The island made famous as Scaramanga's hideout in the 1974 James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun has become a popular destination for boat trips from the holiday island of Phuket in Thailand. In this article, Steve Rogerson dons his swimming gear and reviews one such trip, explaining what to expect and providing tips for travellers.
Phang Nga: A trip to James Bond Island, Phuket, Thailand
A review of the boat trips from Phuket, Thailand, to Kao Tapu, known as James Bond Island.
Kao Tapu, made famous in The Man With the Golden Gun
Photo by Steve Rogerson
Those of you who remember Scaramanga’s hideout in the 1974 Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun will recognise the rock Kao Tapu in the bay of Ko Khao Phing Kan island in the Phang Nga province of Thailand. Now known as James Bond Island, this has become a popular attraction for tour operators offering boat trips from Phuket, often taking in neighbouring islands in the process.
In the main towns and along the beach resorts of Phuket, flyers can be spotted offering trips to the island, and it is worth it even for those who are not fans of James Bond just to see the breathtaking scenery of the island itself and its surroundings.
Before we sailed
We were picked up at from our hotel at about 8.30am in an air-conditioned minibus. When you book, check if there is an extra charge for this. If there is, say no. If the operator will not accept that, then go elsewhere – there are plenty offering this tour and most will do the pick up and transfer for free. We were driven to Ao Po Pier, near Phuket Town, where we had to walk the length of the long pier to board our ship. On board, we were welcomed with drinks and snacks.
Panak Island and Hong Island
Whether the tide is high or low decides at which of the other islands the boats also stop. Our trip was at low tide and so we were taken to Panak and Hong islands; the high tide options from this operator are Karew Cave and Lana Island.
The slow boat to Panak Island lasted the best part of an hour. The boat stopped just off the island and we were all loaded onto canoes (paddled by local guides) to a beach. We left the canoes and walked into a cave (this is flooded at high tide). Wading through water and ducking to avoid hanging rocks, we reached a place where we could stand and our guide pointed his torch upwards to show bats hanging from the ceiling. More ducking and wading later, and we were brought out into open sky. This was the bed of a lagoon that fills up at high tide, and was absolutely gorgeous. And on the muddy bed we could see walking fish scurrying along.
Travelling by canoe to the lagoon
Photo by Steve Rogerson
After wading back through the cave, we once again climbed into the canoes and visited another low-tide lagoon. This still involved travelling through a cave but was much easier as the water was high enough for the canoe to sail through.
We were returned back to the main boat, and lunch (included in the price) was served – reasonably filling and tasty, but what you see is what you get, so if you have any special dietary requirements, a packed lunch might be the answer. This was eaten as we sailed to Hong Island, where we again had to climb into the canoes. There were about forty of us on the boat and when the canoes took us to Hong Island, we were the only ones on the little beach. There was time for swimming and relaxing before being taken back to the main boat.
The beach on Hong Island
Photo by Steve Rogerson
During both canoe trips, we had our photographs taken and framed versions of these were later available to buy at 200baht each. This was the last we would see of our guide and canoeist and so, as is customary, we gave him a tip.
James Bond Island
And so on to the main destination. At James Bond Island, long tail boats were used to transfer us to the shore. As you’d expect, this island has become a little commercial with a large block of souvenir stalls dominating the front where the boats dock. Most were selling similar if not identical goods and the traders were very aggressive; just looking at something was enough to trigger a hard sell.
There are though plenty of opportunities to take pictures but beware if you wade out into the main bay to get a closer picture of the famous Kao Tapu rock as there is quite thick mud underwater in some patches that can literally suck the shoes off your feet.
The day ended with another long but pleasant boat ride back to the pier and from there by minibus to our hotel, where we arrived at about 6.30pm tired but happy.
Prices and tips
Prices for these trips vary, and many operators charge over 3000baht for a day trip. Most though will negotiate on price, and we bought ours for 1200baht each for two adults. This was run by Leader Marine Co Ltd and bought through Yuha Kim Tour & Travel on Kamala Beach.
While bringing a camera is a good idea, some kind of waterproof covering is recommended. The same is true for any other electronic device, such as a mobile phone. Don’t forget to take a swimming suit and towel, though in the heat drying off is not normally a problem. What is necessary for most is sun block cream.
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SteveRogerson, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
It's interesting that high and low tides offer tourists different island stops.
How much in advance of the experience is it known whether it will be Karew Cave and Lana Island or Hong and Panak islands? Is there a preference expressed by tour operators and participants?