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Thailand (west), Sumatra, Andaman Islands, Malaysia, Singapore and Srilanka

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Bill Balme
Administrator
Posts: 190


24 days ago
Bill Balme
Administrator
Posts: 190
This from Yi-Lin Wong on Facebook:


During the recent discussions (on another FB Group) about Thailand visa applications, the terms "visa", "tourist visa" and "visa-on-arrival" (VOA) were used synonymously. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE! I'm not going to go into specific passports because it varies from country to country. In a nutshell when you enter Thailand as a tourist, you are usually under one of the following categories:
a. Visa free: This permits you to enter as a tourist and stay for a stipulated number of days (usually 30 days, I think), without any visa requirements. There usually aren't any problems with getting a 30-day extension while in Phuket if you are "visa free" to begin with.

b. VOA: This requires you to apply for a visa upon arrival, and it's done at a separate counter PRIOR TO the immigration checkpoint. If you hold passports from countries like the US, Europe and Australia, I seriously doubt you require a VOA (probably already visa free), but please do your own research. I am not familiar with 30-day extensions under VOA scenario.
c. Tourist Visa: This refers to the 60-day visa application (for a Tourist Visa) at the Thai Embassy in Penang or elsewhere in Malaysia, or even Singapore. Assuming you can enter "visa free" to begin with, the 60-day visa is meant for tourists who want to stay in Thailand more than 30-days, like most of us cruisers. The requirements (bank statements, boat documents etc) MIGHT vary from embassy location to embassy location, so just because someone says it wasn't required for them, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be the same for you. Best to personally check the specific embassy location website for the latest updates yourself. There usually aren't any problems with getting a 30-day extension while in Phuket if you have a 60-day Tourist Visa already.
d. Multiple Entry Visas etc: I'm not going to go into all that, all the information is on the various Thai Embassy websites.
I’m highlighting this issue because we all tend to use the term “visa” quite loosely when discussing immigration formalities, but it can get confusing when there are actually different categories involved.

--
Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!
Outbound 44 #27
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George Curtis
Posts: 232


3/26/2016
George Curtis
Posts: 232
This information has been contributed by and is intended for use by competent amateur yachtsmen as general guidance solely to supplement research of their cruising plans.It has not been checked or verified by the OCC. The Information may be inaccurate or out of date and is NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION.


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Neil and Lay Langford S/V Crystal Blues

Report on Buffalo Bay – 09°45.57'N, 98°24.28'E


Reports cover:

Phuket, Ao Chalong Bay – 07°47.23'N, 98°24.16'E
Nai Harn Bay 07°46.4’N, 098°18.0’E
Royal Phuket Marina – 07°58.60'N, 98°25.00'E
Boat Lagoon Marina – 07°58.60'N, 98°25.00'E
Yacht Haven Marina – 08°10.40'N, 98°20.20'E
Similan Islands – 08°40.20'N, 97°39.30'E
Phi Phi Islands – 07°40.70'N, 98°45.78'E
Ko Rok Nok and Ko Rok Na – 07°13.00'N, 99°03.66'E
Ko Tarutao – 06°42.17'N, 99°38.36'E
Butang Islands – 06°29.10'N, 99°18.50'E


Phuket, Ao Chalong Bay – 07°47.23'N, 98°24.16'E

December 2004. Phuket is an almost inevitable stop for cruisers travelling either east or west through the Northern Indian Ocean. It has reasonably good and ever improving marine facilities, a good cruising area in the immediate vicinity, and a vibrant community.

Checking In/ Checking Out This has to be done at the one stop facility at the end of the main pier at Ao Chalong Bay. In the one office are located the Immigration, Customs, Harbourmaster and Ao Chalong District Council. The office is open only normal office hours. Copies of ship’s papers, passports etc will need to be handed in but photocopies can be had from the information booth next door. The whole process will take at least one hour depending on how many people are checking in at the same time. You do not have to pay Ao Chalong District Council any fees unless you are anchored in Ao Chalong District. They charge 100 baht per day or 1000 baht per month. The fees for Customs, Immigration, etc. are nominal at about 100 baht.

Visas The visa issue seems to cause a great deal of confusion. When you arrive in Thailand by boat put only the skipper down as crew and everybody else down as passengers. The reason for this is that the passengers can leave the country without placing a bond. The skipper or any listed crew can only leave the country after placing a bond. That bond is 20000 baht (about #US500) per person. All persons will receive a 30 day visa only on arrival unless they have purchased a two month visa previously to entry into the country (i.e from the Thai Embassy in Singapore). Even if the Skipper has a two month visa he will only receive 30 days when he arrives in Thailand and can only use his two month visa after a bond has been lodged. If you want to stay longer than 30 days you will have to leave the country. This can be done for about 1200 baht by doing a “visa run”. Many companies do this by minibus every day to Ranong and into Burma. You leave at 0600 and get back at 1800 to Phuket. You then get another 30 day visa UNLESS the skipper and passengers took just the 30 day visas when they arrived, did the visa run and then used their two month visa when they came back into Thailand from Burma. With the bond in place for the skipper he can use the two month visa on re entry and he is then free to come and go into Thailand at will and the boat can remain in Thailand. You can only lodge the bond and get it back with immigration in Phuket Town, not at Ao Chalong and you have to have a particular date and place that you will leave the country from. Boat Papers When you arrive into Thailand at Ao Chalong you will sign customs papers where you guarantee to pay import duty after a certain time. When you fill that in put six months from the date of entry as that is what you are allowed. The boat can stay in Thailand for up to one year by asking for an extension. There has to be a reason for that extension (i.e repair work, etc.) and there has to be a supporting letter from a marina. Yacht Haven and Boat Lagoon will do this for you. They do it all the time. Otherwise the well beaten trip up and down to Langkawi in the boat is the alternative for the boat.

Provisioning Provisioning in Phuket is very good but you will need a car wherever you are except for Boat Lagoon. In Boat Lagoon there is a supermarket with a good range of items. For serious provisioning there are four main locations. Tesco Lotus is a very large supermarket located on the main crossroads on Phuket Town Bypass. It has a full range of all goods catering to both Thais and foreigners. Big C is another very large supermarket located just down the by pass road from Tescos. It is more Thai orientated but still caters for foreigners. Tops is a large supermarket in the new Festival Central Shopping centre next to Big C. This brand new supermarket is definitely aimed at foreigners and, in a few months seems to have become very popular. They have a good range of meat and vegetables and do vacuum packing. Tops in Robinsons in the centre of town is similar to the Tops at Festival Central but the range of goods is more Thai orientated. The Master Butcher is located on the Ao Chalong – Phuket Town road and has a good range of meat products which they will vacuum pack. Where the buses stop and start in Phuket Town is right next to the main market. Most foreigners however use the big supermarkets. All the big supermarkets have a wine and beer section but duty free spirits and beer are cheaper in Langkawi. There are convenience stores located throughout the island.

Marine Facilities Boat Lagoon is the centre of marine businesses in Phuket. All types of marine repairs can be undertaken here at a variety of standards. Ask around. The costs of imported goods are high and many people get goods sent to Langkawi Duty Free and then bring them up to Phuket to be fitted. A large proportion of the marine businesses in Boat lagoon are foreign owned. With labour being cheap many people have new teak decks laid here, stainless fabrication, and boats repainted. Ratanachai Slipways is the only alternative to Boat Lagoon for haul out in Phuket at present. There is no travel lift; boats are cradle hauled on slipways. With access difficulties to Boat Lagoon many yachts use Ratanachai in preference. Quality of workmanship is variable. As everywhere else in Phuket ask around for recommendations. Engine, gearbox, air conditioning and other engineering companies are mostly located away from the marinas but are well equipped to deal with marine installations. Rolly Tasker Sails, who are the largest loft in Asia, are located on the By pass road between Ao Chalong and Tesco Lotus. They also have a large selection of hardware and fittings. A new chandlery has opened outside the entrance to Boat Lagoon and there is a chandlery located in Boat Lagoon and one at Yacht Haven. None have an extensive range but it is improving. For pumps, pipe, fittings and difficult to find items always try Huwat opposite the Post Office near the market in Phuket Town. You will be staggered at what they stock. Liferaft and inflatable servicing is done by Cholamark at Ao Chalong. They also manufacture inflatables and ribs. Regalvanising can be done at Ratanachai. It takes time to find places outside of Boat Lagoon but ask for recommendations at the marinas or the Yacht Club and from long staying yotties.

Communications Air travel to and from Phuket to Bangkok and overseas is straightforward making it a good place for crew changes or for friends to fly in for a holiday cruise in the area. The airport is located in the NW of the island near to Yacht Haven. There is a comprehensive bus service in the south and west of the island from the resort areas to Phuket Town but no realistic service from Yacht Haven. Ao Chalong to Phuket Town is easy as is Nai Harn, Kata, Patong and Kamala to Phuket Town. To Tesco Lotus, Big C, and Festival Central it is more difficult; either a bus from town plus a walk or a Tuk Tuk (taxi). Cars or motorbikes are readily available for rent all over the island and are relatively cheap.

Anchorages The most popular anchorages around Phuket are, in the NE Monsoon period, on the west coast of the island. Nai Harn is a definite favourite. It is a very large bay, well protected from the NE, with plenty of restaurants ashore and a five star hotel if you need it! Buses and Tuk Tuks at the beach. It is in a very pretty setting with a long sandy beach. On the north side of the bay the restaurant at Jungle Beach is popular. Next going north Kata Beach is also popular but jet skis can be a nuisance here and the para ascending boats intimidating if you are anchored where they want to go. The Boathouse Restaurant is very expensive but good. It will make a big hole in the cruising budget. Patong Bay is very popular for the fireworks on New Years Eve but as for the place itself you either love it or hate it. Most yotties have the latter view but enjoy the fireworks. Going further north the bays become quieter with fewer and fewer yachts. For longer term stays definitely the anchorages at Nai Harn and Yacht Haven are the most popular.

Cruising Phuket is an excellent base from which to go cruising. The waters of Phang Nga Bay are spectacular with sheltered waters, pinnacle limestone islands and superb anchorages. Access is immediate from Yacht Haven and Boat Lagoon and many people spend more than one season here in order to sail these waters properly. The main cruising period is October to May. The Surin and Similian Islands are NW of Phuket and, in the NE Monsoon period, are very popular with spectacular clear water for snorkelling and beautiful anchorages. They can be rolly if a ground swell sets in. Further north the Andaman Islands are being explored more and more. They are part of India and a visa is required if you wish to visit them. This can be obtained in Bangkok. It appears that it is going to be easier to cruise in Myanmar (Burma) and that will open up a whole new cruising area. At present it is possible but difficult. Regattas In February there is the very popular Phang Nga Bay Regatta which is fun (and serious) racing every day from different locations around Phang Nga Bay with parties at resorts in the evenings. It is for five days, great fun and a superb way to see out of the way bits of the bay. In Jan/Feb is the Andaman Island Rally which sets off from Phuket, spends a week or so in different locations in the Andamans and then returns to Phuket. It is becoming more and more popular. In December is the Kings Cup Regatta held off Kata Beach. This is a serious racing event but with cruising classes as well. Land Cruising Many yachts arrive in Phuket, tie up in one of the marinas and go inland to see the rest of Thailand. It is very easy to do that from here but a booking in a marina is essential. For longer stayers they use here as a base to go touring in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Pilots Sail Thailand is the best Pilot book for this area although it is covered in the Indian Ocean Cruising Guide and Cruising Guide to SE Asia Vol.II. There is a very comprehensive Marine Guide to Phuket published every year and available free from the marinas and certain marine outlets.

(A second report made prior to 2009)
Phuket Island is a justifiably popular destination and also a jumping off place for yachts sailing across the Indian Ocean. It is well described in Rod Heikell’s Indian Ocean Pilot, 2nd edition. In this we have included a few notes and observations from our visit in January 2007 which add to the published information.

There are now three modern marinas in Phuket. The Boat Lagoon and the Royal Phuket share an access channel about half way up the east shore. The Yacht Haven lies in the channel between Phuket and the mainland on the north side. All are described in a separate Report. The first two have workshops and chandleries either on site or very close. The Yacht Haven has rather less on site and a hired car or taxi is needed. Workmanship is generally said to be good but we found it much less expensive to be hauled, scrubbed, anti-fouled and polished in Rebak marina, Langkawi. For teak work, however, Phuket is the place.

On the road to Phuket Town from Ao Chalong lies Roly Tasker’s sail loft, claimed to be the largest in the world. His prices for new sails are much lower than can be had in Europe or Australasia and they also offer ropes, rigging, courtesy flags and all kinds of canvas work. However, a number of cruisers we know who bought sails there were disappointed (In fairness, many were delighted). The view was that Tasker’s offer unbeatable value if you are buying a sail for an established class. For a one-off, or class with limited numbers, they have less experience and of course, if one sails off across the ocean, after-sale service becomes rather difficult. So it may be best to buy a sail there only if you will have sufficient time to set it and bed it in before you sail away.

A car ride away are at least three good supermarkets, one of them a Tesco. Top-class shopping malls offer just about everything in the branded goods line. Of Thai culture there is little on the surface barring the charm of the people.

Ao Chalong Bay This large shallow bay on the SE corner of Phuket Island is the normal Port of Entry and Exit for yachts arriving in Thailand. The deepest water in the approach from the waypoint given above is to be found on the east side of the channel. There is a concrete jetty projecting half a mile into the bay. The channel to reach this is marked by two pairs of white concrete dolphins each with a green or red topmark and light as appropriate. These have replaced the pairs of buoys mentioned in the Pilot Books.

The moorings and anchorage lie to the NE of a line from the approach waypoint through these dolphins to the jetty. It may be possible to pick up a buoy but many if not all belong to local craft which tend to return about 1700. Better to find a space and anchor, in 2.5-3.5 metres on mud.

When clearing in or out there was in January 2007 no need to go alongside the jetty before visiting the officials ashore. However, one is supposed to be at anchor in the bay. On one visit we went straight to the Royal Phuket Marina because of the tide and then took a taxi to check-in. Having admitted this, we were chastised. See Nai Harn below.

When taking the dinghy ashore consult your tide tables. At LW springs the beach outside the Yacht Club, situated just east of the large hotel (which was being demolished in January 2007,) turns into a wide expanse of very sticky black mud.

If going ashore around LW, it is better to go to the ends of the “T” of the jetty and to climb up the steelwork, tying your dinghy to the railings. You will usually be able to hitch a lift on one of the vehicles which ferry tourists up and down the jetty from the shore to the waiting launches.

Immigration, Customs and the Port Authority all share a building at the root of the jetty in Ao Chalong. This makes checking in and out very convenient and these days no-one need go to the scattered offices in and around Phuket Town. The officials we met had limited English but were friendly enough, provided one had not spent more than 4-5 days on the trip from Langkawi. They do require several photo-copies of the skipper’s passport. If you don’t have these you can find a copy shop in a travel agents only 200 metres away. While most of the officials we encountered were honest, one Customs officer asked for a present on two occasions. We declined with a smile.

If you are staying in Ao Chalong Port Dues are payable. If you plan to move on, and say so, these are waived. Noonsite (www.noonsite.com) gives details of the charges. We didn’t keep a record but the ones quoted seem about right.

Around the jetty you will find ATM’s, a couple of food shops and a German bakery, dive operators and restaurants aplenty. It is a pleasant, convivial place.

When the NE wind gets up the anchorage becomes quite bumpy. It is more comfortable across the bay at Ban Nit, anchored in sand just off the fringing reef, approx. 07°49.0’N, 098°33.0’E. There are a couple of beach restaurants serving good food at low prices. The problem is getting there. A channel has been blasted through the reef and is marked with a couple of stakes but it is quite tricky to negotiate at low water.

Nai Harn Bay 07°46.4’N, 098°18.0’E
A very pretty bay about 7.5Nm from the jetty at Ao Chalongh and on the SW tip of Phuket Island, Nai Harn offers relative tranquility and good shelter from the prevailing NE Monsoon. No signs of the devastation wreaked by the Tsunami remained. Although the water in the anchorage is smooth a considerable swell can find its way in which makes landing the dinghy interesting. Two suggestions: one is to outboard to the east side of the bay where you will see a swimming area roped off with coloured floats. Tie your dinghy to the rope just outside the surf line and swim/wade ashore. You’ll soon dry and the nearby restaurants, just back of the sandy beach, won’t mind. Otherwise, take your dinghy to Jungle Beach, on the north side and distinguished by a small restaurant just back from the sea. For some reason there is less swell here and you can usually make it ashore without a soaking. The restaurant serves good food at inexpensive prices and can arrange car and scooter hire or taxis to Phuket or Ao Chalong. We used a taxi from here to check out, a practice which is not officially allowed but often followed.

Royal Phuket Marina – 07°58.60'N, 98°25.00'E
Boat Lagoon Marina – 07°58.60'N, 98°25.00'E
Yacht Haven Marina – 08°10.40'N, 98°20.20'E


Submitted by: Dick Moore, ALIESHA 30th January 2008

The Boat Lagoon and the newer Royal Phuket Marina share the same access channel in Ao Tha Rua, a bay about half way up the east side of Phuket Island. The approach channel has been dredged through the mangroves and yachts should only attempt it on a rising tide near High Water. If coming from Ao Chalong, turn towards the headland of Laem Yamu and pass between Ko Rang Yai and Ko Maphro, keeping towards the former where there is deeper water (and also a pleasant anchorage if waiting for the tide or needing an overnight stop after leaving on a late tide). You will notice that the hill ahead of you, inside the headland mentioned, is heavily scarred by construction work (or was in 2007) which gives visual confirmation of the desired course.

A waypoint of approx 07°58.6’ N, 098°25.0’ E will take you close to the first channel marker, a white concrete post. At first there are white posts on each side of the channel but soon you will only find them on the port side when entering. Keep about five to six metres off the line of the posts and don’t be surprised if your echo sounder registers two metres on some of the bends (mostly it will show 3.5-4 metres, depending on the height of the tide)

About 2.5NM up the channel you come across the entrance to the Royal Phuket Marina on your port hand.. The Boat Lagoon is about 0.5Nm further up the channel and a lighthouse marks its entrance.

The Royal Phuket Marina is surrounded by expensive apartments and has or will have a number of restaurants and bars and boutiques but, so far as we know, no chandleries. There is a 60 tonnes hoist and hard-standing for several boats. Tradesmen can be sourced via the helpful and charming marina staff who will also arrange to have your laundry done and for gas refills and car/scooter hire. There is WI-FI throughout the marina. A number of large supermarkets, including a Tesco, are a short drive away and so are the main chandleries on Phuket, situated about half a mile away on the main road running north from Phuket town. Les Anges was the only restaurant open during our stay there in January 2007 and was superb. We loved this marina, not least because a breeze usually found its way there during the afternoons and cooled us down a bit. If you radio ahead (VHF, Ch 79) the staff will send a RIB down to meet you at the seaward end of the channel and will pilot you in. This is a free service and well worth it for your first visit. See http://www.royalphuketmarina.com for more details.

The Boat Lagoon Marina (http://www.phuketboatlagoon.com) is well-established and offers all the services the cruising yacht skipper might require – haul-out, GRP repairs, engine repairs, teak joinery and deck work, etc etc on site. Some cruisers rented accommodation on site while their boat was given a thorough re-fit. There is a small but well-stocked supermarket, a number of restaurants, of which the Watermark is the best and just about everything else you might need. We replaced our outboard propellor there, for instance.

One drawback is that charges are quite high, because demand is also high. We found it much cheaper to be hauled and refitted in Rebak Marina, Langkawi, see Place Report Rebak Marina in this series. We understand that the Royal Phuket also charged less for haul-outs but the same contractors do the other jobs so do shop around before you commit yourself. The Boat Lagoon is hotter than the Royal Phuket as the breeze rarely seems to penetrate that extra half mile up the channel.

Phuket’s third marina is the Yacht Haven, (http://www.yacht-haven-phuket.com) The Yacht Haven Marina is situated off the north coast of Phuket Island in the channel between it and the mainland, just east of the Sarasin road bridge. You cannot take a yacht under this bridge so the approach is from the east. 08°10.4’N, 098°20.2”E approx will get you there but beware a shoal patch about 0.5Nm east of the pontoons. The marina say there should be 2.5m at LW springs throughout the approach.

Because the Yacht Haven lies in a well-sheltered channel it has no protective breakwaters. Instead three long concrete jetties run out from the shore and yachts berth bow or stern-to as directed. Call VHF Channel 68 for a berth and manager Nick or his partner Zara will find you a space.

The Yacht Haven is well away from the excesses of touristic Phuket with a cooling breeze almost every day. There are good facilities on site, including a restaurant, bar, a small food shop and several marine suppliers and trades, making this an excellent base for a rest, a re-fit or for exploring nearby Phang Nga Bay. When you do need to visit a major supermarket, there is a car-hire firm on site as well as reasonably-priced taxis.

Similan Islands – 08°40.20'N, 97°39.30'E
The Similan Islands lie approx 67nm NNW of Nai Harn Bay on the SW tip of Phuket Islands. The islands have many unusual perched rocks, like giant pebbles and the surrounding waters are crystal clear, making them something of a Mecca for dive boats.

In the Indian Ocean Pilot Rod Heikell advises making the trip from Phuket overnight. We ignored this advice, ran out of wind and as dusk fell took the last available mooring off Ko Miang, approx 08°34.13’N, 097°38.64’E. All the other buoys, maybe ten in all, had dive boats on them. The wind soon returned from the NE as usual and blew quite hard but we were well sheltered by a small islet dead upwind and retired expecting a quiet night. About midnight we were woken by the sound of the buoy grating against our newly painted boot-top. The wind had veered to the East, the tide was holding us broadside to the increasing swell and all in all it was most uncomfortable. OK, Rod, you were right.

At first light we motor-sailed the 6.5NM north to Ko Similan. Approaching the anchorage we were spellbound by the many large rocks which perched precariously on the cliffs and headlands, looking ready to topple into the sea at the slightest pretext. The anchorage was at approx 08°40.0’N, 097°38.7’E. We found maybe a dozen moorings, mostly untenanted despite the early hour. A slight swell made ALIESHA roll slightly so we moved right into the lee of the eastern headland when another buoy became free. There we passed a peaceful day, snorkelling in the clear water and doing last minute jobs before we left for the Maldives the following day.

There was a restaurant ashore but we weren’t tempted. Although half a dozen dive boats came in for the night they were quiet and we were not bothered either by compressors and partying. These islands would make a good jumping-of place for a visit to the Andamans.

Phi Phi Islands – 07°40.70'N, 98°45.78'E
Lying a mere 26NM from Ao Chalong, Phi Phi Don is within easy reach of the high speed launches which ferry tourists from the hotels and hostels of Phuket. It also boasts a large number of hotels in its own right. So here you will meet the touristic side of Thailand, with all its tacky accompaniments.

The main anchorage, Ton Sai Bay, is pretty enough but very busy and the “attractions” ashore did not entice us to stay. Phi Phi Le (also called Ko Phraya Nak), three miles or so to the south, is a different matter. From any direction its spectacular limestone cliffs fall sheer into the sea. There is a deep, almost circular bay, Maya Bay, 07°40.7’N, 098°45.8’E on the west side. Here you will find about a dozen orange moorings and several more white ones. These last are for tripper boats and are too light for yachts but the orange ones are fine. This is just as well as the water is very deep and anchoring would require a lot of chain.

Despite the warning against overnight stays in the Red Sea Pilot, we enjoyed two peaceful nights here. One unforgettable sight was the full moon rising over the rim of the soaring cliffs. Ashore is a wide, sandy beach, scene of the film of that name but don’t expect to see palm trees. Apparently the film’s Director imported palms to get the shots he wanted but was then required to remove them all when filming was finished. From about 0900 until 1700 the bay is busy with visiting longtails and launches ferrying in trippers. Then they disappear. So time your arrival for about 1600, in time to grab a mooring, and your departure for about 1000. That allows time for a snorkel in good light and some amusement at the hordes of pink and white visitors relentlessly seeking to have fun.



Ko Rok Nok and Ko Rok Na – 07°13.00'N, 99°03.66'E



Lying 45 NM north west of Ao Pante on Ko Tarutao, Rok Nok is an attractive stop-over if the weather is reasonably calm. If it is or has been blowing from the NE, the anchorage is a washing machine and most uncomfortable, as we discovered to our cost on our second visit.

There are a number of mooring buoys in between Rok Nok and Rok Na and a couple to the south of Rok Na. Approaching from the SE, care is needed because the coral reef extending south from Rok Na comes up very sharply indeed. A lookout aloft is useful.

A strong tidal current runs through the moorings/anchorage area and can make yachts lie across the sea. The water is crystal clear and inviting. The coral was good and the fish better.

Ko Tarutao – 06°42.17'N, 99°38.36'E
Ko Tarutao is the nearest island to Langkawi. We stopped there having cleared out of Kuah in Bass Harbour, a distance of 44NM.

Ao Pante is the anchorage for which we give the position above. It lies towards the NW tip of the island and has some five orange moorings buoys. A couple of tripper boats were there when we arrived about 1630 but they soon departed, allowing us to move in to the closest mooring to the northern shore and so to get out of the moderate swell which was making ALIESHA roll uncomfortably.

Ashore there is a Ranger station and a landing stage. The Indian Ocean Pilot says that this is the HQ for the Tarutao National Park and that there is a simple restaurant and turtle breeding ponds. We didn’t visit.

Butang Islands – 06°29.10'N, 99°18.50'E
Lying some 24NM from the SW of Langkawi, the Butang Islands lie in clear blue water and offer some marvelous snorkelling.

Coming from Telaga Harbour in Landkawi the first anchorage is in the bay to the south of Ko Lipe, approx 06° 29.1’N, 099° 18.5’E. This is a busy place and you will be lucky to find a vacant mooring. Anchor outside the moorings in 12-15 metres on sand. There are no officials so no need to check in. Ko Lipe is a popular tourist destination and all day the longtails ply their trade, ferrying visitors to and from the ferries which arrive from Malaysia or the Thai mainland and carrying small groups off on expeditions. Restful it is not. Ashore there are several restaurants, most with tables on the beach. We ate local fish and it was excellent but the crowds drove us onwards.

Eight miles to the WNW there is a wide bay on the south side of Ko Rawi, one of the two largest islands in the Butang group. Approx position 06°32.5’N, 099°11.5’E. Here you will find tranquility, crystal clear water and inviting walks ashore. The fringing reef extends a good way but in reasonable light is clearly seen. There are five or six white mooring buoys so no need to anchor. Ashore is a Ranger station, worth stopping by to say hello if you are going walking.

For an even more secluded spot, try the tiny cove to the north of Ko Butang, the westernmost island in the group. 06°32.4’N, 099° 06.65’E. Here you will find five or so moorings, laid in the shelter of a small islet and several huge rocks to the east. The coral is spectacular and you should be alone barring the occasional fisherman in his longtail. A lot of tidal current runs through the anchorage and even more in the pass between the two islands. On occasions a swell works its way in and makes the anchorage uncomfortable. If so, quiet conditions will be found at Ko Rawi, above, under 2 NM to the east.
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