This is part 4 of our trip to Phuket.. this time around we are going Island hopping via speed boat via Andaman Leisure Phuket.. Its a full day tour.. Click Here for the itinerary.. as a short run through, we'll be going to Maya Bay, Loh Sa Ma Bay, Viking Cave, Hin Klang Reef, Monkey Beach and Khai Island..
There are a few benefits in choosing this tour via speedboat from this company.. :-
- Their boats are new with Honda latest and highest spec V-Tec 3.5 liter V6 (4 stroke SOHC) generating 225bhp x 3 engines (675bhp- Get there faster, more time for you to enjoy at those key locations.. other tours may use only 2 engines or some even opt for the large tour cruisers.. whatever it is, you can save money but end up spending most of the time wasted on the boat travelling.. If you can spend the money to come to Phuket, you'd prefer saving a few bucks and waste precious vacation time bobbing down on the waves?
- They depart from the hotel at 9am where as other tours start at 8am.. at least you can party to a reasonable hour the night before.. the last thing you want is to go back and sleep at 11pm for the tour the next day.. 9am, enough time to wake up and eat breakfast.. yum.. time to munch and chew too!
- Because they depart an hour later and faster speed of travel.. we end up reaching key locations at 'odd hours'.. usually before or after the crowd has left..
- We get to depart from the Royal Phuket Marina and not the Phuket Harbor.. which is much closer to Phi Phi Island, closer to Patong Beach and with lesser crowd and hassle.. plus helluva view of all the expensive yachts
So in the end, we get to wake up late and spend more time at key locations when the crowd is low.. for a price of course.. Anyway.. below are the series of images of the tour..
First up at 9am.. we got pick up by one Mr. Sopol in a 10 seater van.. below is the first image of the series that shows us travelling from Patong beach towards the Royal Phuket Marina..
Ahhh.. reaching the Royal Phuket Marina.. How I wish to have gone here at night.. notice the black bands in the middle of each coconut trees.. those are spot lights aimed up and down the tree trunk.. if one would have driven this road towards the Marina at night, he/she will be guided by lighted coconut trees on both side of the road right up to the Marina.. romantic and beautifully landscaped.. best of all, clean and tidy..
Once reaching the Marina, all of us were tagged and given a specific number.. mine was 4.. this was later to help the organizers identify and guide towards the specific boat / tour that we are suppose to go.. no mix matches on this trip.. unless one swap numbers with someone else..
Above picture is the view from the drop off point.. right infront of the Andaman Leisure Phuket main office.. Royal Phuket Marina is a small resort in its own right specifically catered for the rich people who park their boats / yachts / multi-million dollar floating babe magnet at the marina..
So once entering the HQ of Andaman Leisure Phuket.. there's free coffee, tea and even sea-sick meds all ready for your morning consumption.. the sea-sick meds is new for me as all my usual sea tours, you are on your own as far as meds are concerned.. but this place gives you plenty.. And oh yeah, this is also where you make your wallet lighter.. the payment counter is located here as well..
A walk around the Marina will yield the following views..
The above is the centre resort courtyard .. each building has their own specific key card access..
Below is the view of the marina.. beeautiful..
I'm just happy that the skies are all nice and blue as the first day reaching Phuket, it was raining and has been apparently the few days prior to that.. luckly it stopped when I'm around.. hehehe thank you weather!
So close to 10am, we are all gathered up for our briefing of where we'll go and what to expect.. our expedition briefing is broken down to two groups, one group which is briefed by another fella in Russian for the Russion speaking no english crowd and the other which is led by Mr Cooper (the guy in torquise shirt, showing us the map of Phi Phi Island).. this fella is very hillarious more so because of the way he speaks English.. he's been doing this for 8 years..
Soon after we all took photos for insurance purpose.. which we get the option of buying the photo at the end of the tour.. sounds fishy but its a tourist thing anyway.. after snappy snapp, we walked down to the pier and towards the boat named 'Banjamas' .. which stands for.. like hell I know.. hehehe..
See those lovely high performance outboard motors?
As a tip for those boarding such boats, its best to sit on the side of the boat rather than sit right infront of the motors.. due to the rough sea, people sitting there get the most splashes of water.. so unless you like to get splash with sea water, try sitting deeper in, I sat just behind the captain's chair..
The above view is what you'll get zipping past islands as we travel 40+ km towards Phi Phi Island.. a trip that lasts about 1 hour.. if you can imagine 1 hour on a speedboat such as this, anything else would have taken twice as long.. we've zoomed past many boats with 2 engines..
Oh yeah another plus point of going around on a speedboat is that even due to the large waves during this time of year, its not a big problem as speedboats are meant to go through the waves and not up and over.. even so the journey is akin to a roller coaster bobbinb up and down as each wave hurl the boat over the water.. and also the waves slow the journey down as well.. for every 5 meters going forward, the wave will push you back 1 meter (as an example) ..
Yep.. the each of the 3 engines are revved up to 4.5 thousand revs per minute or RPM.. this picture was taken with the 18-200mm lens zoomed in between the captain and the throttle control while bouncing up and down on the rough seas.. part of being a photographer is patience as it all bores down to timing.. there will be a time when the jostling up and down on the boat is at its lowest point, that is when you take the picture.. on this picture, unlike the usual leaning against the wall to get increased stability, this situation doesn't have any 'stable' place to lean on as the entire boat is the one moving about.. in such situations, keep your body away from leaning and just rely on using your body to 'go with the flow' .. kinda like doing a panning shot while moving up and down instead of side to side..
Below is the view of the wake generated by the boat.. as earlier mentioned, try not to sit where the small kid is sitting.. those poor chaps all got soaking wet even before reaching the first stop.. we were the only asians on tour.. mostly from Russia and America..
The first stop is the Viking Cave.. waters around this area is calm as its protected by the island..
Our tour guide Cooper threw in some bread into the water and to our amusement saw a shoal of fishes going at it..
Zoomed in at 150mm, this close up of the fish was taken amid slight movement of the boat.. no biggie for us.. the below picture was taken seconds before the piece of bread disappeared entirely.. luckly these fishies weren't phiranas..
The view after the Viking Cave.. notice how shallow the waters are.. its low tide.. the water is absolutely beautiful.. and if you gone with a bigger boat, there's no way that the boat can go to these shallow parts..
We later saw some old fashion boats.. its mainly for small groups, usually couples.. kinda like the gondolas you get in Venice.. but not quite there..
Soon after, we reached the ever so famous Maya Bay where the movie 'The Beach' with Leonardo DiCaprio stared in was filmed..
Maya beach is very popular as you can see by the number of boats parked.. the beaches are absolutely lovely.. clean white sand.. clear waters that doesn't smell (unlike the ones found in certain places in Malaysia) .. here situates only a ranger station which provides the only non nature lavatory..
The picture on top and below are quite good for wall papers which I'll provide at the end of this multi part article.. but just to highlight how subtle changes to composition can greatly alter the 'feel' of the picture.. take the above picture, everything looks balanced right? now look at the picture below.. the only difference is that I moved the image slightly towards the right which removed the hills on the left of the image..
All of a sudden, the image looks 'unbalanced' as if its right side heavy? although the boat is in the basic photography 1/3 rule.. balance is also required.. I purposely taken the picture below as an example.. this same rule applies when taking group photos, I've seen photos that are one side empty.. the photographer would give an excuse that it's 'different angle' but its all bullshit.. an image must be balance for it to look good.. that's what we human look for..
Now you know..
After relaxing at Maya bay for I think 30 minutes or so, we moved on towards Monkey beach.. in all seriousness, Monkey beach is as the word is, a beach filled with monkeys.. I've never figured what's so special about this place.. just find an island, dump some monkeys and poof.. you get a tourist destination? damn you white folks..
Anyway, Cooper informed us that the monkeys kinda attacked the tourist on 2 recent tours there and adviced that we took shots only without getting off the boat.. nothing special except we noticed one interesting monkey drinking cola..
The time saved by not hanging around Monkey beach, we ended up spending more time snorkling at Hin Klang big reef.. the waters are clear and corals are beautiful.. below is the only shot we took as we are about to leave.. heheh we spent all the time we could snorkling and enjoying one of nature's wonders.. the picture below clearly shows how shallow the reef is and how crystal clear the waters are.. simply beautiful..
This reef is the great reef of Phi Phi Island.. there are other reefs but none as large nor as beautiful as this one.. the other best thing is that we are the only boat there! talk about enjoying nature's beauty without the crowd.. for such a popular spot, I found it strange but then again that's why I paid this tour for..
After that, we headed to the next destination Phi Phi Island natural resort for lunch.. below is the Tsunami warning signs.. a grim reminder of what transpired on December of 2004..
We had a simple buffet lunch while taking in the beautiful open ocean below..
Now the final stop after lunch.. Khai Island, also known as Egg Island due to its shape.. its on the way back to the Marina actually so we didn't need to rush back.. we had over an hour enjoying this lovely island until 5pm.. the crowd left before 4pm to rush back to Phuket Harbor..
Below is the view from the middle of Khai Island towards where we landed our boat..
and below is what you'll see when you turn around..
Yep.. from one end to the other, its all SAND! and not just any sand..
I'm talking extremely fine powdery sand..
The feeling is just so amazing.. you got to go there to believe it..
Actually one funny thing happened, upon reaching Khai Island, there will be a photographer snapping your picture and then selling it back to you I think for bht 200 … but strangely he didn't take mine or Jacky's.. I wonder why.. could it be that we are carrying big dSLRs? hey.. we photographers also want our pictures taken you know.. dammit.. no luck
Below is the view standing at the other end of the beach.. you can snorkle as well but ended up being too tired and decided to just hang back and enjoy the scenery and cool clear waters..
Cheeky us.. you know those wedding photographers that love to take couples at the beach? seriously, its nothing we can't handle or do.. its just really expensive to bring a married couple along with the dress and make up to these exotic locations for a shoot.. I mean you got the money, we can arrange.. no problem
Below is our lovely Jacky posing for a typical pre-wedding shoot.. just replace her with the couple jumping up in the air .. and of course minus those fellas in the background..
Then while taking the above shot, we noticed some things moving around the rocks.. crabs! walking on rocks.. wheee..
Although we are photographers, it is still our holiday.. so we drowned coconuts! as typical Malaysian, we had to request for spoons to eat the coconut flesh inside.. I guess the white folks don't know about it and just toss it aside after drinking it.. what a waste as its really sweet and refreshing.. and cheap..
While relaxing around, our eyes are always scanning for some really good shots.. tho not as hardworking as we would be on project, but still doing it never the less..
Below is one of my favourite shots.. the umbrella I was sitting in was the perfect candidate for my shot.. it had a range of interesting colors of set by a bright blue sky and light brown sand.. basically it stands out really well..
I took the risk in using the sun as a back light.. no problem for us as we use manual all the time anyway, semi-automatic modes such as Shutter / Aperture priority will usually underexpose the shot, manual we get what we want all the time..
I propsely exposed what I wanted and through experience resorted to an external flash to further brighten up and bring some color back to the umbrella.. below is the one and only shot taken.. not bad for one shot one kill..
Below is another attempt at a different angle.. same concept apply..
At about 5pm, we had to leave this lovely paradise and head for the marina.. to be really honest, all of the beaches we went to today were amazing, Khai Island sand is way finer than Maya beach.. tho there is one negative point.. due to the 2004 Tsunami, that huge wave destroyed a lot of corals and most of which ended up washing up inland..
Tho the sand are all nice and fine.. there are dead coral fragments here and there.. this is the only unfortunate thing and in time, these will improve but its understandable.. at least all the places we went to were all clean of man made litter..
The above shots are the one taken on the way back from the boat towards the Andaman Leisure Tours HQ for some drinks and ice cream.. there also you can purchase a coral framed picture taken earlier for bht 200..
After finishing up, we said our good byes to Cooper and headed back towards the van that will take us back to our hotel..
All in all, the money that we paid for.. well we didn't feel short changed, that's for sure.. then again this is our personal experience that we are sharing with all of you.. if budget is a concern, then do feel free to go for the other tours.. I'm sure some of the tours focus on certain places rather than our island hopping trip..
Our trip is coming to an end soon.. tho there is still part 5 and 6 which should contain all the downloadable wall papers..
Catch all of you guys and gals soon.. take good care ya..