The second excursion of our trip was to visit the sea caves of Phang Nga Bay. For this trip we booked with John Gray’s Sea Canoe. John Gray first discovered the sea caves of Phang Nga Bay in 1989. Phang Nga Bay is located north east of Phuket. Again, a round trip transfer was included in our tour. We were picked up from our hotel around 11:30 and arrived at the marina about an hour later. Once we boarded the boat and got underway, we enjoyed a Thai style lunch. It was delicious. The views from the boat to our first kayak spot were amazing. It was a nice change to be on a larger boat. More of a peaceful transit.
Shortly after lunch, we were introduced to our professional guide who paddled us through Phang Nga Bay’s “Tidal Nape Sea Caves” in a custom designed sea kayak. The “Tidal Nape Sea Caves or Hongs” are literally inside Phang Nga Bay’s marine limestone karstic islands. (Hong is the Thai word for room) Our guide’s name was Friend. He spoke very good English, was an excellent paddler and shared with us so much information about the area we were exploring. Here are a few pictures from our first kayak excursion. The cave was small with only one way to enter and exit.
After the first cave and hong, we went back to the main boat where we were given a snack and a little free time before preparing to go back onto the kayak for our second trip. The second trip was even more breathtaking. The hong was very large and the tide was low. This gave us the opportunity to get out of the kayak and walk around.
After dinner, Friend helped us make a “Krathong.” A Krathong is loosely translated to mean “to float a basket.” Our Krathong was made of a banana plant stem as the base and folded banana leaves as decorative accents. We also added orchids and a chrysanthemum. While Dave and I folded the banana leaves, Friend made two birds out of unopened orchid flowers. The Krathong is also decorated with candles and incense. The Krathong represents so many meanings, to keep it short, I’m going with prosperity, happiness and luck.
As the sun was setting, we returned to our kayaks and went into the “bat cave.” Appropriately named because there were many bats hanging from the ceiling. The tide was already rising when we entered the cave and we had to duck at the entrance. We made our way into the hong where we had a just a small bit of light left in the sky. We brought with us our Krathong to float in the water.
Friend lit the candles then Dave and I made a wish as we placed it floating on the water. We watched the Krathong float and eventually the candles extinguished. It was beautiful and a very spiritual moment.
On our way out, Friend took us to one of the darkest spots in the cave. Here he instructed us to move our hands through the water. We were able to see dinoflagellates (bio-luminescent plankton). It was beyond cool. To make the experience even better, Friend hopped out of the kayak and filled his shirt with water making it even easier to see the bio-luminescent plankton. It was another science teacher’s dream come true. I have taught about dinoflagellates for years. It was pretty cool to actually be able to see and experience them myself and with Dave.
The tide was coming in while were were inside the cave. Leaving the cave, Dave and I had to lay all the way down to make it through the exit. At this point we were so glad to have Friend paddling for us. He was definitely an expert. The caves were dark and only his headlamp lit the way. We saw two other people in kayaks (not part of our group) who were struggling to paddle against the current. Other members of our group provided a towline and helped the out of the cave. It would be scary to be stuck in the dark bat cave for six hours until the tide receded!
We returned to the boat and then to the marina. This tour was significantly different than the first one. Leaving later in the day meant there were a lot less crowds. Also, using a larger and slower boat to go to the islands was more peaceful. Exploring around on the kayak was definitely more peaceful than the speedboat. Both tours were unforgettable and a highlight to our vacation.