Our agenda for the cruise had been to sail, snorkel and explore, while we had done extensive planning in the pub, and had a top local guide (Simon had cruised in the area some 25 years before), however, we ditched the plan very quickly and decided to cruise for islands that would have some adventure about them, like Koh Phanak, which has an excellent Hong (tunnel and caves) through the north of the island. We had a two-person canoe and a good rib on the boat which made day raiding fun and really made the inlets and caves very accessible.
We set off for James Bond Island, Khao Phing Kan, for the second nights anchor. Due to a low tide and some likely weather overnight we settled for a safer anchorage further away than planned at Ko Yang (08° 15.95N, 098° 29.35E) so that we would be ready for an early morning foray to meet with ‘Nick Nack’ and ‘Scaramanga’ – “We’ve been expecting you Mr. Bond” (never gets old!). It was quite indescribable, waking up to the vista of the islands as far as you can see, each one unique and beautiful on their own, with the morning light soft, backlighting them to bring out in detail and enhance each fissure, crag and ledge all contrasted by a moving body of emerald water. Quite magnificent. Also being able to plunge straight in off the back of the boat, sensory overload.
I think it was at James Bond Island that it really struck home what a special cruise this was going to be, we were alone! We had been expecting the area to be quiet, but thought there would be some day boats with the usual mass of day-trippers, some level of tourism – an occasional boat with one or two Thais. But there were no mass tourist invasions. As we coasted up to the sand beach on the East of Khao Phing Kan we realised how lucky we were and that the trip was a once in a lifetime event. I cannot imagine that the islands have been this undisturbed for 30+ years, pristine, quiet, and peaceful. Plenty of room on the beach for me to badly run up the beach from the rib, (wrong James Bond movie in my head). It was, however, good to see the Thai National Park ticket collectors spring into action (COVID-19 masks on), find a pad of tickets and charge us for the landing. Also, a chance to buy the fresh catch of the morning from local fishermen, they have had a tough few months with the tourists gone.