Thailand is fast becoming one of the premier yachting destinations in Asia and with good reason. The country's geography lends itself perfectly to seabourne exploration and the mild climate makes cruising possible most of the year. Add to that the world famous Thai hospitality, captivating culture, stunning natural beauty and a fast-developing marine infrastructure, and it is easy to understand why people from all over the world are attracted to the prospect of yacht charters in Thailand.
Thailand's cruising grounds can largely be divided into two main areas; the Andaman Sea – stretching along the peninsular west coast of the country and home to the famous Andaman and Similan Islands – and the Gulf of Thailand, which comprises the Koh Chang archipelago to the east and the popular Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao to the south.
Most charters to the Andaman Sea start on Phuket, which is the main sailing destination of Thailand and indeed a marine hub in the region. The island is home to no less than four modern marinas: Yacht Haven is located on the island's northeast coast only 15 minutes drive from the airport and it offers an ideal starting point to explore the picturesque Phang Nga Bay. Yacht Haven also offers deep water access which makes it suitable for larger vessels with up to 5 metres draft. Also located on the northeast quadrant of the island, Ao Po Grand Marina can accommodate superyachts with an LOA of over 80 metres and zero tide restrictions. On the east coast of the island you will find Boat Lagoon, the island's longest established full service marina, which offers year round berthing and maintenance and repair facilities for vessels up to 140 feet. Boat Lagoon also features a resort and residences for those wanting to make the most out of the yachting lifestyle, as well as a choice of restaurants, shops. Adjacent to Boat Lagoon is Royal Phuket Marina, an integrated lifestyle marina complete with luxury residences, some of which have direct access to their own private berth.
The waters around Phuket are perfect for waterborne exploration. Phang Nga Bay offers picturesque cruising grounds and is famous for its dramatic limestone karsts that pierce the tranquil crystal clear waters. The spectacular scenery around Koh Tapu was made famous the world over when in 1974, the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed there. But Phang Nga Bay is much more than just limestone cliffs – the many uninhabited islands that pepper the bay also lend themselves perfectly for kayaking, swimming and snorkelling.
The Similan Islands, some 70 miles to the northwest of the island, are famous for their clear waters and tropical island feel. The archipelago is popular with divers as the underwater environment is one of the most diverse and best kept in the region; sightings of larger species such as rays, turtles and whale sharks are not uncommon. Further to the northwest are the Andaman Islands, possibly even more pristine than the Similans. Charters to these islands will take longer but the awards – remote, tropical islands, diverse wild life and clean sailing waters – are well worth the extra miles.
The other main cruising ground in Thailand is the Gulf, which covers the entire east coast of the country from Bangkok and Pattaya on the top of the Gulf, to Koh Chang and neighbouring islands in the east and Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao in the south. The two main marinas to service the Gulf of Thailand is Ocean Marina Yacht Club, located in Jomtien Beach just north of Pattaya. The marina is easily accessible from Bangkok – just about an hour's drive from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport – and also comprises a boutique hotel and modern marina facilities.
The other marina is located within the Siam Royal View development on the island of Koh Chang, which also includes luxury residences, restaurant, golf course and a water sports centre. Yacht charters from Siam Royal View has the benefit of several less visited islands on the doorstep: Koh Chang Noi, Koh Mak and Koh Kood to name just a few in the expansive Mu Koh Chang Marine National Park, which is made up of 40 islands, the majority of them uninhabited.
The best time for yacht charters in Thailand is generally from November to August, depending on the area you plan to visit. In general, the conditions in the Gulf of Thailand tend to be more mild than in the Andaman Sea due to the sheltered nature of the Gulf. The weather from November to August is characterised by warm, humid weather with little rainfall. Starting from August, the monsoon season brings with it heavy rainfall and stormy conditions, especially on the west coast.