John Stephens

John Stephens has 3 articles published.

John Stephens

A thrill seeker with a touch of class, always on the lookout for the next clever turn of phrase.

Elite Guide to Phang Nga Bay

in Tips by
Island Phang Nga Bay

Between Phuket Island and Krabi on Thailand’s mainland is a remarkable 400-square kilometre inlet known as Phang Nga Bay. Named after the indigenous people (pangan) of the Malay Peninsula and its surrounding islands, the province of Phang Nga is rich with stories of pirates, sea-gypsies and Malay fisherman dating back hundreds of years. Many people of Phang Nga still maintain the humble, traditional way of life of their forefathers, pulling fresh lobsters from the sea to sell in Phuket, whilst others have embraced the area’s growing tourist trade and now work as guides.

While Phang Nga Bay is rich in folklore, it is most widely famed for the hauntingly beautiful limestone karsts that jut out of the sea, many resembling unfinished clay vessels upon a potter’s wheel. These colourful islets with their toupees of lush tropical vegetation were carved out over millions of years, and now host some of the world’s most spectacular sea caves, along with Thailand’s largest mangrove reserve.

SIGHTS

The unbelievably emerald-green waters of Phang Nga Bay are a delight to explore in a traditional long-tailed fishing boat, canoe, kayak or speedboat. Here are some of our personal favourites for when it comes time to plan your visit to this natural wonderland.

James Bond Island

Featured in the James Bond films, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), the sight commonly referred to as ‘James Bond Island’ is also called Koh Tapu.

Here one can pace the twenty steps made famous by the suspenseful duel scene starring Roger Moore, or venture along a shaded path past an enormous limestone fissure to a smoothed-out sea cave that opens to breath-taking views of the Andaman Sea. Two small beaches line its shores and offer a great place to burrow in the golden sands while oohing over the marvellous scenery.

Limestone Caves and Hongs

Many tour operators provide the opportunity to explore the countless limestone caves and hongs (rooms) of Phang Nga Bay. The best way to witness these extraordinary natural wonders is by canoe, where local guides leisurely paddle one into vast cave systems littered with stalagmites and stalactites. These skeletons, created by a build-up of calcium carbonate, are visually stunning, especially when contrasted with the lush tropical backdrops that glow during the day.

Keep Reading

Must-see in Thailand: Phi Phi Islands

in Recreation by
koh phi phi thailand islands

Ready for an adventure? Take to the sea Herman Melville style and visit the Phi Phi Islands to the southeast of Phuket. This beautiful bundle of isles in the Andaman Sea offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Add these must-see islands to your Thailand itinerary.

Koh Phi Phi Leh

Early birds get the worm, or in this case stunning views of Maya Bay featured in the Hollywood blockbuster, The Beach, starring Leonardo Dicaprio. A private chartered speedboat departing at sunrise from Royal Phuket Marina near Cape Yamu offers the best chance to witness this remarkable site before the hoards arrive.

The approach to Koh Phi Phi Leh is an experience in itself, as the 100-metre-high limestone cliffs encompassing unbelievably azure water come into view. Silhouetted by dense jungle, the two silky-soft white-sand beaches of Maya Bay are gradually warmed by the rising sun with the allure of lazy lounging. But wait, there’s more.

Snorkelers rejoice! This remarkable bay with depths of two to three metres is teeming with marine life in its northern section where coral reefs are more prevalent. Leap from the deck of your private charter boat or dare the 150-metre swim from the beach. Either way, be prepared to see large boulders laden with enormous sea anemones, parrotfish and photogenic giant clams posing with mouths agape.

Before departing to the next destination, venture barefoot into the jungle along a short trail shaded by a lush tropical canopy to a wooden staircase and terrace overlooking Loh Sama, reputed for its snorkelling and diving opportunities. Here you’ll see a picturesque tiny islet surrounded by crystal clear waters with traditional long-tail wooden boats moored alongside.

Phi Leh Lagoon

Opposite Maya Bay on the eastern edge of Koh Phi Phi Leh is the unbelievably green Phi Leh Lagoon. Stretching nearly 600-metres, this stunning natural wonder twists and turns down a canyon-like waterway ending in a wide picturesque lagoon with vertical limestone cliffs on all sides. Its full beauty is unveiled around midday, when the sun, like a brush to canvas, brings to life its colours, tones and textures. This is a spot to linger awhile and appreciate how nature’s artistic hand can create such a glorious site. 

If it weren’t for the ripples, you could be forgiven for thinking you were diving into a putting green on a world-class golf course.

Keep Reading

Scuba Diving in the Maldives

in Recreation by
Scuba Dive Site in Maldives Baa Atoll

AN UNDERWATER DREAM COME TRUE

Don’t let the name deceive you. Diving in the ‘MalDIVES’ is anything but mal! Teeming with marine life, the 1,190 tiny islands of the Maldives lie scattered across 800 kilometres of Indian Ocean like jewels escaping from an overturned treasure chest. And they offer some of the best diving in the world.

As the Indian Monsoon Current sweeps across this equatorial island chain, it brings with it nutrients that feed the soft corals and sponges found clinging to rock walls. Caverns and overhangs dotted with mysterious, vibrantly coloured creatures line the ocean channels, while rock pinnacles extend to the water’s surface within crystalline lagoons.

These coralene islands are home to some 900 species of fish. While manta rays, whale sharks, turtles and eels co-exist below the waves, stunningly white beaches provide a dreamscape for visitors looking to get away from it all.

The blissful Baa Atoll is a prime pick for when it’s time to tick ‘Diving in the Maldives’ off your bucket list.

“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish” – Jaques Cousteau

Diving Baa atoll is an experience like no other. Designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in June 2011, it is the jewel on the necklace that is the Maldives. The atoll is situated on the west of the archipelago and experiences far fewer visitors in comparison to its southerly neighbours. From above, the 61 islands – half of which measure less than 10 hectares – resemble extra-terrestrial orbs spread out over a deep blue canvas. Close up, they offer heavenly visions overflowing with stunning natural beauty.

Our top pick in Baa Atoll is the less-than-one-kilometre-long Amilla Fushi, which translates to ‘your island home’. This quintessential paradise island boasts some of the best dive sites in the Maldives and can be reached in under a half an hour by seaplane from Malé International Airport. From Amilla Fushi, visitors have the opportunity to dive any of the 30 sites of the Baa atoll, including the Blue Hole and world-renowned Hanifaru Bay.

To guide you in your underwater explorations is HUB (Home of the Underwater Biosphere) in partnership with luxury dive pioneers Dive Butler International. Their team includes an international group of highly qualified marine conservationists and dive professionals who can tailor excursions to meet your needs.

Keep Reading

Go to Top