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Off the west coast of southern Thailand, Phuket Island is a paradise for beach bums and adventure seekers alike. Well known as “The Pearl of the Andaman Sea,” this tropical island is endowed with beautiful white beaches, spectacular limestone peaks and forested hills.Avoid the overcrowded and polluted Patong Beach, which has lost its charm, and instead book a day trip to one of the surrounding mini islands. Phang Nga Bay is a complex network of river estuaries with dense mangrove and nipa palm forests. Protecting the shoreline are limestone cliff formations that extend up to 1,000 feet out from the sea.
Touring the area in a small motorboat or canoe allows you to explore the mysteries of the mangrove swamps and take in the natural beauty of coves, bays and idyllic remote beaches.Many of the rock formations are hollow and conceal hidden caves and lagoons. Local guides know the secret passages, but you’ll have to get out of the boat and swim. If you can handle swimming through a tight, dark cave, it’s completely worth it. You’ll find pristine white sand beaches without a single footprint, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. The experience evokes a surreal feeling of traveling back in time a million years.If you want to stay in the boat, go to a limestone island called Tham Lawd, which boats are able to pass through. Look up and check out the stalactites hanging from the ceiling like chandeliers. You may even glimpse a bat or two. If you’re the more adventurous type, put on a wet suit and take a day trip to the Similan Islands. About 12 miles north at Koh Bon is a 110-foot vertical wall and a step-down ridge that goes down nearly 150 feet to the sandy flats beneath. Leopard sharks are commonly seen in this area.Another 15 miles north is Koh Tachai, with an underwater ridge that is considered to be one of the finest dives. This spot is famous for stingrays, leopard sharks and bill turtles. Whale sharks are also known to make appearances now and again.On dry land, a three-hour drive from Phuket is the Khao Sok Rainforest. The 460 square mile nature preserve features thick native rainforests, waterfalls and an enchanting island-studded lake. There are several trails for hiking, rivers for rafting, as well as a guided safari tour. One any given day you can expect to see wild elephants, leopards, serows, guar, Malayan sun bears, dusky langurs and nearly 200 species of birdsFinally, for those looking for a nice beach to lounge on, Phuket has endless possibilities. A popular one is Karon Beach, with its unusual squeaky sand. Yes squeaky. You’ll understand once you hear it for yourself.
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