Rent a longtail boat, speed boat for Phi Phi Islands, Phang Nga Bay, island exploring etc

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Renting a boat on Phuket opens up a new tropical world of islands

The most beautiful, unspoiled beaches in the Phuket region are those on islands – and there are many of them. Renting either a ‘longtail’ boat, or a speed boat, and heading out to an island is thus a sure way to find a natural tropical environment and make good holiday memories. All surrounding islands are less developed than Phuket, with much more of their natural beauty intact. And the waters away from Phuket are generally better for swimming and snorkelling.
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Scheduled day tours to various islands by speed boat are available – but if you take this route be prepared to get herded around as part of a crowd. See the video below showing the tourist crowds joining the speed boat tours in Chalong to get a feel for these mass market tours. If possible, get enough friends or family together to cover the cost, then rent and take charge of your own boat for the day. Different pages in this site show the many island and beach explorations that can be done on a day trip by longtail, speedboat or luxury cruiser.
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Longtails and speed boats are readily available for hire from most beaches, though prices for those working off the popular tourist beaches of the west coast are significantly higher than elsewhere. For good rental prices see Phuket’s main boat anchorages below. Here you can rent either longtail or speed boat at standard rates, for a trip to anywhere in the region.
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Rawai Beach: renting longtails or speed boats from the boat owners

Rawai beach at Phuket's far south offers the easiest and cheapest place to find either kind of boat. Here both longtails and speedboats lie at anchor, waiting to be rented from the beach. This is the home to a community of traditional fishermen who now find it more profitable to charter their longtail boats than chase scarce fish in the barren seas. Longtail boat owners sit on little platforms along the beach road, with boat-for-hire signs very prominent. Sometimes you meet and negotiate directly with the boat owner, or of not, it’ll be someone in his group authorized to set up the charter for his friend. When agreeing on a route remember fuel costs. The boat driver will not want to take you anyplace not agreed upon in advance, and deviations from an agreed itinerary will surely cost more. If planning on taking a longtail for a full day, remember the heat of the sun, and get one with a roof.
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Many red-hulled speedboats of Nonthasak Marine are seen anchored at Rawai – when the tide is not completely low. These offer the best value for speedboat rentals on Phuket. The best way is to call Nonthasak on 081 569 6777 in advance.
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Rawai is the best starting point to for the islands off Phuket's southern shores, including: Koh Racha Yai (Big Racha) and Racha Noi (Little Racha); Koh Bon and Koh Hae (Coral Island). Islands to the east are also within reach, including Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi . Remember that the two tiny islands of Koh Khai, which many boat owners might suggest, are completely overrun by tour groups. The famous Phi Phi Islands are too far for longtails, but no problem for speed boats.
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Even with good value, renting a speed boat is many times more expensive than a longtail. The rising cost of fuel, and the great thirst these boats have for it, means you have to agree on a route before the rental price can be finalized. Expect to pay more if you change the route and go further than originally agreed.
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Prices on Rawai Beach 2017: A long-tail cost about 5,000+ Baht at Rawai, fuel included, for a full day trip to the Racha or other nearby islands. Renting a small speedboat (up to 10 pax) will begin at around 15,000 Baht for a half day and short distances. For the full day it ranges from 20,000 to 25,000 Baht, depending on the route and travelling time. Longer trips like that to Phi Phi Islands and back will cost about 30,000 Baht. Speedboat sizes vary greatly, with large ones licensed to carry 50 passengers available. Each boat is required to display the maximum number of passengers on its hull.
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The relatively cheap options from Rawai are rather basic, providing an empty boat, driver and drinking water only. Ask if you need snorkelling gear. If you are not carrying food, check that the boat can find an island restaurant along the way.
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Chalong Bay: renting speed boats & longtails from Phuket's main port

Phuket's major boat harbour and biggest pier is found at Chalong Bay , a large, well-sheltered bay on the island's southeast. There are two long, parallel jetties, with the big one being used by large craft and the smaller one servicing longtails and speedboats. Each morning the big jetty throbs to the beat of thousands of tourists boarding scores of craft and departing for islands near and far. The most popular destinations are Phang Nga Bay and the Phi Phi Islands, though others who charter a boat make their own itineraries to lesser-known islands to avoid the crowds.
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By the entrance to the small jetty a couple of small open-sided pavilions shelter boatmen who hang out through the day, waiting for visitors to rent their craft, either long-tail or speedboat.
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A mix of private owners and companies is found here, with most of the long-tail rentals done directly with the owner/captain. Speedboats take more consideration, for they vary from quite small (10 pax) to huge (50 pax) and come with many different engine configurations; more horsepower means greater speed and higher costs. Also, both wooden and fibre-glass models are available, with the latter being both more comfortable and more expensive.
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2017 Prices in Chalong; these are generally somewhat higher than costs on the beach in Rawai, but they will still prove cheaper than renting a boat through an agent or taking one directly off the main tourist beaches where prices are at their highest. A small wooden speed boat began at 15,000 Baht for a day trip into Phang Nga Bay, with bigger craft and more modern fibre-glass models going for 30,000 Baht and up. The small craft carry up to 10 passengers comfortably, the bigger ones double or triple that.
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Koh Siray, east Phuket; good place for speed boats

Koh Siray is a good mid-point for renting speed boats for trips in all directions. Just east of Phuket Town, this island is so closely connected to its big sister Phuket that visitors never realize which little bridge crosses between the two. Koh Siray offers the advantage of being a base for the most reliable and best-priced speed boat company on the island, Nontasak Marine; (telephone numbers can be seen in the photo of their poster). Being approximately midway along the east coast, this jump-off point gives ready access to beautiful Phang Nga Bay , Krabi , the Phi Phi Islands and to both rustic Koh Yao Yai and northern Koh Yao Noi .
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Nontasak’s base is in a well-sheltered, calm bay, making boarding the boats easy in all weather. Boarding boats is easy at all tides – unlike their base on Rawai Beach where the low tide can strand their boats on sand banks that dry out for 300 metres. While Nontasak’s core business is ferrying group tours around the islands, they are always happy to see individual charters come in. Phone, and be sure to discuss your planned route in detail, for every deviation from an agreed routing will eat up more fuel, and cost more.
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Ao Po, the best place to rent long-tail boats for Phang Nga Bay

Ao Po is the major boat anchorage and jetty in Phuket’s northeast, with Phang Nga Bay so close that its vertical rocky mountains can be seen from any high point. It is thus natural for this to be the best spot on Phuket to rent a boat – either longtail or speed boat – for a tour of Phang Nga Bay and its amazing sea mountains.
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Many of the sea kayaking day trips into Phang Nga depart from here, along with a number of speed boat tours of the Bay. The close proximity gives good fuel efficiency – a critical factor for petrol-guzzling high-speed craft. The shorter distances also bring the whole bay into the reach of slower longtail boats.
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Each morning between 8 and 9 AM scores of mini-buses disgorge visitors of all nationalities for their various tours; James Bond Island tours, Phang Nga Bay tours, sea kayaking adventures. All but a tiny few independent travellers have bought tickets on speed boat tours. The long jetty reaches far out to find deep water where guests can board comfortably at all tides.
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Rent your own longtail Where the jetty touches land the local boat owners have built a little shack with the sign Boat Service. At least one boatman is on duty each morning to greet anyone who turns up looking for a longtail boat, while other owners hang out in the local coffee houses. Noses pushed up onto the sand, a small fleet of a half dozen, good-sized, solid longtails lies in waiting. Each is fitted with a sun roof, cushioned benches and life jackets, and in 2017 all appeared to be well maintained. The owners are proud to show that they also have passenger insurance – a relatively new requirement from the government.
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Ao Po Grand Marina, a first rate, modern marina lies just around the northern corner of Ao Po Bay with its public jetty. It berths many private yachts, while some speedboat tours specializing in Phang Nga Bay also depart from here. Road access to the marina, and to a beautiful true beachfront hotel, Chandara Resort , is via a left turn about one kilometre before the main bay. This up-market resort enjoys absolute tranquillity, and gives lie to anyone who thinks there are no truly peaceful getaways on Phuket.
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The longtail captain’s standard day-trip route in Phang Nga Bay

The longtail owners have a set day-trip route that takes in five islands, and includes the most interesting of them. For up to six passengers the price, all included, is 6,000 Baht for the full day. For up to 10 passengers it is 7,000 Baht. This is bare boat chartering, so guests need to bring some water or drinks. You can either bring your own picnic lunch, or eat in one of the many restaurants on Koh Pannyi, the Muslim fishing village on stilts at the very top of the Bay (it’s also called sea gypsy village for romantic effect, though there are no sea gypsies here).
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The islands visited first take in the huge but secretive Koh Panak with its many caves and hongs, followed by Koh Hong, a favourite for sea kayaking. Thereafter comes the tourist trap of James Bond Island which you may prefer to see from the boat, without landing on the adjacent beach with a market crowded with tourist trinkets.
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Next comes Koh Pannyi, the only possible place to buy lunch in this area. If using one of many large restaurants here around midday, be prepared to share this unusual, stilted community, with as many as two thousand tourists (assuming you’re doing this during the high season, for it will be nearly empty in the low season).
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The final stop on this routine is a sandy beach on Naka Island, close to home, where visitors can take a swim and relax under the coconut palms.
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One longtail boat owner/captain I met in Ao Po, Khun Somchai, (see photograph here) was ready to cut the daily rental price to 5,000 Baht for a couple or smaller group.
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Ao Po – renting speed boats for Phang Nga Bay trips

Renting speed boats in Ao Po for a tour of Phang Nga Bay also makes good financial sense, because once again the shorter distances result it less fuel used. There are several speed boat owners ready to provide private day charters. Contact the local boating service via the number below.
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While a speed boat will cost substantially more than a longtail, it also open up the possibility of visiting many more places. Now you are free to explore the middle and east sections of the bay , those areas where the tourists don’t get to. Consider calling into the beautiful Paradise @ Koh Yao resort for lunch, and taking in some of Krabi’s beautiful islands like the Pak Bia Group.
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It’s critical to agree on a precise route on the captain’s map, and the price for that. Any deviation from that route will cost fuel, and thus incur more costs for the person chartering. And no matter what kind of boat your rent, Thai captains invariably want to take their guests to places with lots of other tourists. It’s the Thai way. Most Thais do not want to go to lonely or unknown places. That’s scary. They like to hang out in crowds. It’s more fun. Thus, if you want to go exploring new places, it might take some effort convincing your boat captain.
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by John Everingham
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Ask John E, the author here. He has photographed 1,100+ hotels on virtually every beach in Thailand with beachfront accommodation (and more in regional countries) over the past 30 years. “I try to answer all queries, and help as best I can.” E-mail: john@beachf.com