THE BEST THAI ISLAND DAY TOUR: VISITING THE ‘FOUR ISLANDS’ FROM KOH LANTA
Years and years ago, when I worked on Tourism Authority of Thailand’s advertising at an agency, I remember seeing photos of a cave in Trang and remarking how unbelievable of a place it seemed.
A cave only accessible at low tide? Seemingly hidden unless you know what you’re searching for? Sparkling turquoise waters and an inner beach that could be part of a castaway movie set?
It seemed too good to be true. In the moments of working on that campaign, I vowed to visit if I ever made it to Thailand.
Fast forward 7 years.
Planning a two week jaunt in the Thai islands, I eagerly searched to identify the cave I remembered being located somewhere in Trang.
It didn’t take long for me to find it- Koh Mok.
And, even better, it turned out there was a day tour from Koh Lanta that visited the cave and helped visitors swim through it.
Without second guessing, I decided to visit Koh Lanta and reserve a spot on a four islands tour.
As it’d turn out, Koh Lanta ended up being my favourite Thai island and the day trip I did to the ‘four islands’ near Lanta was one of the best days I had in the three and a half weeks I spent touring Thailand.
I’ve written at length about how much I loved Lanta. But, what made this the best Thai island day tour?
The tour provider I booked with was laid back, but also attentive, friendly and fun. That goes a long way in day trips being enjoyable.
And, the places were stopped were out-of-this-world beautiful.
As the name suggests, we stopped at four islands over the course of the day.
Like most tours in Thailand, the day starts early- pick-up was between 7:45 – 8 am from my hotel. By 8:30, we were zooming through the Andaman Sea en route to our first destination.
First up: Koh Ngai.
We had about an hour at this tiny island to swim in the warm, clear water and relax on the sandy beaches. A perfect way to ease into a day on island time.
Next, we went to Koh Chuek to snorkel. Here, we hopped off the boat in deep water near a limestone karat. At first, I was skeptical- the water was turquoise, but it was tough to see anything below the surface. One look though was all it took to convince me this was an awesome spot- beautiful coral and plenty of fishies!
As the time neared noon, we headed to Koh Kradan, another small, undeveloped island. Similar to our first stop of the day, beautiful white beaches and jewel toned water welcomed us.
While the crew set up lunch, an array of meats, vegetables, rice and fruit, we walked along the shoreline.
Instagram moment: A fallen branch with swing attached with water softly lapping around its twisted arms.
Post-lunch, we had time to swim and lounge on the beach for ~45 minutes before boarding the speedboat to our next location.
Our next stop was a snorkelling one, but I’m not entirely sure where it was- close to Koh Muk. Wherever we stopped, it was INSANE.
Hopping off the boat, we were warned to be careful- the reefs were right below us and full of sea urchin.
Dipping below the surface, I gasped.
Thousands of fish and beautiful coral to behold. It was in this moment I wished I had an underwater camera, because it’s a vision I wish I could share with everyone.
It was as if we’d swum into an episode of Nat Geo, absolutely unbelievable. I love snorkelling, but this was the first time I was seriously sad to have to get back on the boat and leave.
My sadness didn’t last long though, our final stop was the one I was the most excited about, the reason I booked the trip to begin with- the emerald cave.
Reaching Koh Muk, we jumped off the boat at the mouth of the cave and were told to float for a few minutes while our guides got their equipment ready. We didn’t quite realise what they meant until they told us to grab hold of a rope line and swim single file into the cave.
Soon enough, we understood what was happening.
When you first enter the emerald cave, it’s a sight to behold- an arching cave ceiling, the most vivid turquoise water I’ve ever seen, and rays of sunlight bouncing off the water from holes in the ceiling. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
(Cave photo from this source, it was impossible to photograph it whilst on the tour)
Swim a bit further into the cave though and things become dark very quickly. Dark as in pitch black, can’t see your hand in front of your face dark. The kind of dark where you tighten your grip on the rope line and hope the guide in front doesn’t drop the flashlight.
While swimming in the dark, you hear echos of the cave, moans of water rising in and out.
Soon enough, you turn a corner and see an opening of light. That opening leads to a beach hidden by towering rock and swaying jungle trees.
It felt like we were in the bottom of a volcano, entirely removed from the outside world.
It was a moment I’d dreamed of for years and lived up to every expectation I could have imagined.
Before I knew it, our guide was telling us it was time to swim back through and make our way home to Lanta.
Arriving back on Lanta, I was dropped off on Long Beach and chose to walk back so I could stop at beachfront Escape Cafe for a Thai iced tea.
I find it’s rare travel experiences I’ve dreamt about for any period of time fully live up to my expectations, but visiting the emerald cave, and spending a day on the four islands tour, absolutely did.
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Have you ever been on a tour like the four islands one that blew you away? If you’ve been to Thailand, what was the best Thai island day tour you went on?