The ‘Land of Smiles’ Welcomes Back Yachts

Thailand Photos

Thailand is back as a must-visit yachting destination, thanks to its idyllic island cruising, modern, well-equipped marinas, flat seas, warm temperatures and spectacular scenery. By Linda Cartlidge The ‘Land of Smiles’ is an ideal and luxurious option for yachts when visiting South East Asia, with yachts allowed to stay for 3 years (custom’s extension needed every six months).


Thailand Photos

Phuket’s marina industry is viewed as a key part of the island’s economic recovery and growth. The province has five marinas which welcome an average 1,500-2,000 recreational boats a year, according to the Bangkok Post.

Yacht Haven, Ao Po Grand, Royal Phuket marinas and Phuket Boat Lagoon are privately owned. Ao Chalong Sport Yacht Marina, built by the Marine Department, is operated by the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PPAO).

Three more marinas are being planned; Green Port Marina project in Mai Khao (219 recreational boats); Ao Kung Marina in Pa Khlok (75 boats) and Makham Bay Marina project in Wichit ( approx. 70 vessels).

Several investors are interested in developing 3-4 more marinas in Phuket, including one on Koh Taphao Yai and one near Visit Panwa pier. The full-service marinas make for an inviting and stress-free holiday, and base for yachts staying the season.

Gulf of Thailand – Ocean Marina is a modern 455 state-of-the-art floating marina. The Gulf of Thailand has two major cruising regions; Koh Samui with its luxury resorts, tropical beaches, vibrant nightlife and famed Ang Thong Marine Park, and on the other side of the Gulf, the Koh Chang Archipelago.

Future Marinas – There is a feasibility study anticipated for a marine development project in Chon Buri, with Tambon Bang Sare being chosen to become a new harbour for luxury vessels. According to Marine Department figures, Thailand has 13 tourist ports that can be classified as marinas – 8 along the Andaman Sea; 4 in the eastern region; 1 in the western province of Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Thailand Photos



Phuket is used as a base for the yachting season (November to April).  It provides easy access to Thailand, Myanmar and the Andamans. With average ocean temperatures of 28 to 32ºC, the island is favoured throughout most of the year by calm seas. Phuket and the surrounding 32 smaller islands that form Phuket Province, total 570km².

In comparing Thailand to the Med or the Caribbean as a destination, APS co-founder, Gordon Fernandes, notes: “Thailand is way up there and has the best of both worlds; secluded beaches; vibrant nightlife; great restaurants; luxurious spas and high-end resorts. You can base the cruise around Phuket and in Feb/March there is little/no wind around this area, so motor yacht cruising is great. The eastern part of Thailand around Koh Samui and the Gulf has a different season, so you have several destination options with differing weather patterns”. Following are some suggestions for island cruising from Gordon Fernandes and APS co-founder, Captain Charlie Dwyer.

Thailand Photos

Thailand Photos

Andaman Sea Cruising

Day 1

Depart Yacht Haven Marina to Ko Hong (16NM’s) for kayaking, caves and beautiful scenery. You’ll cruise east towards Phnag Nga Bay, past fish farms and coconut, rubber and pineapple plantations. Home to thousands of islands and vertiginous cliffs, this is a truly remarkable landscape.

A small tender can take you to Koh Phanak with numerous caves, each with secret lagoons to discover at low tide. After lunch, head north to Khao Phing Kan – known as ‘James Bond Island’ – and then Koh Roi. Anchor at Ko Hong overnight.

Day 2

Depart Ko Hong and head south for Ko Kai Nok (18NM’s) for beach, snorkeling and swimming. Mid-morning, head to the east side of Ko Yao Yai and Ko Yao Noi (19NM’s) for a very nice sail through the Ko Pak Bia group of islands. There are a couple of fantastic beaches here – the best one at Ko Hong. Anchor overnight.

Day 3

Depart Ko Hong early morning and head southeast to Krabi (10NM’s). Boat anchors at Rai Leh Beach. Spend the day rock climbing, swimming or just chilling out under the limestone cliffs. High-end resorts sit side-by-side with a few private residences scattered around. The Krabi headland is an opportunity to try out low-level ‘bouldering’ right on the beach or take on the roped climbs up the limestone karsts. End with dinner at the Dusit Ravadee Hotel.

Day 4

Early morning departure for the infamous Phi Phi Ley (28NM’s) for crystal clear water, huge limestone cliffs and some lovely beaches. There’s a small bay that’s worth a visit by tender or kayak, and also a small cave that houses Chinese Viking paintings. Late evening/overnight departure to Surin Beach. (60NM’s)

Day 5

Spend the day at the famous Amanpuri Hotel – amongst the top ten hotels in the world. Relax with pampering, lazing on the beach, or visit the elephant sanctuary. There are go-karting, snake shows and Phuket’s famed “Fantasea’ (stage show). The Banyan Tree Spa is ranked as one of the best spas in the world and can be followed by dinner at the Amanpuri. Anchor overnight. NOTE: anchoring and tender runs are weather dependent.

Day 6

Surin Beach to Similan Islands (51Nm’s) which lie northwest of Phuket in the Andaman Sea. In 1982, this 128km² area was declared a marine national park. The group of nine small islands has become a leading attraction in Southern Thailand. Spend the day diving and anchor here overnight.

Day 7

Similan Islands return to Phuket


In the eastern Gulf of Siam, Captain Charlie Dwyer reports, “Koh Samui is the hub of the Gulf and the best port of entry. The beauty of the islands, the culture, and the people with their welcoming smiles and gracious nature are what brings yachts to Thailand”.

Koh Samui was among the ‘Top 10 Happiest Cities’ by The National Geographic Society, quote: “Koh Samui’s prosperity and quality of life has risen steadily with boats and visitors drawn to its intoxicating blend of street food stalls, hidden Buddhist temples, jungle waterfalls, and palm-fringed beaches fronting turquoise waters.”

Gulf Cruising

Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Samui is the third largest island in Thailand and a kayaking and snorkeling paradise. Situated in the Ang Thong National Marine Park, it is surrounded by limestone karsts of 10-400 metres above sea level. On Koh Mae Ko (Mother Island) there is a beautiful must-see natural inland lake named Thale Nai –made famous by Alex Garland’s book “The Beach”.

The monsoon influences Ang Thong National Marine Park and the best time for visiting the islands is between February and April, when the sea is calm. Samui offers high-quality diving most of the year, but it’s best to avoid the monsoon in November/December. Shore-based courses are an option during this time. Captain Charlie can also arrange for a professional ‘Dive Guide’ aboard your vessel to facilitate a memorable dive itinerary. The most famous dive site in the area is Sail Rock, north of Koh Phangan, with an 18-metre natural rock chimney swim-through -a good location to view whale sharks. The world-famed diving mecca, Koh Tao, has 21 sites off its shores. A day’s diving from Samui can include 2 to 3 dive sites.

Thailand’s appeal is on the rise as a superyacht/yacht destination due to the investment in infrastructure. The country’s natural attractions, warm hospitality, endless island cruising, easy flight connections and selection of first-class marinas attract discerning foreign-flagged vessels.

Thailand Photos

“There’s no better place to experience life on a yacht than the Land of Smiles.”

By Linda Cartlidge


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