The island Ko Tapu – or James Bond Island as it is now commonly known – is part of the group of islands called Khao Phing Kan within the Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park. Prior to 1974 it was a relatively unknown island but that changed dramatically when it was used in the James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. Within a short period of time it had become a popular tourist attraction and is today visited by thousands of tourists. It is certainly a very popular tour in Thailand.
We, as a rule, prefer not to go on organised tours as we find them too rushed and crowded, we prefer to explore at our own pace. It is however only possible to get to James Bond Island by boat for which we would need a tour. Choosing the correct tour company for these tours is, in our opinion, really important. Get the wrong tour company and even the best of tours can be a disaster. There are numerous tour companies in Khao Lak but many of them have fairly poor reviews or the reviews are ‘hit and miss’, if they are having a good day you have a good tour and vice versa. We narrowed our choice down to Green Andaman Travel and Khao Lak Land Discovery, both of whom have consistently good reviews. Khao Lak Land Discovery are close to the hotel and we called at their offices to find out more about the tour. Despite having many staff in the office (none of them looked to be busy) they kept us waiting for a long time before they even acknowledged our presence. When an agent eventually came to talk to us she was disinterested and really made no effort. Cross them off the list.
We couldn’t call at the Green Andaman Travel office and everything was done by email. They were efficient and dealt with all our questions promptly, they also happened to be a little cheaper. We decided to book with Green Andaman Travel and it proved to be the right decision.
The tour is a full day tour starting with a ride in a traditional Longtail boat from Nai Ngob Pier.
It is a fairly long ride from the pier to James Bond Island with a stop to explore some sea caves by canoe. Fortunately the scenery in the Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park is stunning.
Exploring the sea caves by canoe – with your own paddler – is quite an experience. Whilst the scenery and experience are wonderful, it is one of those ‘pinch points’ on tours where everyone is trying to do the same thing at the same time. In addition to all of us floating around in the same bit of water trying to squeeze into the same cave, the paddlers are trying to extract money from us and the vendors have positioned themselves in the middle of everything to try and sell their wares to the tourists on the canoes.
It was our paddler who pointed out that they have their own version of ‘silicon valley’.
And then it was off to James Bond Island which is another of those ‘pinch points’ on these tours. The authorities have tried to regulate the tourist activity and created proper walking trails but there are simply too many tourists in one place at one time. The problem is compounded by the fact that there are a large number of vendors taking up the limited space available. Once you get past the tourists and vendors, the views are stunning.
Our stop for lunch was the Koh Panyee village. This village is about 200 years old and was started when 3 families from Indonesia set off by boat looking for a new home. There are now over 300 families in the village. The entire village is built on stilts over the sea and is self-sufficient having a school, mosque and health centre. We were the last group to arrive for lunch and had the dining room to ourselves to enjoy the really lovely lunch they served us.
And even their own floating soccer field.
Our last stop was the Wat Suwan Kuha (Cave Temple) on the way back. The cave houses a beautiful 15 metre reclining Buddha together with a number of other religious symbols and a grotto which is home to a golden stupa.
Given our aversion to organised tours, we must admit to being impressed with Green Andaman Travel and, in particular, our guide for the day Noi, he really was a fantastic guide and made for an excellent day out.