Island Hopping in the Gulf of Thailand
I always thought that island hopping belonged to those islands in the south of Thailand such as Koh Lipe or Koh Phi Phi. It wasn’t until a recent trip to the Gulf of Thailand that I realized the abundance of small tropical islands dotting the area. There is a real potential for a Koh Chang Island Hopping experience much closer to Bangkok. Koh Chang is only 4 hours from Bangkok by minivan departing Victory Monument.
A Koh Chang island hopping experience is typically going to consist of 3 to 4 islands which may include names such as Koh Wai, Koh Rangyai and Koh Lek. Then there are the many in between islands with simply no names on which you will find similarly beautiful no named beaches, of which you may never be able to find again.
Most island hopping tours depart at 9am from the village of Bangbao on the south west side of Koh Chang, but you are generally advised to arrive by 8.30am so that the boat can properly load and leave on time. Therefore our day begins nice and early with a quick breakfast in the backpacker town of Lonely Beach and a dash down to the pier in Bangbao Village.
With little time to spare we make a pit stop in a local minimart at Bangbo village where we take the advantage to fill our icebox with cold Leo beers and an avalanche of ice. Our group of ten island hopping participants has decided that the remainder of the day will follow the laws of Beer-for-Beer which is sure to brew up a few goods stories. The law of Beer-for-Beer states that when I have one beer, when challenged you must also have one beer.
Trying to make the most of limited space in the icebox, we spend far too long playing Tetris with the assortment of bottles and cans and come to the realization that the boat is about to set off without us. Quickly we resume our march towards the boat following the seemingly endless pier winding its way through the small ocean perched village. To our relief we make it aboard just in time and triumphantly open the first cold beers celebrating the start of our Koh Chang island hopping adventure.
Minutes later the island hopping boat leaves the pier and the people of Bangbao Village behind and sets off through the Gulf of Thailand in the direction of Cambodia. We chug on for a good 45 minutes around the outer edges of Koh Chang until our first destination comes within sight.
Koh Wai is a private little island with a view of a heavily forested mountain across a stretch of turquoise-blue waters. It is reached from the boat by a long handcrafted wooden pier. Apparently is it time to jump off the boats upper deck and into the refreshing ocean below.
The beach here is unlike those on Koh Chang. It more like those found on Koh Adang, overtaken by nature.
Read More: Koh Adang Essential Guide
After an hour of sunbathing and swimming at Koh Wai we are all back on the boat and ready to set off for the next island. Koh Rangyai is an island I have been looking forward to visiting after discovering beautiful images of isolated beaches posted on Instagram by #kohchang. Expectations were not let down as the boat anchored about 200 meters away from a deserted driftwood strewn beach. We spend the best part of two hours at Koh Rangyai lazing around in the sun and swimming around the island’s clear waters.
Heading off for our final destination of the day, we are called for to pick up our tour inclusive lunch set. On offering is a basic but tasty set of Thai foods including fried chicken, sweet and sour stir fried vegetables, some rather spicy noodles, all topped over a mountain of rice.
Well fed, and starting to feel the energy drain from the abundance of sun we pull up to or final destination. A small island of which I do not actually know the name is where we spend the rest of the afternoon with options available for snorkeling, fishing, and swimming or just chilling on the boat. Our group quite happily decides on laying back on the boat, just admiring the beautiful jungle island in front with a few more of those refreshing cold Leo beers.
How much will a Koh Chang Island Hopping trip cost me?
Koh Chang island hopping tours should cost about 700thb which will include transport from your guesthouse to the ferry pier and a cooked set of Thai dishes for lunch on board. However prices on Koh Chang can range drastically, we met a couple on board who had paid 1000thb each for their tickets, so be careful for those rip-off deals.
Where can I book a Koh Chang Island Hopping trip?
Island hopping tours are not always labeled as such, however any tour shop which sells day trips or snorkeling tours could be regarded as an island hopping tour. Our boat tickets were booked from a small tour/motorbike shop on Lonely Beach across the bridge from Riverstone bar. The lady is friendly and honest and her prices are decent.
How do I make the most of my island hopping experience?
The trip is not all about where you are going but who you’re with. Different tours will go to different places so don’t get hung up on which island each boat is going to or which destination has the most deserted beach. If you are alone make sure you meet the people on the boat. By the end of the day you’ll all be best friends from around the world and jumping off the boats upper deck together.
I would also recommend taking along a waterproof action camera such as a GoPro or Yi camera. This will allow you to make the best videos and photos of your day in the water.
Share your Koh Chang Island Hopping experience
Please feel free to post any awesome photos of your trip in the comments section or drop me an email and I’ll update this post with your featured photos.
Josh Shephard (jshep) is an independent travel photographer calling Bangkok as a home base from which to start new adventures around Asia. Read more about his travels on Koh Chang and other destinations across Asia on his travel blog and Facebook page.