Planning a trip back to Thailand for some island / snorkeling time and wanted to get some advice on the Gulf vs. the Andaman Sea. I've been to Ko Tao (AMAZING) and Ko Pha Ngan (both in the Gulf) - but that was 10 years ago. I really liked Ko Tao, it wasn't too crowded, it was quiet for the most part and had easy access to amazing snorkeling all around the island. I'm looking for something similar with good snorkeling - no need for big hotels / resorts. Ko Kood and Ko Mak look good. I was also considering Vietnam, but it seems that most would suggest islands in Thailand and Myanmar as better spots for snorkeling. Would love to get your thoughts and recommendations. Note that I'll be traveling December 2014 - January 2015 - curious if there are any weather issues I should know about. Thank you.
#1 Tetso has been a member since 17/1/2014. Posts: 2
Ko Kood doesn't have much snorkelling. Better off heading to islands like Ngai and Lipe. Phi Phi also has good snorkelling.
Weather will be good that time of year on those islands. Prime season. Might be busy though as it's peak time and prices go up. Don't expect quiet beaches.
Thanks for the advice LeonardChoen1. Have you been to Ko Kood. Everything I've been reading says it has really good snorkeling. Ngai and Lipe sound interesting but we've always avoided Phi Phi - too many people.
Have you done any traveling from Thailand into Cambodia to see Angar Wat? Or into Vietnam? We'd like to do some train travel.
#3 Tetso has been a member since 17/1/2014. Posts: 2
I've been to Kood and Maak several times. Sweet islands, particularly Kood, but not known for good snorkelling. Or snorkelling full stop. The best off the beach in the region is good ol' Ko Whai which has a reef going all the way from Ko Wai Paradise in the north past Pakarang in the central east - pretty good by Thai standards but way below what I saw last August at Tao. And third rate compared to world's best standard.
Tao is the best I've seen in Thailand these past couple of years where coral bleaching has knocked many key spots like the Similans and Surins about real bad. Ko Kradan is maybe next best.
I've been going back to Tao at least every second year since the mid-80s. Sure has changed and is way busier - even from your perspective of 10 years ago. Thing is, you can still find some very laid back locations on Tao. And no matter where you stay, if you take one of the around island snorkelling trips advertised everywhere, you will see the best spots. If you want to stay in the area I've seen best coral close to shore, pick Hing Wong Bay. Warning, no real beach here but a sweet spot. For a good beach and coral not too far down the scale - Ao Tanote.
So back to your original question: which is best - Andaman or Gulf?
Hell, after maybe 30 visits I don't know.
The Andaman has more variety, maybe the best seascapes in Thailand (Krabi, Phi Phi, Phang Nga Bay). The most overt island - Phuket. And some of the most laid back - eg Ko Phratong. The biggest problem is you have to move around.
This is the appeal of the southern Gulf islands - Tao/Phangan/Samui. They are so close that moving islands is real easy. And Phangan, which has become my favourite island, has a beach for everyone from ravers to those seeking the out of the way laid back location. I could spend a whole month on Phangan simply moving beaches. But the snorkelling can't match nearby Tao.
But okay, you also ask about the eastern Gulf islands - these are isolated from the southern Gulf ones by a hell of a distance and there is no way to avoid Bangkok (although if you fly Bangkok Airways you will simply change 'planes). Well, I've covered Kood, Maak and Wai. Actually big Chang has the best snorkelling trips although snorkelling off the beach aint too whelming. Lotsa people don't like the way big Chang has developed, but this is another island that has a beach (or part of a beach) for everyone.
Never been to Kood but no one says the snorkelling is good. The owner of this site loves the island though.
Ive done the snorkelling tour from Chang - can do it via speedboat or ferry. Done both and ferry is better as journey is smoother.
You visit Ko Wai, a national park island plus coral cays. Great tour. 550 baht ferry or 900 baht speedboat incl lunch. Highly recommended.
Not sure if Kood offers the same tour.
Chang is a cool island to relax on imo.