Koh Tachai Island - Day trip from Khao Lak
On our recent holiday we spent a total of 4 nights in Khao Lak, and we'll be going again next time the kids have some school holidays. It was very relaxing, much of the time was spent in the pool, or walking on the beach, or having breakfast, lunch, dinner and sunset beers! But we did have one day trip planned and booked in advance. Koh Tachai is a small island about 50km north of the Similan Islands, out in the Andaman Sea off the west coast of Thailand. We had heard that the speedboat tours left from Ban Nam Khem, a small fishing port and village north of Khao Lak, and from there it would be about 50km to Koh Tachai. I have been to Koh Tachai many times in the past for diving on liveaboard boats and have had some great dives there with manta rays at a dive site called Tachai Pinnacle, but I had never set foot on the island before! Over the last couple of years Tachai has been becoming a popular alternative to the Similan Islands, which get a lot more visitors. Thai tourists especially seemed to be heading to Tachai, I saw lots of lovely photos on Thai websites and also on Thai TV channels. I knew my friends at Easy Day Thailand could book us on the tour, so we signed up and were ready on a warm but hazy morning on April 25th. Minibus pick up was on time, but we headed south towards Thap Lamu port, not north to Ban Nam Khem. Looked like we'd be leaving from Thap Lamu which would mean a 70km speedboat trip. We had a wait of about 20 minutes before boarding the speedboat while the tour operator sorted out various groups heading to different islands. Coffee, tea and toast were provided (self service) and then we headed to the speedboat. Aside from our family of 6, all other customers on the trip were Thai.
We sped out of Thap Lamu, the sky cleared up a little, the sea was flat calm, looked like a perfect day coming up! I had been a little worried about my parents doing a long speedboat trip out in the sun all day, but with mirror-like seas and a bit of cloud cover, we all sat in the front of the speedboat while all the white skinned Bangkok Thai people hid in the shade :)
It was going to be quite a long ride, about 90 minutes to Koh Tachai. Would have been less from Ban Nam Khem, but departure point had been switched due to the tides - Thap Lamu is a deep water port used by dive boats, fishing boats and the Thai navy too. Well anyway, as the sun came out and the sea was so calm, a longer ride did not matter. My daughter enjoyed being right in the bow with the wind in her hair ...
Unfortunately ... things then went a bit pear shaped. Some dark clouds ahead. Surely just hazy skies? Maybe a light shower? We sped onward. Very dark clouds. Lightning. Are we going through that? Well, the sea was still calm. I sent the family "inside" and took a quick snapshot with the phone before the rain bucketed down...
Well, the next 30 minutes were very very wet. Everyone was soaked since the roof of the speedboat had a gap all the way around, and in came the rain. My poor dad was not feeling too healthy, and I was just cursing our luck! The speedboat carried on, sea was a little bouncy but there were no big waves, but at the same time, there seemed to be no let up in the rain and no brightening of the sky. We arrived at Koh Tachai in the rain, left all bags and cameras under cover on the boat, then off into the treeline to find some shelter. Must have carried on raining for another hour, time we would have spent snorkeling or walking on the beach, instead of hiding and drinking tea!
And then, as if by magic .. within minutes (so it seemed) the rain disappeared, the sky cleared and it was suddenly the perfect day! Everyone was stripping down to swimwear and hanging up clothes to dry in the trees. And then we could all see the attraction of Koh Tachai island! Our guide decided that the 'jungle walk' that should be part of the day would be cancelled to give everyone plenty of beach time after the rains. I went climbing back on the speedboat to look for everyone's bags and cameras which had been stored in a dry space when the rain started. And then the photo-shoot could begin!
Much of the next couple of hours was spent on the beach, playing in the water with the kids, doing a little snorkeling (but not much to see right by the beach, you have to swim out further) and taking photos. The tour operator provided drinks all day (juices, sodas, tea, coffee, drinking water) and snacks like nuts and biscuits. The actual lunch was a bit disappointing for me, though I think the rain meant that the staff had a hard time getting everything ready. Anyway, why waste time eating in the shade when you can jump!
The kids wanted nothing more than to swim, snorkel and play in the shallow waters by the beach. It certainly is very beautiful and you can't really get colours like this so close to Phuket, although Racha Yai island is pretty good. I just wished the weather had been like this ALL day, although considering that I got a pretty good sunburn anyway, maybe that was enough sun. The kids can normally be out all day without feeling the sun, though my daughter has fair skin which can get quite red, and it did on this day. For a couple of hours, kids were in their own private paradise!
OK, not quite private, there were about 6 speedboats there on the same day, but as with most tourist locations, if you walk a couple of hundred meters you lose 90% of the people who just plonk their lazy behinds down on the first available patch of sand. The beach on the east side of Tachai is about 700m long, plenty of room to spread out. Tommy the guide called it 'Paradise Island', which I guess is the tourist name or the name his employers tell him to use! There are plenty of paradise islands around these parts! Koh Tachai has no development save for a ranger station, some toilets, a couple of covered areas with a concrete floor and some thatched bamboo gazebos. Hope it stays that way.
Days like these are more for the kids than the adults! I am happy that our kids love the outdoors, swimming, boat trips, and don't complain too much when we do other things like visit temples. On this same trip (to be blogged) we visited a couple of tsunami memorials and I think the kids learned something from that. But the day at Koh Tachai was certainly more fun! Here's the boy, mask in hand, skipping his way through the shallows...
A word about our guide on the trip, Tommy - nice guy, very friendly. We met him the next week on our return to Khao Lak, on the beach with his family and we stopped for a chat. If you are on this tour, leave him a tip! When it was time to get back on the speedboat he wandered up and down the beach to find everyone, ukulele in hand ...
Took a while to get off the beach, as the tide was low. Everyone had to get onto a national park flat bottomed boat to transfer to the speedboat. For a moment I was worried that we were heading straight back to port, and with the rain we'd really only had a couple of hours of beach time, surely we could not be leaving already? No ... we headed along the east coast of the island for some snorkeling. The kids and I joined most of the Thai folks from Bangkok and Tommy for about 20 minutes, and there was some good fish life on this part of the island. My son was quite proud of the distance we swam during this snorkeling session. The kids love the water, I guess I'll have to be taking them diving soon!
How much did you enjoy the day, son?
In the end a very good day out. With the rain, and then the sun, everyone was cream crackered by the end of the day. It is actually possible to do the trip if you stay in Phuket, but that means a pick up at about 6am. Certainly this is a better option if you stay in Khao Lak. Now, until last month I did not really care for Khao Lak, but I can see now why people like it. If you have a 2 week Phuket trip, then a few days in Khao Lak is a good idea, but the day trips to Koh Tachai and the Similan Islands only operate in high season November - April.
* UPDATE * 2016 ... 3 years after this trip. The Thai national park service has closed Koh Tachai to day visitors and snorkel tours as it was getting too crowded. This should allow the shallow reefs to recover because I read that they were getting damaged by people standing on them or boats dropping anchors. The island IS still open for scuba diving trips.
Ask my friends at Easy Day Thailand to book trips to the Similan Islands and just about anything else!
• More Information about Khao Lak
• Khao Lak Hotels at Agoda.com
• Phuket Hotels at Agoda.com
Koh Tachai - Location Map
View Koh Tachai Island in a larger map