Koh Yao Islands
Koh Yao is actually a pair of islands in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, almost equidistant from Phuket and Krabi. These are known as Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi (Big Yao Island and Little Yao Island respectively), and are seperated by a narrow strait.
Koh Yao Noi, the smaller island, is where all the accommodation is located and is also the administrative centre. The island is more populated than its larger neighbour, though its by no means crowded. The beaches do not compare with Phuket’s best, but they are clean and have lovely views of the other islands in Phang Nga Bay. The two nicest beaches are Hat Paa Sai and Hat Tha Khao.
The local population are mostly Thai-muslims, so you won’t find much pork served here, and there are no dogs for that matter either. Most are involved in farming rubber, coconut and cashew nuts or are fishermen.
There is a strong conservation ethic among the population who run an eco-friendly homestay programme. This involves staying with a local family to learn about local life and customs. The guides are members of the local community who will take you sightseeing around the island and teach you about the local ecosystem. Visitors accompany their guides on fishing trips and are also taught about sustainable fishing methods. Other highlights include learning about rubber farming and processing.
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There are a few bungalow operations and a couple of luxurious boutique resorts on Koh Yao Noi. If you prefer low-impact environmentally conscience tourism, there is a homestay programme which the island’s residents particapte in (see above).
For more information see Koh Yao hotels
Koh Yao is perfectly located to explore the many islands in Phang Nga Bay. You can charter a long-tail boat from one of the piers on the island for snorkelling around the nearby reefs. There are also sea canoe trips to the nearby islands.
Exploring Koh Yao Noi is easy. You can rent a motorbike and travel the road that circles the island, taking you through rubber plantations, paddy fields and mangroves. There isn’t a spectacular view point or tourist attraction to visit, but it can be fascinating to take in the rural scenery and vignettes of island life.
Getting to Yao Island
The best way to get to Koh Yao is from Bang Rong Pier, on Phuket’s east coast, approximately 20 minutes drive from Phuket Airport. The ferry arrives at Manoh Pier on Koh Yao Noi. There are about five passenger ferries daily, from 09:30 to 17:00. The fare is 50 baht per person and the journey time is about 1 hour.
There are other ferries departing from different piers on Phuket, such as Laem Hin Pier in Koh Kaew, north of Phuket City, and Rassada Port, east of the city. However, these are not as regular as the ferry from Bang Rong.
There is one ferry a day to Koh Yao Noi from Tha Len in Ao Luek district of Krabi. The fare is 50 baht per person with the travel time approximately 1 hour.
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