The safest keel boat approach is from the north using the larger passage between Naka Yai and Koh Reat. (Jumeirah Private Island ) Once through the passage keep close to Koh Reat and anchor on the muddy bottom in 3-6 metres. If approaching from the south, stay close to Koh Naka Yai. The three drying rocks marked on the chart definitely exist, and none of these has any navigation markings or buoys.
Some 400 metres long, the new jetty is the main departure point for day boats to the Naka Noi Pearl Farm and for most of the sea canoe operators. A few local-style shops can be found ashore. There is transport to either Phuket Town or the airport. Fuel, provisions and ice can be bought in the small village.
Koh Naka Noi
The best anchorage is in 5-8 metres to the south of the access jetty on the mid-west coast. Keep well clear of the rocks on the north side of Naka Noi if approaching between Naka Yai and Naka Noi. Keep Koh Phae to port if coming from the south. When heading north from this anchorage, beware of a rock – visible only at very low tides – on the direct line of the passage between Koh Reat and Koh Naka Yai. Once clear of the channel, steer well offshore to avoid a second reef, seldom visible at any tide.
Koh Naka Noi is known as ‘Pearl Island’ because of the cultured pearls grown on its north-eastern coast. Educational demonstrations on pearl farming techniques are given twice daily. There is a seafood restaurant for lunches only at the pearl farm and a souvenir shop selling pearls at a discount. An admission fee is levied for going ashore via the jetty.
Koh Naka Yai
This pretty anchorage in 5-10 metres on a sandy bottom is a suitable overnight stop in either season. On the northeast coast, two beaches divided by a rocky outcrop afford great swimming together with shady coconut groves.
The silica sand middle beach is all-tide, whilst the north and south are accessible only at high tide. The southernmost beach has (at the time of publishing) an almost finished, then suddenly abandoned, high-end Thai-Style resort project on the hill to the left of the concrete road. Great for exploring but footwear is essential. The middle beach has the best swimming in the North Bay.
A favourite daytime stopover for tour boats from Yacht Haven, Ao Po Grand Marina, Royal Phuket Marina and Boat Lagoon. It is the last, early-afternoon, stop on their return from the caves for up to 100 sea canoe clients. Beware swimming from the beach on spring low tides, as painful, but not poisonous, cone shells are a seasonal annoyance on the shallow sandy sea-grass bottom.
Despite the many mid-afternoon visitors, it is an excellent anchorage for the independent yachtsman, offers a great beach for a barbecue and has a stunning panorama of the dramatic islands of Phang Nga Bay.
Ao Po Grande Marina
This is Phuket’s newest marina with 200 berths inside a floating breakwater. There are deepwater berths for up to 15 superyachts with hotel and villas to follow. Works have begun on the outside breakwater to deal with issues of wind chop from the northeast. The approach is best from the south or east to avoid Hin Klang on the northerly approach. The entrance is on the southeast of the marina (80 04.04 N, 980 26.44 E). From May 2009 Sunsail will make this marina its base of operations due to the proximity of the cruising grounds of Phang Nga Bay. Several other charter companies have made this marina their home and will soon be joined by The Moorings, who are starting operations in Thailand for the first time. More information at www.aopograndmarina.com or email infoaopograndmarina.com.