- A Heaven Taste Raid
- To sail from islands to islands, to live
of toasted fish and exotic fruits, to sleep on paradise beaches,
to share the excitement of sailing..... Yes it is still possible
nowadays, to become a Robinson Crusoe at the heart of an untouched
- Text and pictures by Jean-François
- A whale on the starboard side,
a whale on the starboard side ! On catamarans, people are excited,
but they still cannot see anything... It will soon break surface,
our guide Marco is shouting ! When the dark shape appears on
the horizon, an exclamation comes out of the sails. The cetacean
blows, rolls on the side and makes a sign with its flipper before
disappearing My first whale,., a deeply moved young woman sighs
- The Heart of the Samui Archipelago.
We are cruising in the China Sea,
off the Thai shores. In the morning, we got on board of five
bi-places catamarans for a six-days raid between the Koh Pha-Ngan
island and the Marine-National-Park archipelago. Having remained
untouched, this bunch of islands is a true earth heaven...
- Waters are peaceful there and the pleasure of sailing is only
equated by the amazement of our senses. Towards the south, we
cross many islets covered with tropical jungle and hundreds of
small fish are jumping before the stem to escape from an invisible
predator. Soon, a dolphin comes to play so close to the sails
that we are nearly able to touch it !
- The Swallows, Nests Island.
When arriving at the heart of the
park, the scene becomes all the more extraordinary : turquoise
lagoons, luxurious vegetation, bunches of corral on the surface....
And even some rare geological element such as this 20m-high rock
with its obelisk shape, floating like if in mediation above the
water. Now we are sailing at the foot of the huge cliffs of the
Forbidden Island,. Our catamarans appear tiny under these impressive
- On the top, the jungle runs
over the edge just like
if it was willing to colonise space after having conquered the
ground and the islands. We cannot land on this island, Marco
explains, because on these cliffs, people collect the swallows,
nests, which are a very appreciated meal all over Asia. Some
years ago, a heavily armed commando tried to steal the collect,
but the coast-guards intervened and there were several dead.,...
No regrets as Marco promised us a bivouac for tonight, on a great
- A Transparent 28° Water.
In this region of the Siam Gulf,
the weather is good from November to April. The regular breeze
because of the monsoon slowly pushes us and makes the average
temperature of 30° bearable. Only one necessity for all of
us, inexperienced sailors : to prevent being sunburnt, especially
on the first days.
- Fortunately, the sail in
the deep see only lasts for a few hours and soon, we can land on the shadows of palm-trees,
on an idyllic beach. In the air, one can feel a kind of spice
smell, the sand is white, the water perfectly transparent and
at 28°... it is now time for great swimming with masks in
order to be able to admire corals, angel fishes, skates and other
- Landing in the Garden of
Eden. By the end of the
afternoon, the support small boat brings us the bivouac. The
landing of the equipment thanks to pirogues is somewhat acrobatic
for who is not used to it. Fortunately, in case of an accident,
clothes, medicines, cameras and others are well-packed inside
water-proof cases. It would have been a great laugh under the
mocking eye of the Thai fisherman, who had never seen so awkward
sailors ! Then a strange pirate-like pirogue comes closer...
Just the coast-guards, protecting the environment against poachers
! because here, fishing is forbidden. Being as astonished as
we are, the rangers welcome us with their guns.
- Young Robinson.
Being not only an experienced sailor,
our guide Marco is also a very good cooker. For diner, Toasted
barracuda with citronella rice and tasty exotic fruits with unpronounceable
names... once satisfied, the young adventurers gather around
the sea map put on the sand for a course. When the sun comes
down, Marco explains the itinerary of the next days : the Koh
Sam-Sao island, the cape Koh Taip-Phao, the climbing of Koh Wua-Talab...
- After several glasses of
a curious local drink,
and rocked by sea stories, we all dream of being Robinsons !
nevertheless, we have to sleep and therefore take place in our
sleeping bags on the trampolines of the boats. Under the celestial
arch, each of us already dreams of the following sailing, surrounded
by the smells of the jungle and rocked by the calls of the Birds
- Now It,s Your Go !
- Nowadays, to live such an
adventure is at everybody,s hand. Guided by a specialist who
perfectly knows the region, and assisted by a support boat, you
are able to appreciate the raid in safety.
Travel : After 11 hours flight, a short stop in Bangkok,
a flight to Koh Samui, two hours of speed-boat and a night on
the Koh Pha-Ngan island, you get on board for the adventure !
Ten days including the travel out of which, you will have six
days of sailing.
First day :
departure in Koh Pha Ngan. After several hours sailing and a
pause to swim, landing on Koh Sam Sao for a wild bivouac. The
support boat brings the water.
: sailing and walk on Koh Wat Koh island in order to discover
a charming inside lake. Bivouac on Koh Wua-Talab in the same
conditions as the night before. The support boat brings everything
you may need.
Third day :
Climbing of the Koh Wua-Talab. From the top, you can admire magnificent
landscapes, you have a sight on the whole archipelago. In the
afternoon, sailing towards the southern islands and a new wild
Fourth day :
Crossing in the deep sea and discovery of the northern shores
of Koh Pha Ngan. Bivouac on the Koh Mah beach, where you will
find showers and bungalows.
Fifth day :
sailing towards Koh Tao, the snorkelling and diving paradise.
Visit of the island and comfortable bivouac with showers.
Sixth day :
back to Koh Pha Ngan, with swimming stops and if the wind allows
it , one more tour of the island. A night at the UCPA centre.
Level : To
be able to sail on a catamaran or a small boat with an average
wind is required, except if you are coming with an experienced
Inscriptions : De février
à mars, à partir de 1890 Euros, transport compris.
Infos : 0825.820.830 email@example.com
Séjour à Koh Pha Ngan : Suivant les options, comptez de 330 à 560
euros la semaine supplémentaire au centre UCPA : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Siripun Bungalow Thongsala - Koh Pha Ngan 84280 - Suratthani
A Stay at Koh Pha-Ngan
- The Koh Pha-Ngan island is
an ideal starting point to leave for the discovery of the rest
of the Samui archipelago.
Local life : the
population lives mainly from fishing and the collect of coconuts.
Tourism still being a marginal part of the local economy, everywhere,
you will be welcomed with smiles, and even in Thongsala, the
small village where tourists usually land. One can find here,
films for cameras, a pharmacy and recently, three shops offering
an access to the internet. Visiting the island is interesting
: being of a modest size it is crossed by a sole tarred road
but numerous paths will bring you to its secrets.
Around the island
: rent a moped or a car and leave for the discovery of desert
beaches in the north of the island, such as Had Lad, Koh Ma and
Aow Hat Yao.Do not miss the beautiful Bottle beach, only reachable
by sea - you will find pirogues to bring you there on the beach
of the Chalok Lum village.
Fishing : watch
the fishermen arrive in Chalok Lum ; the calmars are cut by women
and dried on fences. It happens that they cut up barracudas,
tunas, sharks and even swordfishes directly on the beach. You
will be able to appreciate them in the small booths of Chalok
Lum or Koh Ma.
In the island :
the island is covered with coconut trees and coconuts are hand-crafted
by women in glades. To ask if you can drink the coconut milk
would be a good pretext to start a talk. You also could make
some walks in the magnificent forest which covers the tops of
the island and try to discover the beautiful falls which are
hidden there. The maximal altitude is of 627 metres.
Too fun ! : In
the south-east of the island, a neo-techno-hippie community is
settled which organises on each full moon, the famous Full-Moon-Party,
on the Had Rin beach. The techno music and the ambiance are really
great but beware the few drug dealers there.
The UCPA centre
: they propose you some diving, sailing on catamarans, wind-surfing,
VTT riding or a full-resting stay... it costs from 2150F to 3630F
by week in full board. For those who like walking, there also
exist a seven days trekking trip : between December and March,
from 7900 to 8250F. Also : diving courses : from 7300 to 8930F.
Nearby Islands :
- It would be a shame not to
visit the rest of the archipelago, and all the more as speed-boats
and ferries daily bring people on most of the islands.
Koh Samui : Being invaded by tourists, these big island is
rich in curiosities even if it has lost part of its wild character.
In fact, since recently flights directly link it to Bangkok,
which enables the travellers to undertake a long journey by train.
You will visit some nice beaches, temples and will visit the
coconut trees forest at the heart of the island and will be able
to admire two great cascades.
Koh Tao : this
small island, surrounded by rocky coasts is a paradise for divers
; one can stay there in small bamboo bungalows which overhang
the sea. Go and have a pick-nick on the three islets of Koh Nang
Yuan, linked to each other by a sand strip.
The Marine National
Park : Some one day raids are made by speed-boats, but it
is hard to remain there as the place is protected. The catamaran
raid is therefore the best way to explore this heavenly archipelago
composed of some thirty islands. May this jewels remain untouched
and avoid falling into the same destiny as Phuket.
- Only the Lonely Planet guide
will be useful as far as Koh Pha Ngan and the Samui archipelago
In fact, the other guides
are still desperately lacking information on the region.
The Gallimard guide for instance,
only leaves 15 lines to Koh Pha Ngan instead of ten pages in
the Lonely Planet, full of necessary information about the place.
You will also find there, details about how to go from islands
to islands as well as numerous indications on the bamboo bungalows
built along the beaches.
Huge rock and a catamaran - Incredible
giant geological formations. Being a characteristic of the China
Sea, these chalky rocky peaks are everlastingly beaten by the
sea and only measure a few meters at their foot. Obviously recalling
the mythical Columns of Hercules, they give to our sailing a
taste of antique epic.
The Marine National Park - This bunch of islands are explored
during a whole part of the raid. The climbing of the highest
of them is the occasion to walk at the heart of the primary forest.
Everywhere, you will find hospitable beaches to host the bivouac.
The Hobi Cat 16, an ideal discovery means - Thanks to
its large trampoline, the catamaran is particularly comfortable
for the crossings between the islands. Its speed also enables
you to escape from the petole,, meaning the lack of wind.
The settling of the camp - Everyday we settle our bivouac
on a beach. The trampoline of the catamarans is used as a camp
bed and the fishes are roasted on a fire. A minimum of luggage
is recommended : a small pharmacy, some tee-shirts, a bathing
cloth... no more than 15kgs per each.
Meeting Thai fishermen - Like all people from sea-sides,
Thai people welcome travellers with enthusiasm, and never hesitate
to offer the product of their fishing. Barracudas, swordfishes,
rays, sharks but also rock lobsters ! What a delice every nights
Lamp fishers - In the deep sea, one can meet calmar fishers.
When the sun goes down, they settle their webs thanks to powerful
lamps which light attracts animals. Early in the morning, the
webs are collected and landed on the beach ; the fishes are dried
Misters Marco and Sonno - Like all experienced sailors,
our guide Marco has been confronted to curious stories and even
some wrecks ; his stories move us every night at the bivouac.
But he soon reassures us : no danger with our expedition ! All
the precautions have been taken and in case of a big problem
with the equipment, the small fishing boat which accompanies
us is equipped with a radio... and a good engine ! With gestures,
the old pilot of the support boat explains that his boat is a
real rocket. Even if he does not speak a word of English, he
is called Mister Sonno as he is still the Captain. Still with
gestures, he tells us he is able to dismantle and to reassemble
again his engine in the deep sea. Reassuring ! from the outside,
the small trawler looks like an old skiff and it has the prints
of numerous nights spend in the deep blue ! Some years ago, Mister
Sonno was fishing calmars with a lamp like everybody here. And
one day, a white man arrives, bald and a little crazy with five
curious boats. It was mister Marco, who was looking for a very
fast boat... and who engaged Mister Sonno !
- Découvrir également
la parution de ce reportage dans FHM (juin 2000)
- © Jean François
VIBERT - Journalist and photographer - Paris -
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