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Phang Nga Bay

In 2002 Phang Nga Bay Marine National Park was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The 42 limestone monoliths punctuating the bay?s shallow turbid waters not only act as a natural base to a rich variety of documented flora and fauna, including over 28 species of mangrove, 88 birds, 82 fish, 18 reptiles, 3 amphibians and 17 mammals, they also provide secure overnight anchorage and offer exhilarating adventures of discovery for their visitors!

Phang Nga BayThe area around Phangnga bay has a long history and is famed for its nature and beauty, especially Ko Tabu, Ko Panyi, Tham Lot and Khao Phing Kan. The rock art in this area has always been an important attraction

The popularity of the Phang Nga bay area led to the designation of the current area as a forest park in 1974, this was named Sri Phang Nga Forest Park. The Royal Forest Department then began to survey the area and realised it's heritage should be further protected by increasing the areas status to a national park.

By far the most rewarding way to experience the awe-inspiring magnificence of the Phang Nga Bay?s geography is to take to the water and explore the bay under sail. If you have the budget, private sailing yacht charters with experienced and knowledgeable crew can be booked on Phuket. By proving your sailing skills and experience, ?bareboat? charters are also possible. If you wish to learn sailing, there are several schools on Phuket that schedule internationally recognised tuition around the bay, including Phuket?s RYA certified training school, the Ao Chalong Yacht Club. Anchoring up for the night isn?t really a problem as there are plenty of sheltered moorings to go round and the shallow waters commanding the northern apex of the bay allow safe dropping of the anchor virtually anywhere!

Many of the islands, islets and rocky knolls harbour collapsed sea caves or, as they are called locally, ?Hongs? of varying sizes and ? although too small for yachts to access ? are ideally suited for canoe, kayak or dinghy. The Hongs can be obscured from view so take time to scan the craggy surfaces on the waterline, paying particular attention to anything that resembles an opening. Once inside, you may well find all manner of wildlife either on the limestone walls or in the elevated jungle above, winding caverns to explore, some even with secluded beaches and sheltered lagoons ? ideal for a private picnic and a spot of swimming or snorkelling ? whatever you discover you will be away from the crowds!

It?s also possible to explore the bay by joining a sea canoe excursion. Single or multi day tours can be booked at most beach resorts and are a great option if you want to get up close and personal with nature, support boats follow along and carry any additional supplies and basic amenities such as toilets and eating facilities, leaving guests free of having to carry any excess baggage.

Aside from being the setting in numerous Hollywood blockbusters, Phang Nga Bay was well and truly placedPhang Nga Bay under the spotlight back in the mid-1970s with the filming of the James Bond movie ?The Man with the Golden Gun?, which quickly catapulted the tiny island of Koh Phing Kan, along with its now iconic nail-shaped offshore pinnacle, Khao Tapu, into a ?must visit? destination on Thailand?s tourist map. The pair of islands is now endearingly known as ?James Bond Island? and they are more commonly referred to under this collective name.

Daily visitations can climb into the thousands! To avoid the crowds, plan your trip before 10:30 in the morning or in the late afternoon, when most of the day trippers are absent. Longtail boats can be hired privately from Phang Nga ? it will also cost you a 200 Baht landing fee, levied by the Park Rangers.

Overshadowed by a single limestone karst, the nearby island of Koh Pan Yi, also known as the ?floating village? is literally jam-packed with an assortment of rickety dwellings supported by a handful of restaurants and shops, a school and a mosque, all precariously constructed on stilts over the ocean to keep them, and the island?s seemingly out of place internet service, high and dry above the shallows below.

Nowadays the majority of the 1,500 islanders, originally fishermen utilising birds of prey to secure their daily catch, involve themselves in some way or another in the tourist industry, either on the island or by making the daily pilgrimage to Koh Phing Kan to tend to stalls selling snacks and souvenirs to visitors. The fishing birds continue to earn their keep, but as photographic models on stalls also selling tourist bric-a-brac that line the edges of narrow walkways on Koh pan Yi, which provide the way to get around the island and ? just like the buildings they divide ? the prices are also elevated!

Geography

The topography of the park is strongly influenced by several faults, particulary the north-east trending of the Klong Marui fault. This offsets the eastern terrain from the central mountain ranges by a right lateral movement. This fault movement resulted in the formation of a large graben parallel to the fault. This graben is marked by the present bay.

The high ground is produced by massive limestone blocks displaying classic karst scenery. These blocks extend southward into Phangnga bay where they form islands with vertical cliffs, mainly orientated in a north-south direction.

Phangnga bay slopes seaward and is filled with tidal sediments. The bay itself is composed of large and small tidal channels which originally connected with the fluvial system of the mainland.

The main tidal channels for instance Klong Ko Panyi, Khlong Phangnga, Klong Bang Toi and Klong Bo Saen all run in a north-south direction. They consist of several tidal creeks or tidal channel distributaries. Most of the tidal channels are meandering with well developed point bars. Mangrove forests grow around the whole area of the Phangnga bay, they differ in species depending on elavation and relative tidal range.

The landward boundary of Phangnga bay is marked by a gentle erosion slope, limestone cliffs and transition forest between mangrove and upland forest which extends beyond the bay margin.

Climate

The climate experienced in Phangnga Bay is tropical marine, with characteristic high rainfall and year round high temperatures. Thirty year records of Meteological Department of Thailand (1961-1990) collected at Takua Pa weather station indicate that rain is abundant in the south-west monsoon season from May to October. The average annual rainfall is 3,560.5 mm. and the average total rain days is 189 days. The temperature fluctuates between 23C and 32C. The average relative humidity is 83%.

Vegetations

Plant society in the Phang Nga Bay National Park could be divided into 3 types as follows :

Mangrove Forest

Mangrove forest in the limestone mountain which found a lot of important plants in mangrove forest upto 12 types such as Rhizophora mucronata, Rhizophora apiculata, Xylocarpus granatum, etc. In addition, also found sea holly and a lot of Acrostichum aureum which growing up in the bank area or mud soil. Sea cyad is found a little bit in only the oponed area or destroyed area.

Mangrove forest in the cell and quatsite rock mountain which found the 7 important types of plants such as Rhizophora mucronata, Rhizophora apiculata, Xylocarpus granatum, etc. The other important low level plant found in this area is the dense growing sea holly.

Mangrove forest in sandstone mountain which found a little bit of important plants because this area is very far from the main land. The 5 types of important plants here are Rhizophora apiculata, Sonneratia ovata, Aegialites rotundifolia, Xylocarpus granatum and Melaleuca leucadendron. In addition, samed would be found in the area adjacent to land forest which has the lower salt level.

Phang Nga BayLand Forest, Defined as the evergreen forest which is rainforest and classified as follows :
Land forest on the limestone mountain which could be found throughout the national park, there are 2 types : the first is the forest on the plain land and the forest on the area so called Karst which is a valley area. They consist of the important plants such as Aporosa aurea, Hopea ferrea Heim. and Cassia alata Linn. Also, there are many important low level plants such as Fishtail palm. The second is the forest on the moisture high area on a limestone mountain which consists of small and short plants such as Hopea ferrea Heim., Water wisteria, etc.

Land forest on the cell quatsite rock mountain which found a lot of plants growing in the foot of mountain with very high moisture, we can find yang na woods scattering throughout this area and also find other important plants such as Schima wallichii (DC.) Korth., Bruguira gymnorrhiza, Carallia brachiata (Lour.) Merr., etc. while the low level plants found here are Bambusa arundinacea Wild, Glass, etc.

Land forest on a sandstonewould be found on the slope area which has a lot of tree and not too high. There is a little bit of the low level plants here, most of them are grasses because of infertile soil. The important plants are Bruguira gymnorrhiza, Sesban, etc.

Aquatic Plant Society

Could be classified as Padina, red alge, Halimida and including a lot of sea grass and plant planton.

Wild Animals, From survey could be classified as follows :

Mammal animals, from survey could be found upto 27 types such as Macaca irus, Semnopithecus obscurus, Hylobates lar, etc. In addition, also found the important aquatic mammal animals such as Infonesian white dolphin, Malayan dolphin, Finless porpoise.

Marine Life

Marine life totals over 80 species: 24 species of fish, 14 species of shrimp, 15 species of crabs and another 16 species of manta-rays, sharks, and gamefish. In the bay, you will find blue crabs, swimming crabs, mud-skippers, humpback shrimp, mud-lobsters, pomfrets, jewfish, sole, anchovies, scad, rock cod, as well as rainbow cuttlefish, soft cuttlefish, musk crab, mackerels, spinefoots, groupers, black sea cucumbers, brain coral, staghorn coral and lastly flowerlike soft coral.

The bay of Ao Phangnga National Park has a wealth of plankton, these are small plant and animal organismsPhang Nga Bay that float at the water surface and serve as food for many species. The presence of large amounts of plankton is due to the shallowness of the water, rich nutrient supply and the higher temperatures found in the bay area. As the food resource is high, this makes a good nursery area for mothers of many species, which enter the bay to rear their young before returning to deeper water.

Fishes consists of squat-headed hammer head shark sphyrna tudes, freshwater ater stingray dasyatis bleekeri, Moray eel, Puffer fish and many kinds of fish which live in the coral such as Butterfly fish and the economical valued fishes such as short-bodied mackerel.

Getting there

The recommended way to reach Phang Nga is to travel via Phuket or Krabi International airport. Phang Nga Bay is approximately a 45 minute road journey from Phuket and Khao Lak and around 90 minutes from Krabi, by private car or by joining one of the many daily organised bus tours to ?James Bond Island? from either destination. Included in the day-long excursion is lunch on Koh Pan Yi which is directly en route from Phang Nga. Speedboat tours follow a similar itinerary and depart daily from Phuket during the high season. Alternatively, you can charter a longtail or speed boat from Phang Nga to the island.

Sailing yachts can be chartered on the island and are a great way to explore Phang Nga Bay at your own pace, complemented by an abundance of opportunities to explore all the glorious islands and beaches en-route, which would have otherwise been passed by! And of course, you take your accommodation with you so there?s no additional cost for hotel rooms. One thing to remember is that, as some of the area is Marine National Park, there is an entry fee of 200 Baht per boat per day, plus 200 Baht per passenger, and it is collected on the spot.

Both Phuket and Krabi International airports have car rental kiosks. A valid International or Thai driving license and passport will be required, as will a deposit via credit card payment, which is refunded as long as the car is returned in the same condition it was rented in!
 
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