My trip to Thailand a few weeks ago was filled with good times and great adventures. But perhaps the most epic of experiences while I was there there took place on a small bay on an island in the southern Thailand region of Ko Phi Phi on the Maya Bay Sleep Aboard tour.
If you’ve seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach” you’re familiar with the beautiful Maya Bay beach. Lush greenery, high cliffs, soft sand shores, clear turquoise waters, glowing plankton….but also lots and LOTS of tourists. During the day, Maya Bay is so over run with visitors you can’t even appreciate the island’s true beauty. Unless, that is, you’re a part of the Maya Bay Sleep Aboard overnight tour…in which case the island is yours alone for 12 epic hours.
In search of an authentic island experience, my two girlfriends and I decided to give Maya Bay Sleep Aboard a try. Here’s how our day went down.
After escaping Railay on a morning ferry, we landed on Ko Phi Phi island a little before noon and proceeded to the Maya Bay Sleep Aboard office to drop of our carry on suitcases for the day. The office can be a little hard to find, so make sure to follow the directions on their website and ask one of the local business on the island if you get turned around. We kept with us a small tote or backpack with just essentials like swim suits, towels, a change of clothes, cameras and toothbrushes.
Around 2:30 we proceeded to our boat that was parked at the pier. There were about 25 people on the overnight tour with us. All of which were in their 20’s and 30’s, from multiple countries around the world and all were really friendly. The staff was great as well.
After about a 20 minute ride, our first stop was the Viking Caves where we could snap a couple pictures on the boat. We then proceeded to another side of the island for an hour long stop off to kayak, snorkel and swim with the fish.
Once we got back on the boat, Maya Bay was about another 15-20 minutes away. On the way there, we learned we were in for a special treat. Maya Bay Sleep Aboard is called ‘sleep aboard’ because guests have to sleep on the boat overnight after they explore the island for the evening. Once upon a time, that wasn’t the case. Tour guests were able to camp out on the island every evening. But not long ago, the island powers that be outlawed that, with the exception of just a handful of nights a year. One of those nights is Valentine’s Day, February 14th — the same day we booked our tour for, unbeknownst to us! So we found out that in addition to being able to frolic on the island all night, we’d get to camp out on the beach as well. #winning!
When we got to Maya Bay, we had a couple hours free to explore the island and play in the water before dinner was served to us around 6pm. The food was GREAT. Chicken curry along with rice and vegetables that tasted like someone’s Thai aunt spent hours in the kitchen making. DELISH!
After dinner, we made friends with more of the people on the tour and played games under the stars. We also got “buckets” to keep the good times moving, which essentially were clean beach buckets filled with a liquor and mixer of your choice. Dinner & drinks were included in the $95 cost of our trip.
We later headed back to the beach after night fall. Aside from the glare from the camp ground and a few boats out in the ocean, it was completely dark. We didn’t mind though. Because there were glowing plankton that greeted us as we played in the water and frolicked along the beach. I don’t have any pictures of the light up plankton unfortunately, but it was amazing!
A little later in the evening, the staff brought out more snacks at the camp ground. This time marinated chicken wings and bread sticks, which were a great night cap before heading to sleep. We picked up our mats, sleeping bags and pillows the staff provided for us and headed back to the beach to claim our sleeping spots.
Our spots left us speechless. Flanked by high cliffs on each side, with the bright shining stars overhead, I really can’t even put into words how breathtaking laying out on the beach was. This picture is a digitally enhanced one from their site, but in reality, what you experience is not that different. Completely amazing.
Despite laying on a thin mat on the sand in a sleeping bag God knows who has slept in, I actually got some of the best sleep of my trip that night. One recommendation I would make if you’re lucky enough to go on a night they let you sleep on the beach, is to bring something think to cover your face with. As the night turned to early morning, the wind picked up a bit, so it was nice to have my sarong to cover my face with so sand wouldn’t get all over it.
The next morning around 5:30 AM the staff wakes everyone up to fold up all their sleeping gear, then we’re free for about another hour to play on the beach and swim until it was time to go back to the boat.
We headed back to the boat about 200 meters from shore around 7am, where they had breakfast of fruit, eggs and toast prepared for us. Then they gave us another hour or so to snorkel, kayak and play in the water from the boat. My friend Angela decided to take jump off the boat into the ocean below…something she called a a bucket list moment she didn’t even know was on her bucket list.
We arrived back at the Ko Phi Phi island pier around 10am, which gave us enough time to climb to the top of the Ko Phi Phi lookout point before our ferry to our next destination of Phuket took off.
I’m so glad I had this magical experience with Maya Bay Sleep Aboard!
RELATED THAILAND POSTS: