lowest tide in the northern half. - you can see the passes dug thru the coral adjacent Ngai Cliff Beach Resort and Coco Hut/Thapwarin at that end. The best sand area starts a bit further north than the best swimming zone and goes to the near corner. Sand can get a bit skinny at highest tide in the northern third or so. BTW, don't be put off staying at the far end - it's just a matter of walking to the near half when the tide is down. And this is one nice beach to walk.


The Main Beach from the other side of the southern headland at Koh Ngai Resort’s jetty – maybe 20% is hidden behind the rocks at left.  All but two of Ngai’s resorts are located along this 2 km strip of sand on the east coast. The easterly aspect and protective hills would make this one of the Andaman's better wet season beaches. Click to expand shot.


3 This is the SOUTHERN-MOST 900m OR SO OF MAIN BEACH from about 150m north of Sea Food resort (adjacent longtail boats). You can see the water is getting shallow at lower tide levels to left of camera but once you reach Sea Food swimming it’s okay at low tide providing you wade out a fair bit. However there are some rocks in the water just off the beach at low tide here and off Hai Villa a bit further south - at high tide there is a good 20m of sandy bottom before the rocks and the water depth means you are swimming by this stage.
You need to get down to around Mayalay Resort a bit further south of Hai Villa at the start of the far half of this shot to ensure mostly sand, few rocks at low tide. The water is deeper too but you still need to wade out for good swimming. The beach and water is not too much inferior adjacent Fantasy and Thanya further south. Near the far headland there are more rocks in the water and it gets a bit shallower low tide.

The beach adjacent Ngai Fantasy. Note the white sand in this shot from their website. Sand IS white on this beach and my shots don’t show this to advantage. For a start a lot of my pix show low tide wet sand which tends to yellow and dries whiter – plus I think my new elcheapo point and shoot favors yellowish tints. At the same time, professional website designers aren’t unknown to hit the Potoshop whitener for their publicity pix.


This dry section of sand in front of Mayalay Resort shot on my December revisit certainly seems white enough.

MAIN BEACH CENTRAL. This is another 150m north of 3. Not too much sand here at full tide and certainly very shallow at low tide. No resorts in this strip – a nudist pair was making the sand near that tree stump their base each afternoon in April. Don't get too excited nudies - Ngai was running at less than 10% capacity when I visited. It will be harder to find your own isolated section in high season.
That’s Ko Muk middle background and Ko Libong far background right. The 3 closer karst islets are Ko Ma, Ko Chuak and Ko Waen.

MAIN BEACH CENTRAL-NORTH. This is shot from the same position as 5 turning 180 degrees. A sea wall starts in this area to protect from storm erosion although there are no resorts for a good 300m. Plenty of land for sale or lease however, so here's your big chance.
It appears from this shot that the beach ends not too far from camera but in fact it curves to the left and runs 900m from camera.
In background are Ko Lanta and some of the smaller islands between it and the mainland.

MAIN BEACH FAR NORTH. This the last 400m or so of the beach heading north. You can see the seawall in front of Coco Cottage Resort and Thapwarin Beach Resort which extends all the way to Kohngai Cliff Beach Resort at the northern end of the beach. No Beach at high tide means these places have their sun lounges above the seawall.

Water even shallower than mid-beach at low tide - I've read reports of extensive sand flats dotted with rock in those lowest monthly tide periods of Full Moon and no moon (which also have the month's highest high tides).
Potential guests may be put off by the beach here, but these are attractive looking resorts with easy swimming and snorkelling out front at full tide and an pleasant walk south to a nicer section of the beach at other times. UPDATE - I found swimming in this area in the higher half of the tide fine in my latest December visit.

UPDATE - APRIL 2014
Trip reporter and snorkelling blogger (see link list) wonderingstar just sent me the following update and pix about a camping place on the far north beach I for some reason had not featured on this page before - I seem to remember is is associated with a dive outfit: the tents to provide lodging for students although no doubt they would also take on non-diving payers:
"Hi Tezza - just back from Ngai. .....worthy of mention is the 'hippy commune' camp-site just South of Cliff-top resort (Freedom Camp.) Actually it was there back in 2012, but I didn't think it would last. But it's still going and open all year round. Tents 200B (negotiable if you want to do some work around the place)."




At the far northern end of the beach is Kohnai Cliff Beach Resort.

Kohngai Cliff Beach Resort (formerly known as Chateau Hill Resort) has killer views and a nice pool to make up for the low tide blues out front. Killer rates too (these images came from the old Chateau Hill website which is non functional now) although booking websites often offer attractive deals.

Whoa. I had to spend some time in that pool and so the December after my April 2012 trip I brought Lady Tezza to Ngai - she doesn't mind backpacker joints but prefers comfort, something which Koh ngai Cliff Beach Resort is not lacking. 
Useful point for people staying at nearby Coco Hut and Thapwarin and more distant places similarly without pools - the lady managing Cliff Resort told me outsiders are welcome to use this pool if they buy some food or drink at the pool cafe. Okay, big Changs were an extra 30 over budget Ko Ngai Villa along the beach but the toasted sandwiches with chips considerably cheaper (and better). Only downside - the pool is at the very top of the resort which can be tough going for the less fit. But a great place to spend time.
I'll get Lady T to do a trip report on our latest visit when she gets the chance. 


KOH NGAI RESORT BEACH

Koh Ngai Resort has its own compact beach in the south-east of the island. At lower tide levels the beach is considerably wider, stretching all the way to the start of the pier when I visited last - neverthelss it was not more than 300m long. There is a walkway between this beach and Main Beach top right. 

The beach is okay but can't compare to the southern half of Main Beach. This is shot from Ngai Resort's pier which is a popular fishing spot for the resort's staff. Ngai Resort has its own small ferry for transfers, considerably more impressive than the longtails used by most other resorts (Cliff Beach Resort has a small speedboat), although not as big or fast as Tigerline's boat which many people use (see below).

I was a bit less lazy on my December return and walked to the far end of the beach for this shot.



PARADISE BEACH

Paradise Beach is a pretty nice 500m strip of sand in the island's south. This used to be the place to stay if you wanted to get away from it all, with only one budget resort. But when I called by in April and December 2012 the place was closed. Still okay as a walk thru the jungle from Main Beach or Ko Ngai Resort. 
Ao Mung is unsettled, rockier and has lots of storm debris. The bay is a popular anchorage for fishing boats.

11 PARADISE BEACH. Note a fair bit of flotsam at the full tide mark – the resort here was closed in late April 2012 and so no-one was cleaning the beach.

12 Attractive water and beach at Paradise Bay. I pinched this shot off Paradise Beach Resort's website.

Paradise Beach Resort's closed restaurant in April 2012. If you click to expand you can see some of their bungalows in background. I was thinking of staying here that visit - I'm glad I didn't lug my bag around. The place gets positive reviews and when I had a meal here last century the food was good and the prices reasonable. The front row bungalows were 800 and the second rowers 500 in high season 2011/12 according to trip reporter wonderingstar.

Still closed early December 2012. There were a couple of guys doing some work on the bungalows in background but it wasn't clear whether this place aims to open later in the season. Maybe some later visitor could send me a message.
UPDATE APRIL 2014
Good ol' wonderingstar came to the party with the following update and pix:
"Paradise Resort has been closed down. Apparently they have built where they are not supposed to and have fallen-foul of the National Park. The front rowers have been knocked down with a sledgehammer and the back-rowers have been boarded up all season. An alternative theory is that the lease simply ran out, but the 'National Park' story is far more prevalent." 




Note there are a number of smaller beaches on the island, most on the west coast. But the fact that these are never cleaned and are mostly inaccessible except by boat means they are of little interest to visitors. I show a few which can be walked to in the trekking section.


TREKKING

For a relatively small island, Ko Ngai has some good walking tracks (above in yellow), much of them thru pretty nice rainforest. Some decent slopes, shoes preferred but you could get away with less.
Sorry about SUNEST (Sunset) Point but it takes me too long to change one of these images.

Main Beach to Ngai Resort.

This is a short walk along the shore joining the two east coast beaches. It takes only 10 minutes or so and despite appearances is a pretty easy trek. And surprisingly well lit at night – I think Ngai Resort realises its guest want to experience some of the Main Beach restaurants after dark.

Crikey! What a difference 7 months makes. Early December shot - wet season 2012 must have been a rough one. Unless repairs are done, getting between Main Beach and Ko Nagi Resort will be difficult in the top half of the tide.

At lower tide levels the easiest way to find the start of the track from the Main Beach is to walk the rocks at the end of the beach and look for the above boardwalk after 100m or so ……

….but at full tide the rocks are submerged. So look for this sign right at the end of the sand. Look hard, it's really difficult to see. The first 10m or so is a bit steep but after that it’s fairly easy going.

Sunset Point and Paradise Beach walk.


From Main Beach the start of the track used to be simple – it ran up the southern side of Fantasy resort. Now that Thanya resort occupies this land you need to walk in alongside Thanya’s restaurant at right – the track goes up the hill in the area of the smoke. Thanya's staff seem used to outsiders seeking this track.

It climbs a short but often steep rainforest slope across the saddle here. After about 5 minutes it meets the track from Koh Ngai Resort which starts up past that resort’s staff quarters and generator – just follow the power lines for a time, don't take the branch to the left to the VIEWPOINT (unless you want to go to the viewpoint. I recently got a message suggesting that this track is badly overgrown. I didn't have time to check it).
The main track from Ngai Resort is much steeper, longer and goes higher than the one from Thanya – it meets the track from Thanya after a downhill section. The intersection is unsignposted these days, unlike my previous trip – turn left.
 Fortunately the route to the start of the track within  Ko Ngai Resort is well signposted from reception near the pier. Reception can also give you a photocopy of the route – a bit rudimentary but helpful.

From the above intersection the track drops gradually through nice rainforest for about 10 minutes to this intersection…..

.... turn right for Paradise Beach and Sunset Point, left for Ao Mung which you reach in less than 10 minutes.

Ao Mung is a deserted beach on the south coast of the island. Because it has no resort there is a fair amount of beach litter. Paradise Beach is just over the low divide in back of shot – don’t be tempted to climb across as I did on my first visit. The bush bashing was no fun at all and took much longer than the 20 minute walk via the tracks.

Back on the main track Paradise Beach and Sunset Point, things now get a bit confusing after 5 minutes or so because…

…..you reach this farm which has the only “road” on the island. The farmer told me he is growing cashews or similar, plus rubber,  coconuts, some corn, bananas. This shot is taken from the far northern end of his road – which turns right in background and drops down the hill for a similar distance. The owner’s house is at the start of the road, foot of the hill – it is just short of this house coming in that you should turn left and take the wider path to Paradise Beach. Unfortunately this turn was not signposted when I called by in both April and December 2012.


The track to Sunset Point starts at the western end of Paradise Beach immediately behind camera in pic 11 up page. It goes thru the National Park Headquarters area – stick to the path between the buildings and the sea, not behind them.

 After a few minutes you drop down to this small beach. Note the beach litter – this is a short distance from the National Park buildings and yet they find no time to clean the beach. They do find time to collect their 200baht if you should chose to come to Ngai via the pier at Pak Meng. Question is, what do they do for it? My observation is they sit around and play cards all day.
If it wasn’t for the junk, this beach would be an okay place to spend time and to enter the water to snorkel the rocks around Sunset Point which looked like they could have a bit of fringing coral and would certainly have some fishies.

On to Sunset Point: Take the track immediately in back of the above beach which goes up over a very small saddle to…….

.....this beach. This is on the opposite side of Sunset Point and faces north towards Lanta, unlike the previous beach. You can see similar small patches of beach up the western coast of Ngai from here although accessing them would need a boat and they would have the same amount of wind blown flotsam and jetsam.

The final climb to Sunset Point viewpoint leaves from behind camera on the above shot. Look for the very steep track with helper ropes. Fortunately the steep climb only takes a few minutes and once on top you can reach 2 viewpoints within 5 minutes – one facing south-west and a better one as shown below.

2nd Sunset Point viewpoint looking north. That’s Ko Lanta background left and the islands between it and the mainland. They are closer than the shot implies - my elcheapo point and shoot’s standard lens setting is actually a slight wide-angle which exaggerates depth by about a factor of 2.


ACCOMMODATION ON KO NGAI

Places to stay on Ko Ngai. The main eastern beach seems pretty crowded but in fact there is still plenty of unbuilt space along this 2km+ strip of sand. Not on image - Ronin Dive, a small operation with tents behind the sea wall just south of Kongai Cliff Beach Resort.

This smallish island has no shortage of places to stay from budget thru to top end.
In the budget price range is Koh Hai Seafood, Camping, Koh Ngai Villa and Paradise Beach Resort.
Midrange travellers have a good choice of nice places in Thapwarin, Coco Cottages, Thanya, Fantasy, Mayalay and Koh Ngai Resort.
The one higher-midrange joint is Kohngai Cliff Beach Resort.

I was doing one of my budget runs in the April 2012 visit and intended to try Camping, but at 500 per tent I decided differently. 500 for a tent in the third week of April which is almost low season! And they wouldn't cut a deal. They had no guests, can't think why. 

500 in high season would be okay for people finding it difficult to find a room. Camping did a really good value seafood bbq with candlelit tables on the sand when I visited. Their normal menu prices are comparable with Ko Hai Villa which is probably equal least expensive on the island - although Konai Cliff Beach Resort could undercut on certain dishes and were not too much more on others. Place apparently gets lively after dark in peak season - backpackers take note.

On my first visit last century it was Seafood which had the tents – Seafood has shifted location several hundred meters to the north (it used to be roughly where Mayalay now is) and have newish fan bungalows very similar to the ones in the pix below, but at 1000 I headed elsewhere. They had no guests too. TRIP REPORTER wonderingstar tells me that 3 weeks after my visit the price had dropped to 800 but the boss lady told him it is 1200 in high season booked up 3 months in advance. Seafood's bungalows look identical to the Ngai Villa ones in the next 2 shots, only newer.

So I ended up at the place I stayed last century, Koh Ngai Villa. At 700 including a simple breakfast the basic bamboo bungalows were still way overpriced, but relatively good value compared to the others. Note wonderingstar later managed to bargain 450 including breakfast for exactly the same bungalow in the second week of May 2012. UPDATE - early Dec 2012 prices (high season) were 1200 first row and 1000 further back.

This is the thing about the Andaman – south of the Ranong islands budget joints are way overpriced (okay, you can still find a few good value rooms in Khao Lak and Phuket).  Just over a week later I was paying 300 and 400 for superior bungalows with better views on equally nice or better beaches in the southern Gulf. And in late April the weather is far nicer there too. True, they didn’t include brekka but you could do a pretty good breakfast there for 100 to 150.

Note Villa's website shows my bungalow at 800 that time of year (so I got a discount!), aircon jobs at 1800 and 2000 (strewth!) and guesthouse family rooms in a longhouse which can sleep 4 for 1000. Prices are reduced low season (June 1 to Oct14! That's one short low season) by 20 to 35%.

Perspective – Agoda booking site showed me I could have got an aircon room at Koh Ngai Fantasy which has a nice pool and mega inclusive buffet brekka for 1200 baht in April shoulder season . Which blows the Ngai budget joints out of the water, particularly for a couple which get the full value of the inclusive buffet. Hell, even for a single like me it was a good deal – I didn’t take advantage of it because I was unsure of the date of my arrival. The walk in rate was 2200 - Agoda can sure negotiate a good price. Resort management has not allowed reception staff to do the same so an empty room goes unused. Dudes maybe never heard of marginal cost pricing and cash flow. Sulk sulk.

Ngai Villa’s budget fan bungalows are arranged in a U around a lawn area immediately north of the restaurant. Mine is far right..... 

.....a traditional style thatched wall/roof joint with just enough room for 2 people and their gear. Good window screens and a mozzie net. Queen sized bed with firm but comfy mattress, okay pillows. Okay bathroom, cold water only, western toilet but bucket flush. Towels, soap, shampoo and toilet paper supplied. Bungalow and surrounds clean although the structure was beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Quiet at night. Electricity 1830 to 0630.

View from spacious veranda across lawn to ocean not shabby.

The beachfront has a fair few easy seats and lie-lows, plus plenty of shade from mid-day on, and naturally has the same excellent views. I'd grab a Chang or 3 from the restaurant and check the sunset light reflecting off the offshore karst  islets. There is a bit of telephoto in this pic – the karst is about twice this distance.
There is  a small attractive beach bar on the opposite side of the restaurant which played cool but not loud music early evening.

The beachfront restaurant has similarly nice views plus the option of eating outside in front. Service was pretty good and the food itself okay. Despite food prices being 10 to 50% higher than average for budget bungalow restaurants, this place seemed to be the best deal on the island with guests from other resorts eating here. 
One exception may be the BBQ with candle-lit tables on the sand which Camping put on each night This attracted a crowd of similar people and cheapskates like me – I got a thick and tasty barracuda steak plus rice for 125 baht which compares nicely to Villa’s 160 club sanga and less expensive than similar meals I've had on other islands. Interestingly Camping’s a la carte menu was a bit more expensive than Villa’s – about the same as Seafood’s.

WHICH MIDRANGE PLACE?
Got me – they all seem attractive. Maybe Ko Ngai Resort dips out because it is kinda isolated. It also looks to be the oldest. But it does offer good slower season deals on Agoda, sawadee.com etc.
So do most of the others, particularly Fantasy.
I’ve always fancied Coco Cottage and its neighbour Thapwarin, but the beach/low tide situation is not great that end and they don’t have pools at the time of writing (see my later comment up page re using nearby Kongai Cliff Beach Resort's pool. Kohngai Cliff Resort has the best views on the island (and maybe in the Andaman) but this place is in another price range altogether the booking sites often run specials.
The 3 places with nice beach and reasonable water at low tide are Mayalay, Fantasy and Thanya. They also have pools. Mayalay is a sister resort to Thapwarin, but is newer and has the nicer beach and the pool. Supposed to be cheaper too but at the time I checked the booking sites this was not apparent.
I suppose for many it may be a matter of seeing who is offering the best deal at time of visit, reading user reviews and weighing up some of the location issues mentioned above. If Fantasy can keep  beating the others price-wise when I bring Lady Tezza for a visit, I reckon I might go for that. Then again, those South Sea type bungalows at Thapwarin and Mayalay do look inviting.......
UPDATE - all that above speculating was in my April 2012 rewrite. As it turned out, I didn't stay at any of the those joints. Kongai Cliff Beach Resort's pool and great views from the rooms won out and the joint was affordable to cheapskate me on account of my booking site credit dollars and the fact that at time of booking it wasn't too much more expensive than the other more upmarket joints.


SNORKELLING
There is reasonable snorkelling along the fringing reef’s drop-off at MAIN BEACH. This is about 70-90 m  off the beach but you can wade right out to the reef at lowest tide (water depth over the coral is only 1m or so at this time). I snorkelled the 400m or so from adjacent Fantasy to slightly north of Ngai Villa. Quality seemed pretty consistent apart from a few breaks in the reef to facilitate boat entry at lowest tide.
The actual quality of coral and fish is good enough to keep novices enthralled although people who have seen the best will be underwhelmed. I judged it as way better than the Similans a week later and the Surins same time last year (both these places are suffering badly from global warming/coral bleaching at present), not as good as the south beach on nearby Kradan 2 years ago and around the same quality as at Ko Wai in the eastern Gulf in March/April of this year.

I also snorkelled Paradise Beach on my first Ngai visit – the coral was of similar quality to Main Beach, but the fringing reef is a long way off shore.

Intrepid Scot Fiona (known on travel websites as the fearsome SBE), the world's best surface snorkeller, told me she snorkelled all the way from Ko Ngai Resort to Paradise Beach via Ao Mung was not too impressed by what she saw along the way.

For  a much more detailed cover of Ngai snorkelling including maps, dozens of underwater and other useful pix, check wonderingstar's wonderful Ngai snorkelling page at
http://whatsthesnorkellinglike.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/thailand_ngai-hai/


EXCURSIONS
The usual Trang island longtail trips are available – all resorts can put these on. Usually called 4 island trips they include snorkeling around the small karst islets offshore plus a visit to Ko Muk’s fabulous EMERALD CAVE and some beach time on one of the other nearby islands, probably Ko Kradan or Ko Mook. Whith a bit of luck you may get to snorkel the south-east reef at Kradan which I reckon is the best close to Ngai (note I haven't been to Ko Rok). On my latest trip I found the kast island snorkelling had slipped a bit with only so so coral. Ko Kradan was better but not the good stuff I remember from the past. But less travelled snorkellers will enjoy these places and there is no shortage of fish (although few mid-size and big fish). The cave is very good value and involves a swim up a flooded tunnel to a cavern where the roof has collapsed to form a cliff ringed lagoon, complete with small beach, rain-forested sides and emerald water from the limestone content. Or reflection. Or something. See the photos on the Muk page.
You can also do single snorkelling trips to nearby Ko Kradan, whose beaches and coral are the pick of these islands.
It is also possible to do a daytrip out to Ko Rok  further west which reportedly has coral equal to Similans and Surins when those places are not suffering. 


The Emerald Cave is very popular wih day-tripping Thais. Most can't swim, so they give them the cool orange vests and tether them to a rope. Guides with flashlights lead them into the cave. The guides usually engineer a flashlight failure mid-passage where it is PITCH dark - hilarious.

GETTING TO NGAI.
Trang has the nearest airport and also two sleeper trains from Bangkok daily.
Details of trains/planes and buses to Trang can be found here.
billp recently indicated that the morning Nok Air flight into Trang is met by reps from town travel agents who will transport you into town and arrange bookings/transport. I should imagine they will meet flights from any other carriers.
UPDATE DEC 2012 - I saw on a Lanta information poster that Air Asia was shuttling people up to Lanta from its Trang flight on a ferry from Hat Yao pier. Ngai is on the way so maybe you could investigate if the ferry drops off at Ngai

A lot of resorts organise their own transfers from Trang. Some have boats leaving Pak Meng (the disadvantage here is that the National Park booth at the start of the pier demands 200b from SOME western travellers (don’t ask me why SOME) and from the smaller Kuan Thung Khu pier on the mainland behind Ko Muk which has no National Park presense.
For the record I took Ngai Villa’s transfer OUT of the island in April 2012 - the longtail to Pak Meng cost 350baht (45minutes) – we waited around for 10 minutes at Villa’s office and then the public van picked us up and cruised into Trang for only 50baht (40 minutes).
In December 2012 I hopped on Phetphaillin's daytrip boat as it called in at Ngai to drop passengers off from Lanta - I went the short distance to Ko Kradan just south. Except the captain decided to vary his route and stop off for snorkelling at Ko Ma karst and to visit the Emerald Cave at Mook. This is fine except they got real shirty when I swam into the cave independently - "only for 4 island payers!" they told me. 

Some independent travellers coming via Trang may prefer to go out to the island and see what is available. If so, the lady at KK Travel opposite the railway station in Trang told last year me she can arrange transport to Ngai (van and boat) for 500. She has since left to start her own outfit and I have no link – let’s hope KK keeps up its excellent service.  tel 075-211198, 223664, 081-8945955.

Thing is, all those places near the staition can do this sort of thing.

If you want to go independently to Pak Meng (some of the resorts have offices there) the public vans leave roughly hourly from a minivan station not too far from the railway station and bus station - a motorcycle taxi between these is your best bet. Away low season there is a public boat goes out to the island about mid-day. wonderingstar tells me it was running in late April but not by the second week of May - he hitched a ride in Fantasy's small ferry.
You can charter a longtail if you arrive too late for your resort's transfer boat or the public ferry but this will cost a bomb. I'm thinking 1500 in 2012 prices.

That same Trang  minivan station has hourly public vans down to the Hat Yao pier where you can pick up Tigerline, although Tigerline has its own van transport from various places in Trang.

I'm not sure if the travel agents across from Trang station arrange their van/ferry transfers via the other pier at Kuan Thung Khu, or by Pak Meng and the public boat.


There is now good transport from other Andaman islands.
 The  Trang Island daytrip boat (Phetphailin) has been bringing people down to Ngai from Lanta for years – according to its schedule which varies with tide times you may get to snorkel those karst islands just off Ngai and go into the fabulous Emerald Cave on Ko Muk although these places are more likely on the return trip to Lanta.
Lady Tezza and I came down from southern Lanta in Dec 2012 on a dayrip longtail for 450 baht.
Tigerline run their fast ferries from Phuket via Phi Phi and Lanta in the north and  Langkawi/Ko Lipe in the south. The latter calls in at Hat Yao pier where people who have flown into Trang airport etc pick it up (the website shows a shuttle service from the airport and I think the station). I used Tigerline to come down from Phi Phi  in April 2012. Interestingly it cuts down the east side of Lanta after calling in at the pier at Ban Sala Dan, banking thru some of the narrow channels between islands like an Neverglades swamp raceboat. UPDATE - I noticed Tigerline was going via the west coast of Lanta in December 2012 - maybe a few complaints from east Lanta re boat wash erosion.
It may pay to Google SPD speedboat to see whether their Phuket-lanta-Lipe service calls in at Ko Ngai, although I am not a fan of speedboat transfers on long runs. It can get real uncomfortable and wet on bumpy days. Definitely Lanta Garden Hill and Opal Tour speedboats were dropping off guests from Lanta on their daytrip visits.
Plenty of people jump across from the neighbouring islands of Muk, Kradan and Libong on charter  longtails although I found the daytrip boat would take me at a resonable cost - longtail charter operators all think we are Warren Buffet - well maybe not Wazza who has a good nose for value. Tigerline will also transfer you between these islands although it aint cheap – as a matter of fact Tigerline aint cheap full stop. But before they started up there was no way you could make Ngai from Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi or Lipe in a day unless you were prepared to charter a horrendously expensive longtail from say Pak Meng – Tigerline takes 2 hours from Phi Phi, worth every baht.

Heading down to Ngai from Kantiang Bay on the daytrip longtail, December 2012. Tattooed lady was so impressed you could stay on the island that she and 3 friends returned next day and stayed at budget Ko Hai Villa for 2 nights.


WHEN TO GO.
Like the rest of the Andaman, dry season which is normally some time between mid-late November and mid-late April into May is best. I find shoulder in this period has fewer crowds, better deals and all accommodation and transport running (although Tigerline is sometimes a bit slow starting up in the new season). Early shoulder ends about mid December, late shoulder starts March.
This is a better island than many in the Andaman for WET SEASON in that its best beach faces east and is sheltered by the hills behind from the prevailing monsoonal westerlies which sometimes get blustery and make exposed beach conditions upleasant and the surf dangerous. Quite a few Ngai accommodation places stay open low season. Google is your friend for finding which ones.



WHICH IS BEST - NGAI, KRADAN OR MUK?
A  tough call.

All 3 have nice beaches. I’d say Kradan’s main eastern beach has a very slight advantage sand and water wise. Like Ngai, it faces east with a backing of hills and has spectacular views back towards the mainland. Muk's Farang Beach faces west and is exposed in wet season - it has an outlook towards Kradan which is less scenic than the others. Muk's Sivalai spit is more protected in wet season.
Accommodation wise all 3 have a good selection these days although Muk's Farang Beach area is a bit short on midrange – Charlie is a flashpacker pretending to be midrange. Some of the new places over on the Sivalai spit appear lower midrange - the Sivalai itself is top end. Kradan’s Seven Seas is really a midrange pretending to be top end. Muk has a greater range of budget joints and the prices tend to be more reasonable - very reasonable actually - some of the best in the central-southern Andaman.
Both Ngai and Kradan have nice rainforest walks, but Kradan's are much shorter.The rainforest is hard to access on Muk. However it has longer walks on its road system and has two village areas where you can check local culture.
Snorkelling is best at Kradan, not bad at Ngai, not much off the beach at Muk.
Muk has the incomparable Emerald Cave, but you need a boat from accommodation on that island so it won't be all that much better than boating in from Ngai or Kradan.
All 3 are quiet islands  with not much in the way of nightlife. However Muk has two bars at Chill Out Divers and Koyoo on the south headland of Farang Beach which are not bad places to hang. Maybe the midrange places on Ngai plus Ngai Villa’s beach bar can offer the same. I was cutting the  ZZZZZs not too long after sunset and wouldn’t know.
Muk is easier and cheaper to access from the mainland - very much so in low season.

Thing is, if you stay at one you can easily visit the others on the daytrips just about every resort can arrange. And if I had a week in the area I would split it between 2 islands (but then I find 3 days in one location enough and like to move on frequently – you may prefer sitting back and relaxing). I would make one of my 2 Ko Muk – the others are sufficiently close in character to make either a nice contrast to Muk.

I pinched this shot off the now defunct Chateau Hill website too. The newly renamed Cliff Beach Resort here may have the worst section of beach but the views are definitely the best.
 

I didn't have to go raiding for this one. Imminent sunrise from my lower Konai Cliff Beach Resort room in Dec 2012. Maybe 50% zoom used here - Ko Ma and Ko Mook aren't quite that close.
I usually like to end my page with a sunset/sunrise shot but .......


....... I reckon this one perfectly captures the holiday spirit.

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There was a gap of 6 years between my first report on Ko Ngai and this page. If you visit Ngai and have time, please consider doing a trip report for that section of this site. I'm finding it difficult to revisit all these places often enough to keep info up to date. Just a few shots with captions will do. Check the TRIP REPORT SECTION for more details.

Julie's Trip Report from December 2012

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If you visit Ngai you might also be interested in nearby:


KO KRADAN

KO MUK

KO LANTA

KO LIBONG-HAT YAO

KO LAO LIANG


People going thru Trang will find some basic information on the Ko Kradan page.

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If you see mistakes or have new/extra info not big enough for a TRIP REPORT, please post it below. 
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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