Enter mysterious caves with impressive limestone rock formations via kayak. The islands in Phang Nga Bay are hidden ecosystems, populated by mangrove trees, crabs, macaque monkeys, butterflies, and kingfishers and more. Kayaking in this area was founded and established by John Gray in 1989 discovering it was possible to paddle through low tide tunnels and into the open centers of some islands.
I booked a day excursion called Hong by Starlight via John Gray’s Sea Canoe company after reading so many good reviews about this tour. Hong in Thai means room after all the cave rooms in this bay. For $136 USD this tour is packed with activities. This includes pick-up from your hotel to the Ao pier, lunch, kayaking, dinner and an evening Loi Krathong ceremony in a bioluminescent cave. The time to get to the caves is about 1.5 hrs from the pier.
The kayaks are launched from the boat with guides and you don’t do the actual paddling yourself. This is a park area which doesn’t allow motor boats and they want to keep this place pristine and undamaged by tourism. They also ask you to point out any garbage floating by so they can collect it and discard.
You’ll circle the island till you find a cave entry. It’s a small opening but once through it opens up to a giant cave. From there you enter a small inlet full of trees. Then further on to a large inlet of mangroves.
The rock walls are teaming with sea life which you realize as you paddle closer to them. It’s worthwhile to spend some time just watching and spotting how much activity exists on these sea walls.
Entrance to the various caves and inlets can open and close in minutes with the changing tide. With some cave entries you’ll need to lean back to avoid hitting your head on the ceiling.
In one inlet we encountered several Macaques. One of them had a newborn probably only 3 days old. These are sea monkeys! There staple is seafood and they catch crabs and small fish on low tides
I had a chance to meet John Gray the founder of this company on the tour during lunch after our first kayaking excursion. My guide asked me where I was from, I said Southern California, then he said you should know John. I got a chance to talk with John about Newport Beach and his story. John Gray, originally from Newport Beach California became a communications director for a cancer research center in Hawaii in the mid-1980s. He also has degrees in political science and film. Since moving to Thailand Gray has devoted himself to a small inlet of the Malay Peninsula called Phang Nga Bay for his tours.
After our wonderful buffet lunch we embarked on another kayak excursion. As we entered one open interior of an island we stopped to watch some mudskippers, skipping and wiggling their way in the low tide mud. They are one of the first fish to make there way to land in prehistoric times.
We had some time after our second kayaking excursion to swim around the boat before having our dinner.
After the evening dinner you start making your own self-made flower “Krathong”. Then kayak out at sunset into a cave, light your Loi Krathong for a ceremonial spiritual experience. After dowsing your Krathong you see the waters in the cave light up with bioluminescent dinoflagellates. The more you disturb the water the more they light up.
It was actually someone’s birthday so we sang Happy Birthday to her lighted Krathong in the cave.
It was quite the surreal experience in the cave with all the lighted Loi Krathong followed by a bioluminescent experience kayaking out of the cave. The sunset sky was rosy and elegant upon emerging from the cave.
We had some time to sit around and chit-chat in our kayaks watching the sunset before returning to the boat for departure back to the pier.
We had a very relaxed and contented boat ride back to the pier after such an exiting and fulfilling day.