Krabi is an excellent place for beaches, rocks, waterfalls, jungles, mangroves and amazing scenery – there is lots of variety around.
Most snorkellers head for Ko Phi Phi, however, the small islands off Ao Nang have some smaller, more peaceful reefs as well, accessible by hiring a longtail boat or signing up for a snorkelling trip in Ao Nang or Railey.
Last October, we joined a “sunset cruise”, which was slightly different from the usual snorkelling tours – same same but different. As it turned out, the snorkelling wasn’t meant to be the highlight. As far as I remember, it was around 800 baht per person.
We left at around 2 p.m. from Railey in a large longtail boat, and headed for a towering rock near Ko Poda. The water was murky and visibility poor, but the big thing here is swimming under the huge rock though a hole measuring a few metres across: first it is a little scary, then you go for it for the second time and it gets really exciting. The rocks and corals are like a rainbow under the rock, and the waves don’t push you around that much once you are underneath. Just don’t look up and don’t think too much.
Next, we headed for Ko Si, which is a small cliff with a small bay, where there are several anemones “nesting” clownfish families. Well, who knows how long. Apparently, they are quite sensitive. Unfortunately, we arrived here a little late, and the coral is on the shady side of the cliffs after 4 p.m. or so – visibility could have been better if we had got there earlier.
We arrived at the unique sandbank connecting three small islands about one hour before sunset. By that time, all the boats we had seen earlier from the distance had left. The tide was turning, but we still had time to walk the sandbars connecting Ko Gai (Chicken Island), Ko Mor (also spelled Ko Mor) and Ko Tap (Ko Tub).
(Chicken Island is behind, the two smaller islands on the left and right. The sandbank vanishes during high tide. The cliffs of Railey and Tonsai on the mainland are in the background.)
There are lots of crabs, white dead coral, shells, interesting rocks and pebbles that the tides keep churning up twice a day.
On the way back, it felt like walking on water. Even when we were wading knee deep, the waves still kept coming from both directions, hitting each other in the middle.
Reportedly, the tsunami in 2004 washed the sandbanks away, but they rebuilt themselves fairly quickly, and are as popular as ever during the day. Even after the long sandbar was gone, the beach connecting the two smaller islands was still available, and as the sun was setting and the sky was turning all shades of red, orange and yellow, a magnificent buffet dinner was spread out.
(no, that’s not me!)
Even if you live on the tropics for years, it can take you by surprise how quickly it gets completely dark after sunset. The tour guide had torches (real ones, not flashlights!), we cleaned up the beach, and scrambled back into the boat. We didn’t wait until the sandbank between the two small islands was swallowed up by the sea as well. It was “slightly” scary that the boat was completely dark, no lights, we were rushing into the black unknown.
After a while, we stopped near another small island – I have no idea which one. The braver members of the “expedition” jumped into the water and triggered a million fluorescent lights on their skin, emitted by small floating marine life – I don’t know exactly what microscopic animal it was, and the guide couldn’t say either. It was pitch black and I was shivering anyway, so I just admired the twinkling lights vibrating in the dark. It slightly resembled a space trip….
We continued our journey in the dark, only guided by the lights of Railey and Tonsai bays, and made it back safely, God knows how. Even if these local boatmen know the reefs and cliffs and the treacherous beach of Tonsai bay inside out, even if they could navigate them blindfolded, you would think it’s a figure of speech!
In summary: not a lot of great snorkelling on this trip, but there are shallow reefs off white sandy Ko Poda if you sign up for a daytime trip, setting off in the morning. It is just 8 kms from Ao Nang. Further away (25 kms), Ko Hong is another great spot for snorkelling. There are no hotels at these locations. The sunset cruise is a great experience if you are looking for an easy-going afternoon trip with a difference and a little bit of adventure.
(my favourite shadows pic of me and my mum was taken here.)