Best Island Restaurants

The Best Island Restaurants in Phuket

If you’re lucky enough to be chartering one of our private charter boats then you may want to consider visiting some of these fabulous island restaurants that you can only reach by boat if you are staying on Phuket

Island restaurant at night

Here’s our favourite selection on Kho Yao Noi

La Sala Restaurant – This hidden gem dishes up some amazing, authentic Thai food. It is located with Pavilion Resort so if you are staying there it will be easy to find. Our favourite dish was the Pomelo Salad. It was full of juicy prawns and tangy pomelo.

Chaba Café and Gallery – If you’re looking for something on the healthier side then this is the place for you. The café serves up not only nutritious but delicious food too. They have plenty of options for the vegan traveller. Our top picks were the Buddha bowl and the coconut ice-cream, yum!

Our top pick for Koh Yao Yai

Baan Rim Nam Restaurant – Perched on stilts over the water at Koh Yao Yai, this unassuming little restaurant could be easily missed. It doesn’t look like much but boy does it deliver! Amazing bbq seafood is what is on the menu here. Note, they don’t serve any alcohol due to religious reasons.

For more information on Kho Yao Island reach our dedicated article.

How about Rang Yai Island

Rang Yai Island is a private island with only the one restaurant and bar. The prices are quite high but that’s completely understandable considering they need to bring everything in by boat. The food is good Thai but what makes this restaurant so special is the fact that it is a private island. You can sit on a beach chair under the shade of a tree whilst sipping on a cocktail and eating a Phad Thai. It doesn’t get much more relaxed than that. Finish off the combo by taking a dip in the sea.

Then There is Koh Naka Noi

Situated on this lovely island is the 5 star resort, The Naka. This is certainly not a cheap option but definitely worth the extra money. The food here is gourmet Thai and presented beautifully. The pomelo salad there is to die for. Big juicy pieces of pomelo tossed with toasted coconut and topped with big prawns, doesn’t get much better!

No matter where you are thinking of heading, there are some terrific options for island restaurants on the list provided above. But this is merely a taster of what is available throughout the wide-range of eateries on islands throughout Phuket.

Five Things to do in Phuket when it Rains

If you happen to be in Phuket when it’s rainy season then you’ll definitely need to check out this list for some alternative things to do when it’s raining. Here’s some of our favourite things to do.

palm trees blowing in the rain

1 – Simba Sea Trips’ Jungle Tour

This land based tour is definitely THE tour to do when it’s raining. The rain just adds to the mood and the clouds make it look like you are entering the Jurassic era when on the lake. There is a fair bit of time spent in the comfortable van enjoying the scenery. We stop at a few temples along the way and check out some monkeys too before arriving at the lake.

2 – Simba Sea Trips’ Phang Nga Bay Tour

Phang Nga Bay is a pretty special area as it is very protected and quite often has different weather patterns to that of Phuket and Phi Phi. More often then not, it can be raining in Phuket and dry in Phang Nga Bay. Even if it does rain it’s rarely a problem and a good part of this tour is spent exploring caves and canoeing through caves to get into sheltered hongs.

3 – Shopping at new Central Floresta

This brand new shopping centre just opened in September 2018 and if very fancy by Phuket standards. It resembles some of the fancy shopping malls in Bangkok. You could easily spend half a day strolling the shops in the new or old Central. In October there will be a new exciting experience opening up.

4 – Thai Cooking Class

There are several Thai cooking classes available but one of our favourites is Pum’s cooking school. Pum will take you to the local fresh food market and discuss the different herbs, vegetables and spices. Once you’ve trapesed thorough the market you then go back to the school and cook up a storm. The best part is eating your own delicious food once you are done.

5 – Ice Skating

Check out Ice Area in Boat Lagoon for some freezing fun. They have all the equipment you need for a great day on the ice. It does get very cold in there though so you may have to rent one of their jackets if you didn’t bring one on holiday. They have a great restaurant and bar upstairs which serves a great Sunday roast if you happen to be there then.

 

 

Which speedboat tour for me?

It’s the old age debate. You’ve come to Phuket and decided to do a speed boat tour. Which one to do? Phi Phi Island tour or Phang Nga Bay tour? Well if you ask us we’d say both, but let us give you the difference between the two so that you  can make a decision. In our opinion Phang Nga Bay and Phi Phi Island are both very different experiences so it depends on what sort of an experience you are after.

Phi Phi Island  is best know for it’s starring role in the film The Beach. Tourists have been flocking to Maya Bay every since the movie put it on the map.  Phi Phi is made up of 6 islands but commonly people only know of Phi Phi Lay and Phi Phi Don. It is surrounded by stunning waters and blessed with white sandy beaches. If your idea of a good day out is snorkelling and swimming in these clear blue waters followed by soaking up some rays on a beautiful beach, then a Phi Phi tour may just be the one for you. At Simba we offer several opportunities for snorkelling and also hanging out on the beach.

Beautiful photo of Phi Phi Island

Phang Nga Bay is best known for the iconic rock that featured in the James Bond movie, The Man With The Golden Gun.  The island has since been named, and is affectionately known as, James Bond Island.  This is not the only thing to see or do in the bay though. There are stunning karsts jutting from the sea, hidden lagoons, caves and much more to explore. A Phang Nga Bay tour suits adventurous types. Whilst we do manage to fit a bit of lazing around on a beautiful beach, the tour is predominantly activities based. The scenery in Phang Nga Bay is stunning and is often compared to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. There is a good reason as to why the topography looks similar and this is because the two areas both form part of an area the was effected by a big shift in the Earth’s plates. If you’d like a day on the water taking in some stunning scenery, kayaking through lagoons and caves then a Phang Nga Tour is the one for you.

 

Simba’s new fun, relaxed, private sunset cruise.

Allow us to introduce our latest private charter offering….  A fun, relaxed, late afternoon, fishing and sunset cocktail cruise.

Fishing boats at sunset in Phang Nga Bay

This is a great value private charter, that departs our marina at 3:00 pm and returns around sunset at 6:30 pm.  Priced at 19,500 Thai Baht for up to 6 people, this is a great way to get out on the water for a relaxing afternoon cruise.

Two males snorkeling in Phang Nga Bay

You choose the format of your day out, with several different activities to choose from such as snorkelling at Koh Nok, swimming at a secret sandbar beach, or  try your luck at some relaxed fishing for up to 2 or 3 fisherman.

Take in some of the classic limestone Karst scenery that Phang Nga bay is famous for without all the expense of travelling all the way to the Phi Phi islands, or James Bond island.  The route of this sunset cruise stays closer to the Royal Phuket Marina to allow more time for fun activities and relaxing on our luxurious day boat, Simba 4.

Light snacks, fruit platters and an assortment of beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic are included. Transport to and from your hotel on Phuket island is also complimentary, and of course your Captain and Seaman are included also.

Please note, unlike the rest of Simba’s tours which are more activities focused,  this one is more about relaxing and enjoying your afternoon’s activities out on the water, so a tour guide is not necessary.

Please contact us for more information.

 

 

 

 

Monsoon Season

Monsoon Season expectations

So, we find ourselves in the monsoon season once again. Our familiar friend that brings life-giving rain, yet larger sea-swells, cloudy skies yet cheap hotel beds! At Simba, this annual event can be the hardest to explain, especially predicting trips to distant islands. With this in mind, the following is a brief introduction to the monsoon more generally, and then how this affects us.

What is the Monsoon?

Phuket during Monsoon season

The word monsoon literally means ‘season’ in Arabic. Traders traveling the waters off the Arabian and Indian coast noted for centuries that dry, cool, northeast winds blew for 6 months and then suddenly changed to warm, moist air from the southeast. So in a nutshell, the monsoon weather is a change in the type and direction of winds (and therefore swell) that brings moist air.

When and how does it work?

Between April to September, the wind blows from the southeast as the land mass of India, the Himalayas and beyond heats up relative to the ocean. This causes moist warm air from the Indian ocean to rush into the gap as the warmer air rises. This is the moist ‘maritime’ air that brings the monsoonal rains. Between October and March, this phenomenon is reversed, as the temperature of the Indian Ocean is warmer relative to the land. This pulls dry, cool ‘continental’ winds. This is often called the ‘dry’ or ‘high’ season.

What Does this mean for Phuket?

Phuket is a very small island in a big neighbourhood! To our west sits the Andaman Sea, the bay of Bengal and the India Ocean. To the north and north west of us sits the giant landmass of India, the Himalayas and beyond. These are the major players in this titanic tug of war, and we are simply a spectator sitting a little too close! We very much experience the Monsoon phenomenon and our seasons reflect that of India (as above).

What does this mean for Simba Sea Trips?

We essentially travel to two different regions. Phang Nga and Phi Phi, both east of Phuket itself. Phang Nga luckily sits in a protected bay north east of Phuket. It is protected not only by Phuket itself, but the mainland of Thailand. Although there are still some relatively open passages of water, we’ve found average sea swells to be 1-2 meters less than Phi Phi. We also travel perpendicular to the mainland, and being on a boat, the closer to the protection of land the better!

Phi Phi unfortunately sits 50km south west of Phuket. It normally takes us between about an hour 15 to get there by boat in relatively open waters. Although Phuket Island does offer some protection initially, the second half of the journey is in open water, where swells average 1.5 meters and can get as high 3 meters.

Despite the predictability of the monsoon as a phenomenon, the severity of the winds can intensify and relax as low pressures form and dissipate (hence the variation in swell). This is what we monitor on a daily basis and forms the backbone of our decision making (whether to go/cancel/change destination).

Its not all doom and glom however! An enjoyable trip to Phi Phi is still very much possible, there is just a relatively increased chance cancelation/change destination).

What can I expect on a Monsoonal day on the water?

Well… moist air obviously! Often described as overcast, it’s more like a washing machine of clouds competing for space. Low, mid and high band clouds fall, gather pace and dissipate, if you are into weather it can be a magical and awe-inspiring sight. The very unpredictable nature of these clouds does mean they often give way to rays of sharp sunshine, but they also form storm clouds that dump 10-20 minutes of heavy, warm, tropical rain!

So expect a little rain, expect a little wind but with this comes of the best visibility, wildlife, vegetation and natural vitality. What the monsoon does bring is life and it’s magical to see it up close!

Check our tips on what to do on a rainy day in Phuket.

Learn more about Phuket weather.

 

 

 

Why such a large variation in price for boat tours??

This is one of the most common questions we are asked!

For the holidaying tourist, boat trips can be one of the most financially driven decisions made when visiting some of the best Islands in Thailand. In an increasingly competitive marketplace there have been an growing number of tours marketed as a ‘Sunset Boat Tour’ at different price points and understandable this can cause confusion amongst holiday makers.

boat trip with snorkeling

Here we try give you an unbiased view of the tour boat adventure market in Phuket, and explain what to look out for in helping you make up your mind which company is right for you.

Of course we understand Simba’s pricing won’t be suitable for every budget but we do think it is important to shed a little light on what drives the cost of providing a tour and in turn how these factors can and will impact upon the price of a tour. There is a reason why people ask the question “why are yachts so expensive to hire” when they go to book a tour in some cases.

Think of the following as a bit of a checklist to help guide your choice and please remember that the old adage ‘you get what you paid for’ has no more suitable application that the Phuket Motor Yachts market!

Broadly speaking there are 3 quality tiers in Phuket

  • Budget (under 2,000 baht per adult): 40 – 45 passengers per boat; limited program; very limited on-board catering; potential for hidden costs; heavy reliance on supplement income sources.
  • Mid-Market (2,500 to 3,500 baht per adult): 30 to 35 passengers; deeper tour program; improved on-board catering; limited hidden costs; reliance on supplement income sources.
  • Premium / Private Boat (4,000 per adult plus); 15 – 19 passengers per boat; detailed and carefully managed tour program; strong on-board catering; no hidden costs; significant emphasis on boat quality and safety standards

It will probably come as little surprise to most readers that the single biggest determinant of the price of boat trips is the passenger load per boat. Put simply, costs per passenger can fall dramatically when a boat regularly carries 40+ passengers versus a solid commitment to carry under 18. Compounding this issue is the fact many core running costs (fuel, boat replacement cost, parts replacement, crew) are very similar between a 16 person 2-engine boat, such as a Sealine sc35, and a 45 person 3-engine boat.

Image display four speed boats in Phi Phi Island

As a result, the decision to adhere to maintaining a high quality of experience through guaranteed limits on passenger loads must come at a cost and accordingly the tour price is somewhat higher to ensure operations do not run at a loss.

Notwithstanding the higher cost small group bring some significant advantages for those looking to maximise experience with a private charter boat tour:

  • Much improved ability for the crew to monitor passengers whilst in the water
  • Ample space in the boat to relax whilst transiting

Most importantly, however, is the vastly reduced boarding time required when managing boat trips with a small group versus a large group. This factor is often over-looked but in critical in 2 circumstances – (1) maximising snorkelling time (i.e. waiting for 40 people of have snorkel masks and fins fitted can be a LONG time) and (2) the speed in which you can get people off the boat should an emergency arise. Seems obvious right?

Pursuing the safety theme further it would be remiss to not touch on the commitment to maintain a quality boat safety and maintenance program. In recent times safety has emerged as the number one driver behind reputation (should it ever not be??) and the operators at the upper end of the market understand this well. However implementing boat safety and maintenance programs are not cheap and there needs to be sufficient profit margin to ensure money can be allocated. Without a doubt a high quality maintenance program can run into millions of baht per year and our experience at Simba has necessitated an expense reserve per passenger of over 300 baht! We are still trying to figure out how a 2000 baht per adult Phi Phi operator can ever hope to fund a similar commitment to boat quality and safety.

Another less obvious impact on the ‘before’ and ‘after is of course the standard of transfers employed. Lower cost boat trips usually necessitate the use of a crowded van with 5 or 6 stops and this may require a journey of 75 minutes + each way versus 35 minutes with only 2 or 3 stops. For some people this will be important.

The use of supplemental income sources is very common across the entire market and indeed we are only aware of 2 operators that don’t rely on such techniques. These income sources will often take the form of picture / DVD packages, additional beverage spend, sun chair hire and water sports (usually jet skis). In aggregate these additional revenues can be very attractive to a tour operator and indeed may help subsidise the cost of the tour.

Yes – a good thing and of course it is very easy for the individual to simply choose to not ‘upsize’ the tour cost. But….it can be become a problem if the tour program is compromised or reduced in depth to allow the operator to dump customers in a ‘shopping’ location in order to earn undisclosed commissions. Koh Khai (halfway to Phi Phi) and Naka Noi (Phang Nga Bay) are great examples of ‘honey pots’ for the unsuspecting tourist!

Finally – a few words on hidden costs. When comparing tour programs and costs make sure it is clear what costs are included in the published rate. Some pointers:

  • National Park fees: will range between 300 and 400 baht per adult
  • Snorkelling equipment: does a rental fee get charged and what is the policy in the event you lose the mask or fins?

So there you have it – a few pointers as to why the cost boat trips can vary greatly. Quality of experience (and this includes safety) is the constant underlying factor behind the cost of a tour. Many of you travel a considerable distance to come to Phuket so make the most of the trip. As we like to advise spend as much as your budget allows and all the best with whoever you chose to travel with.