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Last Updated on November 15, 2019 by Amy

One of the most famous sights in Thailand is the stunning rock islands that make up the west coast. The rock formations are unique and make for excellent scenery to paddle around. Combined with the low visibility in the water, and kayak tours become very popular in Phang Nga Bay.  We stopped to enjoy the Panak Hong, just off the east coast of Phuket.

David’s brother Thomas is visiting us in Thailand!  This is Thomas’ fourth visit to Starry Horizons.

Read our One-Week Itinerary for Phuket, Thailand.

About Hongs

The islands of Phang Nga Bay are made of limestone. Over time, ponds form on the top of the island. The ponds erode the land until it connects with the seawater, creating a donut-like hole in the island. Once the salt water is involved, the land erodes more and more, making a cave entrance from the sea to what used to be the pond.

Timing Panak Island’s Hong

At low tide, there is very little water at the mouth of the cave. At high tide, the entrance of the hong is blocked. The tour boats operate during the daylight hours only, so the cave and hong are empty in the early morning and the evening. The tour groups come at mid-tide. If you are visiting on your own during midday, it is best to visit just after high tide as the tide is dropping.

Getting to Panak on Your Own

There’s nothing on Panak Island; no hotels, campsites, or hostels. We arrived via our own boat, and we shared the anchorage with the tour groups (who left at night) and charter boats.  Panak isn’t far from Ao Po Marina, where companies like the Moorings and Dream Yacht Charters have their charter base.

The Bat Cave

We dropped our dinghy down at high tide and rowed our way through the cave. The water was too high for us to go into the hong, but the cave twists and turns so much we experienced a total blackout. Using our flashlights, we could see the cave walls around us and about midway through the cave we encountered the bats; hundreds of them sleeping above our heads.

The hong entrance, blocked at high tide.
Hundreds of bats!
The sunlight from the entrance of the cave.

The Hongs

The next morning, high tide was around 10 am.  Just slightly after 10, as the tide was dropping, there were no tour groups around. I hopped on my paddleboard and made my way into the cave. The tide was just barely low enough that I could lay flat on my board and squeeze underneath the entrance to the hong.

The hong is two lagoons with a thin channel between them, and it is stunningly beautiful!  I was so lucky to have it all to myself…..for a few minutes.  Just after I paddled all the way through the lagoons and back to the start, a kayak popped up from the entrance.  It was a tour guide, and another kayak popped in right after him with two tourists.  They headed back to the second lagoon, and it wasn’t long before the next private tour came through.  I started to paddle out and was intercepted by one of the big groups.  It’s amazing how loud the tour groups are in the caves.  They don’t seem to bother the bats but it was noisy and I didn’t enjoy it!

Paddling into the cave.
I made it into the hong!
The hong is absolutely beautiful and extremely peaceful.
The pass between the two lagoons.

Enjoying the Scenery at Anchor

The limestone cliff walls of Panak are pretty unreal.  We took the dinghy along the wall for a little while.  Some of the formations are either stalactites or maybe even petrified roots?

The view to the west is the distant Phuket Island, making a nice view for sunset.

Thomas enjoying the trampoline.
David watching the sunset.

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