As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s a lot more to Koh Phi Phi than sleeping on the beach all day and partying all night. One of the day activities you should do, besides climbing up to the viewpoint, is to go on a Phi Phi Island hopping tour. There are a variety of tours that are offered throughout the island, however the most popular tour takes you cliff jumping, snorkeling (both during the day and at night to see plankton), to Monkey Bay (watch out for those sneaky monkeys!) and Maya Bay (where Leonardo DiCaprio filmed The Beach), and then you end the tour with an incredible view of the sun setting. Overall, there were some really great highlights of the day-long tour, but there were also some drawbacks that had me wishing we booked a private tour.
Since there are a number of island hopping tour options on Phi Phi (booze cruises, speed boats, private boats, etc.), we wanted to chose one that seemed both reasonably priced and offered the most sights to see.
Our tour was called the “Maya Tour” and was ฿600 with cliff jumping or ฿450 without cliff jumping (I really did not understand this price difference justification, but when in South East Asia…). I think we lowered the price to about ฿500-550 baht, so be sure to haggle a little when you’re booking your tour.
The tour went from 2:00 – 7:30 pm, which is just enough time to let you work that hangover off with some fresh fruit smoothies and fried Thai pancakes before hopping on the boat.
Our first stop was Monkey Beach (located on the western side of Loh Dalum Bay), which was a bit of a mess to say the least. For starters, the name is deceiving – there was no beach in sight. We pulled up to the side of a high limestone cliff where we anchored down in waist-deep water along with over ten other sampan boats. Not only was the water too high for me to feel comfortable bringing my DSLR off the boat with me (hence, no pictures I’m afraid), but it was very choppy and made walking to where the monkeys were a tricky task.
After walking (or should I say struggling) through the water for a minute or two we came face to face with a handful of monkeys scattered about and at least 50 people taking photographs of them with their GoPro’s (which are all the rage for backpackers/travelers in case you didn’t know). There was a man feeding the monkeys bananas, so you could get an awesome selfie with one of these untrustworthy creatures if you weren’t too afraid of them momentarily losing interest in their banana and latching onto your face instead.
The one really neat thing about Monkey “Beach” is that as we were leaving, some of the monkeys actually jumped down from the branches or rocks they were sitting on and began to swim in the water!
After we had enough of the monkeys (which, for me, took about 5 seconds), we hopped back in the crowded sampan boat and made the short trip to where we would be cliff jumping. Out of the 20 or so people in our boat, only six people ended up going cliff jumping. Bravely, I was one of them.
I tugged on a pair of water shoes, jumped off the boat, and swam to where you begin to climb up the jagged limestone rock to get to the first jumping point. This did not prove an easy task since the water kept crashing in on you and pushing you into and then back away from the rock you were trying to climb up (be prepared for some scraped knees!). There’s a rope to help hoist you initially, but then you’re on your own to navigate your way up and around the rocks to get to the base point.
The initial jump is 8 meters high, which didn’t sound too bad. That is until I was up there. I managed to jump (with pure terror etched on my face.. there are unfortunate photos to prove it) without breaking any bones, however, I might have swallowed about a litre of salt water. For those who felt a bit more adventurous, they could jump from 20 meters high.
Next up was Pileh Bay, a small lagoon on the east of Phi Phi Lay (the island just south of Phi Phi Don). This lagoon was breathtakingly beautiful, despite the fact that there were at least seven other boats in the bay.
We anchored down for 30 minutes or so and had some time to either relax on the boat or take a dip in the refreshing water. Pileh Bay was my favourite stop on this island hopping tour.
On our way to Maya Bay, we went past the viking caves at the northern part of Phi Phi Lay. The boat slowed down and, through my ever-so impressive Google searching, I found out that the explorers who came past this cave drew paintings inside, hence the name “Viking Cave”. Apparently though, the paintings don’t actually depict any such resemblance to vikings. While it is possible to go into the caves (in the photo, you can see the bamboo “dock” on the far right where a boat would pull up to – very reliable, of course), that was not part of our itinerary.
We then made our way to the infamous Maya Bay; known for its appearance in The Beach, with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. I decided to not set my expectations too high because, as with most things, they are never quite met. The beach itself was surrounded by limestone cliffs with a fairly wide opening, perfect for the ample amounts of tour boats that come in and out of each day.
The water is extremely shallow here and is covered with sharp rocks, seashells, and sea urchins, so the boat had to drop us off quite far away from the shore. This meant a slow and painful walk both to and from the beach.. I regret not wearing the water shoes.
When we got to the beach, I was surprised at how fine the sand was – it literally felt like I was walking on flour. We set up our towels and ate the hearty dinner provided (just kidding – it was only a sandwich..) as the sun began to disappear.
After spending at least 20 minutes trying to get from Maya Beach to the boat, we came out of the lagoon on the west of the island to watch the sunset. Though this wasn’t one of the best sunsets I’ve seen while travelling, it was great to get an unobstructed view of the sun slowly making its way into the ocean.
Swimming With Plankton
When the sun had finally set we went in the direction of the pier on Phi Phi Island to find a spot to jump into the water. With mask and snorkel in hand, I plunged into the now chilly waters to see what all the fuss was about; apparently there are tonnes of plankton in the water and when you move around they light up. I had to see for myself and, while it is true that they do light up (almost like underwater fireflies), I’m not sure it was worth my shivering for the next ten minutes.
The Good & The Bad
Overall, this island hopping tour wasn’t the worst on this trip (I’ll give that special award to the tour I went on in Aonang), but it certainly wasn’t anywhere close to the best. It was unfortunate that our boat was crammed with people, some of whom became rather intoxicated and obnoxious near the end of our tour. As well, though our tour guide was nice (and Canadian!), she barely gave any information surrounding the history or any interesting facts about the places we visited. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but if you are financially able to or if you’re travelling with a larger group of people, you should definitely hire a private boat to take you to all of these places. That way you can do this same tour on your own terms and hopefully get some local insight into the Phi Phi Islands.