As Thailand’s biggest island, Phuket is easily accessible and acts as a gateway to a myriad of beautiful national parks, deep jungle hideaways, pristine beaches, and serene islands. There are plenty of opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and Heart Pumping Adventure Sports. From island excursions, excellent diving trips, tropical safaris – we list our top five adventurous things to do in Phuket, Thailand.
Encounter Macaques at Monkey Hill
Monkey Hill, also refered to as Toh Sae Hill, can be found in Phuket Town, which is the old town area on Phuket’s central-east side. As you ascend the hill, you will be greeted by a a troop of cheeky macaques munching away on fruit and engaging in play fights. In total, there are about 400 macaques roaming the hills. Be aware of that the mischievous animals sometimes approach people in hopes of getting (or stealing) food, and can grab you or your belongings, crawl on you or chew on your stuff, so for this reason, keep your things attached to you at all times. If you see a mother with her baby monkeys, do not approach them too closely and be respective of their space, as the mothers are very protective of their young ones. The road to Monkey Hill is closed for all motorized vehicles between 7-8 AM and 4-7 PM, so in my opinion, this is the best time to visit. I visited at around 7 AM and had the whole hill to myself, which allowed me to take hundreds of photos undisrupted. This is a considerably easier hike than the one to Big Buddha (see below), and the road is very well-paved, but it is somewhat steep, so bring lots of water and comfortable shoes.
Take a Speedboat to Phi Phi Islands to Snorkel
The Phi Phi Islands, an island group in the Adaman Sea, are one of the most visited destinations in Phuket, and it’s easy to understand why. Not only is this natural beauty time and again rated among world’s most beautiful islands, but it is also listed as one of the best diving sites in Thailand. You can either visit on your own by hiring a longtail boat, or book a tour with a tour operator. I visited the Phi Phis with Simba Sea Trips, which was very convenient as they everything is taken care of as they arrange transfer, breakfast and lunch, as well as snorkeling equipment. The tour started at 6 a.m and I was picked-up at my hotel and driven to the Royal Marina to have some light breakfast before setting off on a speedboat towards our first stop – Bamboo Island (Ko Mai Phai). Ko Mai Phai, a part of a nature reserve and one of the islands of the Phi Phi’s, is inhabited only by nomadic sea gypsies. Since our tour started so early in the morning, we had the whole island to ourselves. The beach was stunning, with pristine white sand and crystal clear turquoise water. The next stop was Maya Bay in Phi Phi Don, a small but beautiful bay that came to prominence when the location was used for for the 2000 filmatization of Alex Garland’s The Beach. Due to unprecedented mass tourism to Maya Bay, which has damaged its coral, is forbidden for boats to drop their anchor in the bay, but we were still able to marvel at the scenery from afar. We also stopped for a snorkeling break, during which I saw Reef Sharks and colourful fish. My favourite was probably the stop at Pileh Lagoon, a beautiful emerald green lagoon surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Other stops included Viking Cave and its Macaque Monkeys, as well as Koh Rang Yai.
Hike Through The Jungle To Big Buddha
Big Buddha, an enormous Buddha statue, has quickly become one of the most important landmarks in Phuket. This majestic architectural wonder sits atop the 540 metre high Nakkerd Hills and boasts 360 degree sweeping vistas of the island. What is remarkable about Big Buddha is that its construction has been funded entirely by donations. To avoid the crows, go early in the morning and remember to bring a sarong or scarf as you should dress appropriately. You can reach the site by motorized vehicles via a winding 6-km road from Phuket’s main artery route, but if you feel adventurous, I would recommend you to hike from Karon Beach to the site. The hike is an adventure in itself, as you will be heading into the jungle and trek through crisscross paths of Kata mountain, paths often used by locals working in rubber plantations, but less often by tourists. During my trek, I was completely alone, far away from the hustle and bustle of Phuket. The environment is lush and green. At some point, the trail turns to dirt, and the path is extremely steep to the extent that you will be need to use the rope that is available to drag yourself up the steep hills. When I did the hike, I gained about 200 metres in altitude in about 15 minutes, so depending on your fitness level, this hike can be grueling – but well worth it.
See Elephants Up-Close
Of the 50.000 Asian elephants left in the world, 4.000 are held captive in Thailand, working in the tourism industry. Some are being used to lug tourists on their backs, others for performing circus-style tricks. Many are battered, beaten and abused for the entertainment of tourists. If you want to travel responsibly and have a close-up encounter with these gentle giants, you can instead visit a accredited sanctuaries or rehabilitation centres which adhere to strict ethical animal welfare standards. These places do not breed elephants or offer rides or performances, instead, here you can witness rescued elephants that roam freely and have chance to express their natural behavior. During my trip to Phuket, I visited the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, located in the northeast part of the island. The elephants here are formed rescues, and most of them are sick, injured and old. Here you can watch them in their natural habitat, feed them fruit.
Kayak Into Roofless Caves in Phang Nga Bay
The Phang Nga Bay is not only home to the famous James Bond Island, but also to a group of tidal caves, “hongs”, accessible when the tide is low. The hongs are akin to sea caves, but without any roofs, and contain tidal lagoons. They are surrounded by gigantic towering limestone cliffs that rise steeply from the sea. To best experience this natural wonder is by a sea canoe trip. I opted for a day tour with John Gray’s Sea Canoe, which started with a pick-up at my hotel, after which I embarked an escort boat that took me to Phang Nga Bay’s Ko Hong. Well at the location, I boarded an inflatable kayak and paddled off into the hongs. To enter the hong, we had to lie flat on our backs in order to get through, since the roof is low and the walls close in, leaving a tiny gap, just enough to let through with a kayak. Inside the hong there are mangroves and small forests, home to curious creatures such as Long-tailed macaques. In the centre of Ko Hong is a hidden lagoon. The tour includes lunch and refreshments, and also allows for some free time during which you can paddle into the open water.
Hopefully, this article gave you some inspiration on what to do during your next visit to Phuket. There are natural wonders every where you go, and no shortage of stunning vistas.
Would you consider visiting Phuket? Which of the places tickles your inner wanderlust the most?