The beautiful Phi Phi Islands are off the west coast of Thailand, 50km south-east of Phuket and look how many people imagine paradise to be. It is a group of six islands with Ko Phi Phi Don the largest and only permanently populated island. Ko Phi Phi Leh is popular too as Maya Bay was used for the 2000 film The Beach but the other islands (Ko Phai, Ko Yung, Bida Nok and Bida Nai) are too small for permanent inhabitants.
The islands were badly hit by the 2004 tsunami but, thankfully, nearly all has returned to normal and visitors have been returning for Asia holidays over the last few years, drawn to the blissful white sandy beaches and the clear blue water.
Almost a victim of its own success, Ko Phi Phi Don has many hotels but none are of a particularly high standard as this is a very transient destination and most visitors come to laze on the beach or dive by day and party all night. It’s been a popular backpacker’s destination for many years but more upscale resorts are being built.
Put Your Top On
While the islanders are generally incredibly tolerant of western tourists and our ways, do remember most people here are Muslim which means you should at least make an effort to cover up while walking around town and going topless on the beach will be seen but not appreciated.
Scuba diving and snorkelling are excellent ways to discover the wonders within the waters and diving school prices are regulated so visit any dive shop you prefer. Around ‘Shark Point’ near Long Beach you should be able to see the harmless, I’m told, Blacktip Reef Shark. You can easily recognise this shark by the black tips on its fins and you can swim in the water when it’s there; just be sensible. Don’t flap about or the shark will be curious but stay calm and you can watch them in their natural habitat in the clear tropical waters here.
Whale sharks and manta rays like the deep waters around Hin Daeng but you can get there sea conditions permitting. Ko Pida Nok is popular with divers who usually see turtles and moray eels and even more sharks but this time the bottom-dwelling leopard sharks who like to live near the shore.
If diving at night is more your thing then try Lohsamah Bay although the 15 metre deep canyon is narrow so you need to take turns.
A small note when swimming near coral, do not do what my companion once did and kick off from a wall of coral in a swimming race with new friends as the soles of his feet were cut to shreds. Coral is beautiful but incredibly sharp.
There are many boat trips to take you further afield for diving and snorkelling, or just to admire from the boat. The King Cruiser Wreck off Ko Phi Phi is a popular site to visit. It’s said to be the wreck of a passenger ship which sunk in 1997 when it hit the Anemone reef.
Longtail boats can be chartered like taxis to take you between beaches or for day trips and adventures.
Getting to the Phi Phi Islands Fly to the mainland of Thailand then you can catch a regular scheduled boat from Phuket or Krabi which usually takes about 90 minutes.