Some cynics say there are no longer any unspoiled island paradises left in Thailand, or indeed, anywhere else in the world. There’s no doubt that the advance of tourism and improvements in transport have made previously remote destinations more easily accessible, but a bit of island hopping can reveal some hidden delights.
The upgrading of the new terminal at Krabi airport in 2006 to include international flights has certainly opened up this Andaman province to a more mainstream clientele. As well as the internal flights from Thailand, Krabi airport now hosts services to and from Singapore, Malaysia and Scandinavia. Backpackers, adventure travellers and incurable romantics may bemoan this as more tourists learn the secrets of this beautiful part of Thailand. However, there are still empty beaches and quiet islands for those that want to seek them out. Some of the islands I’ve listed below feature on the popular day-trip packages from Ao Nang and as such can hardly lay claim to being ‘undiscovered’, but they can still provide an escape from the mainstream if you avoid the package tour option.
Ko Poda, Ko Kai, Ko Tub
These are 3 of the most easily accessible islands from either Ao Nang or Railay. This means that they feature on the island tour itineraries of many travel companies and you are not going to have the island completely to yourself. The group tours are an extremely quick and easy way of seeing a lot in a short space of time. If you only have a few days in the region they are a good option. If you have more time, consider hiring your own private longtail boat for the day (easily arranged and not as expensive as it sounds) which gives you the freedom to come and go as you please. The tour groups don’t tend to hang around too long on any one particular island and with your own boat you can still enjoy semi-seclusion. If you are arranging your own boat, make sure you take your own food and drink with you as facilities range from limited to non-existent on these small islands (group tours normally provide refreshments).
The Hong archipelago is a group of limestone islands with hidden lagoons and caves. The hidden lagoons are known as ‘hongs‘ and can only be accessed at certain tides by small boats and kayaks that can squeeze through the dark tunnels into the secret world beyond. The scenery once inside the hong is spectacular with an emerald lagoon encircled by sheer limestone cliffs. Kayaking is an extremely popular way to discover these hidden treasures, but if the thought of getting in a kayak sounds too much like hard work, just chill out on one of the islands beaches instead.
Ko Jum (also known as Ko Pu)
Situated in between Krabi and Ko Lanta (approximately 25kms from Krabi Town) the charming little island of Ko Jum has resisted the march of mass tourism and can still be considered as a genuine tropical hideaway. The population of Ko Jum numbers around 1,500 and the mainly Muslim islanders earn a living from fishing, rubber cultivation and cloth-weaving.
There are no cars, few paved roads, no fixed electricity supply, no internet shop and only a few phone lines. If you really want to get away from it all, Ko Jum is a great choice. It’s an island of mountains and jungles which is fringed with beaches and palm trees. The majority of the accommodation on the island is on the western side looking out to the Phi Phi islands. Most resorts and bungalows have their own generators supplying electricity so it’s not quite Robinson Crusoe, but it’s close enough for many of the visitors who come here. Definitely a place to kick off your shoes, feel the sand between your toes and relax.
Getting to Ko Jum
In the dry season/high season from November-April, it’s possible to catch the ferry from Krabi to Ko Lanta and vice-versa. If you have pre-booked accommodation on Ko Jum, the resort or bungalow send out a longtail boat to meet the ferry and collect you. Journey time from Krabi Town is approximately 90 minutes and around 50 minutes from Ko Lanta.
In the wet season/low season from May-October head by road to Laem Kruat pier 40kms south of Krabi Town and take a local boat from there. Please note that some resorts and bungalows on Ko Jum close during the low season.
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