We always wanted to camp on a private island and go Sea Kayaking in Thailand.  With John Gray Sea Canoe, we had the chance.  After a splendid day kayaking through tidal caves and into island lagoons, we were let off in the dark of night to be paddled to our private beach where we would spend the night.


A beautiful morning to sea canoe in Thailand

Our camp was waiting for us as we paddled in with our gear and guide Natt.  Alan, a young apprentice had spent the day preparing camp and setting up our tents.  Towels and cold water were waiting for us by the roaring fire and once we settle in an icy cold beer and campfire snacks were brought out for our enjoyment.  We spent the night trading stories and walked over to the beach to check out some more luminescence plankton glowing in the water of the Andaman Sea.


Our beautiful beach camp.

Sea Kayaking in Thailand

It was early to bed as it had been a long day and we had even a bigger day ahead.

The islands aren’t quite as secluded as they used to be and we awoke to the engines of longtail boats roaring by out in the bay.  After eating a feast big enough for a group of 10, but only to be consumed by our tiny party of tow, we readied ourselves for our day with John Gray.

As Alan stayed back to finish up at camp, Natt took us out to explore some more sea caves.  Today we had the chance to paddle our own canoes and we followed Natt through the choppy waters to our first cave of the day.  It was a little intimidating to be navigating our own boats.  The cave roof was low and we had to push ourselves through the limestone with our hands as we laid back in our kayaks.


Stunning beauty inside the Hongs in southern Thailand

Once we emerged from the cave, we were treated to yet another spectacular view.  High limestone cliffs reach up to the sky surrounding the entire lagoon.  These hollow openings known as Hongs can be found in the centre of islands all over Thaland. Most of them can only be reached at low tide through sea caves.  Nat told us that we had about an hour before high tide. We explored the Hong quickly to have a look around.  We had seen several Hongs the day before on the John Gray regular day trip, so we were excited to be out paddling on our own today.


John Gray grabbing some photos as we exit a Hong

When we came out to open water, we were greeted by John and an intern studying with him from Holland.  We paddled on to another sea cave and entered an even tinier opening. Following Natt’s every move, we crawled along careful to not cut ourselves on the stalactics hanging close to our heads.  The four of us sat in the lagoon for a while and talked about the environmental issues that Thailand is facing.

Many tour companies allow and even encourage tourists to sit on the fragile mangrove tree routes.  They make loud noises shouting and bringing their engines into some navigable bays scaring off wildlife  and they throw their litter into the water.  John Gray Sea Canoe uses only glass bottles and recycles, they don’t let anyone take anything from the lagoons and they don’t allow people to touch or disrupt the natural environment.

Alan told us privately that he worked for another guide company for a few years, but came to John Gray because he cares about the environment and he wants Thailands future to be clean and protected.


Dave takes it all in from his kayak.

After spending a little too long in the Hong, the tide has risen and both of us are a little freaked out having to paddle through the swelling water in the caves. We tell ourselves that we are paddling with the world’s foremost expert on Tidal Caves and sea canoeing, but that doesn’t put your mind to rest when the water is filling up and you are laying on your back pulling yourself along the roof of the cave to make it out to fresh air.  In my controlled panic, I manage to keep it together, but cut myself up a bit from the sharp rocks.

John and Natt seem unphased by it all, but we are happy to be back out in open water.  The large longtail boat is waiting for us to take us to the next island. Today is a completely different experience as we are heading to all the places that the tour boats don’t stop at. These are some of John’s favourite locations in the area and the only other people we see is a catamaran and some fisherman.


Great view for lunch after a morning of sea kayaking

I love traveling by longtail boat.  The weather is perfect today as the sun is shining, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the breeze is pleasant.  We spend the entire morning paddling and exploring different caves and then we stop for yet another feast made for 10 people but only to be consumed by our party of 3.


It was like having your own personal paradise

John tells us tales and some of the most extraordinary moments in his life.  He has lived a rich life in his 66 years. Decorated with awards and accolades he could be living the high life in Hawaii, instead he lives a humble existence giving back to the people who work for him. Being and environmentalist and activist doesn’t make for the most lucrative of lives, but he certainly has left a legacy for everyone to follow and he definitely hasn’t thrown his hat into the ring just yet.

Note: This tour was sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand and hosted by Smiling Albino

For more information on kayaking Thailand check out John Gray Sea Canoe the original.

Try your hand at Sea Kayaking on our new Supreme Siamese Adventure. Check it out below!



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  1. Akila

    Dave – fantastic shots! Really lovely! We did something similar in Puerto Rico where we kayaked out to a private island. It was an incredible experience and one of our favorite parts of our trip there.

    1. davendeb

      Akila, if we ever get ourselves to Puerto Rico we will definitely have to do that too. It just might have to become a regular thing for us to go sea kayaking. We loved it.

    1. davendeb

      It was definitely hard to leave. Luckily we were heading on to Railay, one of our favourite parts in all of Thailand.

  2. Laura

    Oh wow, beautiful photos! Camping on the private island sounds fantastic. I don’t blame you for being a little skeeved by the rising water in the sea caves though!

    1. davendeb

      Yeah, I started panicking a bit and kept asking how bad it was going to be as we entered the cave. All John said was that “we are going to have a little fun at the end” I was like What does that mean? What does that mean? I thought I was being such a wimp, but when it was all over even Dave admitted that he was a little freaked out. And nothing ever freaks him out, so I felt validated. In the end all was well. John and his crew know these waters inside out.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Kristin, I am so happy to hear you like my shot of Dave in the Kayak. I didnt’ capture the sky as well as Dave does, his photos are so blue and vivid, but I do think that it captured exactly how we felt that day…content. I love the shot of the walkway too that is my favourite shot of all the pictures Dave took that day. It was at the pier that we pulled up to for lunch. Truly a spectacular day.

  3. Sherry Ott

    Wow – what an adventure! Where abouts was this in Thailand – I did something similar around -but I can’t remember where! The raising water would have freaked me out a bit though!!

  4. The NVR Guys

    What stunning photos. There is something very mystical about those rock formations. I would love to see the bioluminescent plankton – I just think that is too cool.

    1. davendeb

      It was prett amazing seeing the plankton. I have heard about it but didn’t even realize that we were going to see it until we put our hands in the water. It was very cool.

    1. davendeb

      Thanks Caz. How perfect that your post today is Getting a massage in Chiang Mai. Looks like Thailand is on a lot of people’s minds these days.

  5. Travelogged

    It’s a good thing you are Canada’s Adventure Couple — I would have been a little scared to sleep on a secluded island and quite scared when the high tide starting filling the cave! But it does look like paradise so maybe I would have relaxed :) I love reading about your trip to Thailand!

    1. Smith@where to buy a canoe

      You are most welcome in here and keep sharing your ideas and experiences with us without any hesitation,

      I think It is really lovely Adventure.After reading this article I have found interest to visit these places.

      The article is very clearly and attractively told.


    1. davendeb

      Thanks Elizabeth. So nice to have someone new stop by to the blog. we will definitely check out theYukiPages as well. Cheers.

    1. davendeb

      So glad that you felt taken into the moment. I was a truly special experience in Thailand. And here we thought that because we had been here a couple of times before, we would not find anything new and exciting to do. We were very wrong.

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  8. Chris @CAroundTheWorld

    I loved this article. We went out on a Hong trip with John Gray during our Thai honeymoon back in 2007. We didn’t go camping but we thought about it – and looking at your photos, I wish we had! Thanks for sharing and bringing back great memories. :)

    1. davendeb

      I am so glad that you had a great trip. did you do the nightime paddle as well? That was such a special moment.

  9. Sarah Wu

    You guys always have beautiful photos. This set are so breath-taking. The cave and the water so stunning. Looks like you guys had a great trip there deb!

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  13. John Caveman Gray AKA Ling Yai (Thai for "Big Monkey")

    Dave and Deb, Thanks for the great coverage. Can I link to http://www.johngray-seacanoe.com and our Facebook page as well?

    I’ve got a hot tip for you – have you been to Fiji yet? I just visited my very first Community-Based Ecotourism project (1983) in Lavena, Taveuni and it’s doing great! Tino and Salele have a fantastic program there, with natural history training from ecotourism consultant Dave Bamford from New Zealand. I was there in September and did the day trip, which was amazing. Even better, as I was walking back through the village Salele said “John, you remember how our kids had to walk 7K each way on the hilly dirt road to Mbouma to go to school? Well, we used the profits from our Sea Kayaking trip to buold our own village school.”

    That’s what it’s all about. gt to admit I shed a tear or two before my bowl of kava!

    In the 80′s before I came to Thailand we ran overnight trips down to Salialevu – a great waterfall coastline. If you do get the chance let me know and I will see if I can get-away to join you. I’ve been willed 50% of the 94-acre Vure Vure Plantation at one end of the coastline and just convinced the MD of Shangri-la in Fiji to build an eco lodge at Salialevu, so it would be greatmto start at my place and finish at Salialevu.

    Keep in touch and I will advise you when I get the slide show up and running. I’m about a year behind right now!

    John Caveman Gray lingyai45@gmail.com

    1. debndave Post author

      Hey John,

      Thanks for stopping by. We didn’t forget you :-)
      We had your link at the top and have now added it to the bottom as well. We cannot find your Facebook page though. Can you post the link to it?
      We look forward to coming to Fiji and maybe checking out your Eco Lodge once you get it up and running.
      Be sure and keep us posted!

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