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Free Climbing Over the Andamen

THAILAND | Saturday, 12 May 2012 | Views [1459] | Comments [2]

Getting on any island without purchasing a flight is never easy. So it was no surprise that getting to Tonsai was, interesting. However, I wasn’t quite expecting the getting on and off the longtail boat with all of our gear and clothes and shoes, to lack a dock and involve walking out in the waves, throwing our stuff on board, and then swinging our bodies up onto the boat. Our experience at Tonsai Bay began with an adventure and continued with one until the moment we arrived back at Ao Nang Beach (the starting point).

Much of our first full day was spent kayaking around Tonsai Bay and Rai Leh beaches. We watched a family of monkeys play in the trees above our bungalow, and then spent a quiet night watching the tide come back in at a beach bar. I must clarify though; sitting at this beach bar is like no other.

You see, the area in and around Tonsai Bay is surrounded by towering limestone mountains. Many of the islands that dot the waters between Phuket Province and Krabi are just giant monoliths jutting out of the Andaman Sea. Emerald colored waters, tiny, white sand beaches, and jungles filled with mangrove trees and strange sounds are present on most of the bigger islands. Just about any time we sat at this beach bar, we could watch as groups of climbers made the long ascent up the craggy mountain. Talk about entertainment!

The second day was magical. We joined a guided snorkel tour which included a few hours of snorkeling around 3 different neighboring islands, dinner at sunset on a beach, and then a night snorkel to witness the glowing plankton. We saw Barracuda, Needlefish, “Nemo,” some rainbow-colored fish, giant pink jellyfish, and many, many others, which I have no names for. Mother nature was on our side for the sunset. We sat on a white sand beach with only a few other people, and a perfectly placed monolith to the right of the sunset, and strong warm winds helping to create the background noise.

She (Mother nature) spared no expense this night and gave us all the colors; red, pink, yellow, orange, blue and purple, for our first sunset together in SE Asia, magical. For the finale, we made our last longtail boat trip to the night snorkel spot. The neon green lights of the squid boats lit the western horizon, a far away lightning storm lit up the east and the Big Dipper twinkled above us. The phosphorus plankton did not disappoint. As you swim in the warm black waters, preferably under no moonlight, a cloud of white whirly lights engulf your moving limbs. It’s trippy and wonderful.

Though there are numerous climbing options to choose from around Tonsai, on our last day we went for Deep Water Soloing (DWS). I’m pretty sure there isn’t a whole lot of this in the states. DWS involves taking a longtail boat out to certain islands with craggy limestone jutting out over the water, you swim over to a rope ladder hanging from a lower stalactite, climb up wet, and free climb (no ropes) however high you feel comfortable and jump off into the sea below you, tucking all your limbs into your body to prevent injury from impact.

Snorkeling was magical and DWS is heart-pounding insanity. I’m certainly not accustomed to wet rock with wet shoes and slippery fingers, but it was a hell of a rush! The Thai guides climbed shoeless like monkeys to the highest jump spots and jumped off with little concern. I think the highest Ves & I jumped from was about 45-50 ft. and plenty high enough. Water shot up my nose and my top came off every time. Free climbing on an island overlooking the Andaman Sea was absolutely worth the fear and wedgies!

As I write this I am laying beside an infinity pool in Ao Nang, listening to the swaying palms and the late afternoon prayer over the loud speaker coming from the nearby Mosque.

Today is my 30th birthday. A day dedicated to relaxation after a few days of adventure and before a few days of travel. Tomorrow we leave for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the day after that, Bali, Indonesia. It doesn’t feel like my birthday, but either way, this life is definitely worth celebrating….

Memorable moment: During the sunset dinner on the beach before night snorkeling, a daily migration of bats, Chicken Bats, flew overhead. I can’t say I have ever been enjoying a sunset on the beach and looked up to see not seagulls, but hundreds of bats flying over to the mainland to feed on fruit!

Tags: andamen, ao nang, bats, beaches, deep water solo, kayak, krabi, snorkel, thailand, tonsai



Magical! Can you recommend a tour operator for the sunset trip? And a hotel?

  Sarah Feb 10, 2015 8:54 AM



We stayed in the private bungalows on Tonsai, which were very comfortable, but don't expect any frills. Nicer hotels with more amenities on are Rai Leh. We signed up for our sunset tour through a tour guide on Tonsai. My guess would be they are all about the same quality. Sorry, this is all I can recall....highly recommend everything we did!!

  Cindy Feb 10, 2015 9:32 AM

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