Phi Phi Islands


I love my camera. I could never get a picture like this with any of my previous ones. This was taken during our trip to the Phi Phi Islands earlier in the week. It even captured the drops coming off of Claire’s toes!

The Phi Phi Islands (pronounced pee pee as my girls like to point out, continuously) are actually a group of six islands about 40 kilometres southeast of Phuket. It takes about an hour by speedboat to get there, so my main priority when finding a tour operator was safety.

With the recent whale watching disaser in Tofino on my mind, we booked an operator licensed for 45 passengers with a policy to take only 20. On the day of the tour there were only 10 passengers and four crew in total.

We spent the morning exploring Phi Phi Leh, one of the two main islands in the group. We started off super early (6:20 a.m. pick-up) so that we could get to Maya Beach before the hoards.

Maya Beach is best known as the backdrop for the movie, The Beach. It’s a beautiful place with white sand and limestone cliffs, much like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. But even with our early arrival there were at least a hundred people on the beach already. The tour guide said that a further 1,000 people were set to arrive about 30 minutes after our departure. Now that would be totally nutty…

Maya Beach on Phi Phi Leh

Maya Beach on Phi Phi Leh

We boated around the back of the island to Lo Sama Bay where we had our first snorkelling session of the day. It was absolutely amazing – just like swimming in an aquarium. We saw fish of all different colours, including the clown fish made famous by Nemo.

Sophie comes back after snorkelling with Nemo

Sophie comes back after snorkelling with Nemo

Our guides threw bananas in the water that the fish gobbled up. Who knew fish were like monkeys? They crowded around us and kept hoping for more.

Next stop on the island was Pileh lagoon, where we anchored the boat to take a swim. Claire especially loved jumping the two metres from the deck, which is how I got my cover photo.

We made two more stops before lunch to see wildlife. The first was at Viking Cave where swiftlets make birds nests out of saliva. You can only view the cave from a boat, as it is protected for commercial interests. Apparently bird saliva is tasty and has medicinal powers that bring longevity, beauty and fertility in China. A kilo of the stuff fetches about $2500 USD. Go figure.

The second stop was at a tiny beach where crab-eating macaques hang out. Knowing the true nature of these nasty creatures, we were happy to watch them from the boat. I managed to capture a picture of a newborn about five days old.

We had lunch on the largest island, Phi Phi Don, where up to 4,000 people lost their lives during the 2004 tsunami. They aren’t quite sure of the total as migrant workers make knowing the true number difficult.

Pagoda wreckage in the middle of nowhere

Pagoda wreckage in the middle of nowhere

We’ve noticed a lot of structures on the west side of Phuket are new, but then you see strange things like steps that go nowhere covered in vegetation. Occasionally you see wreckage that appears to be from the tsunami like this pagoda.

After more swimming on yet another beautiful beach, we headed to Bamboo Island for more snorkelling. We explored coral reefs and saw lots more fish.

A woman from Boston opted not to snorkel in the morning because she was scared of fish. She was finally coaxed into the water in the afternoon. Ironically she was one of the few to see barracuda among the coral!

Despite what those Heart lyrics might have you believe, barracudas are generally not interested in humans. But thanks to me, you’ll have that song stuck in your head for the rest of today!


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