Day Seven (Monday) – We had been looking forward to this day for months. My dear friend Renee recommended the John Gray Sea Canoe Hong by Starlight tour and we’d seen many rave reviews online for it. I booked direct with the company online before we left and the service was amazing. Their correspondence and organisation made me feel very relaxed about the trip. I thoroughly recommend them, to see more or to book for yourselves, their website is here. I loved that the company have won many Ecotourism awards, are incredibly safe and serve healthy, chemical free food which is all prepared fresh on the boat. I made a little video of our day if you want to check it out https://vimeo.com/351958403.
A driver collected us from our hotel around 10.30am and we collected some other guests at nearby hotels before driving up to the Marina to meet the tour group. There were two boats going out and we were on Boat Two. We all sat upstairs and the kayaks were stacked on the bottom deck. After boarding, we chose a name out of a cup and that would be our paddling guide for the day. Alice and I chose ‘Meen’, a young Thai guy who was lots of fun. His English was really good and he was telling us that he had been a guide for two years, only learning English from the tourists he meets on these trips. Lucy and Linden chose ‘Hunny’, a young Thai girl who had very limited English and must only be new to the company as her paddling skills weren’t great but she was so happy and enthusiastic.
It took about an hour to get to the first destination and while we were onboard a delicious lunch was served. There were vegetarian spring rolls and a noodle salad. It was all so tasty and even Lucy ate about 10 spring rolls.
Phang Nga Bay was stunning, very different to Phi Phi Islands. The kayaks were really stable and easy to get in and out of. We just had to sit, relax and enjoy the scenery while our guide paddled us around. The first cave we went into was the Bat Cave which was home to lots of small insect bats. It was pitch black inside but our guides had headtorches to shine up in the roof so we could see the bats.
At the other end, we had to lay down to get out into the lagoon. It opened up into a beautiful ‘Hong’ (Thai for Room) and we paddled around and then through a little channel into a connecting lagoon. There were a lot of other tour groups paddling around. I was surprised how busy it was. In the second lagoon, we saw a monkey sitting in a tree. Our guide Meen was telling us that John Gray is the only company that doesn’t feed the monkeys which we were really happy to hear. He said they should be eating the fish and crabs, not bananas fed by the other groups. We also saw mudskipper fish in the mangroves. Back into the first lagoon, we were paddling around and saw a dozen or so monkeys jumping off rocks and swimming towards the kayaks. A couple of them climbed onto other kayaks. They were very cute to watch but I’m glad they didn’t climb onto our kayak. I wouldn’t want them getting too close.
We went back through the cave, out into the open water and then paddled around the rocks looking at lots of crabs and stalactites and we even saw a huge white breasted se eagle diving for fish.
Back on board for afternoon tea then to our next destination, Hong Island. We went through the Oyster Cave and inside Hong Island which was picture perfect. We explored around for a while, just admiring the scenery before heading back to the boat. The boat took us to a secluded beach for some free time where we had a go at paddling the kayaks ourselves, swam and the girls did flips off the boat. The guides were surprised at how well Alice could manage the kayak on her own.
Once we were back on board, we spent time making a ‘Kratong’ which is a floral/incense/candle arrangement to be floated later in the evening. Our guides helped us make them out of banana stems and leaves and orchids. They made little birds out of the orchid buds, they were amazing how intricate they were.
Dinner was amazing, the best Tom Yum Soup I’ve ever tasted, chicken cashew nut, vegetarian massaman curry, black/red rice, vegetables, chicken kebabs and prawn kebabs and whole fish. There was so much variety and so tasty. Much better than the buffet dinners we’d been getting at the hotel.
After dinner, we got back into our kayaks and headed back into the Bat Cave to light our kratongs and make a wish. They looked beautiful with candles flickering in the dark. We made sure we took them back to the boat after so they didn’t damage the environment.
Lastly, all the lights were turned off in the cave and our guides showed us the bioluminescent plankton floating in the water.
It really was a magical tour and definitely a highlight of our holiday.