A growing number of wealthy guests and amazing Superyachts are streaming to Thailand’s two largest islands – Phuket & Koh Samui
Cruising for the wealthy is opening up beyond the usual hubs and marinas of the Mediterranean as facilities are being developed and upgraded around the world. The islands of Phuket and Koh Samui in Thailand, with their natural island beauty and high end luxury resorts, gorgeous villas and famed spas, are attracting a growing numbers of superyachts and affluent visitors from within the Kingdom and throughout the world.
Streaming into Phuket, the growing number of superyachts can select from two marinas where owners and guests can relax in luxury and upscale surroundings before cruising on to stunning anchorages. Leading marinas on the northeast coast of Phuket Island, the gateway to exploring the crystalline blue seas and the area’s stunning islands and beaches, are Yacht Haven Marina and Ao Po Grand Marina.
Yacht Haven Marina is an ideal starting point to explore the wonders of Phang Nga, reports Nick Wyatt, “As a major full service marina in SE Asia, we believe Yacht Haven has an important role to play in driving this part (Superyachts) of Thailand’s tourism sector. Presently with a restaurant, bar, gym, pool and accommodation, plans are underway to upgrade and increase our shore side services. With a further 30 new Superyacht berths planned for the next year and the aspiration to constantly improve our personal service at all levels, we aim to keep Yacht Haven Marina a secure, choice destination.” Ao Po Grand Marina, with an impressive capacity of 200 berths and well placed as well for cruising the magnificent Phang Nga Bay, can host yachts of any boat length from 6m up to 80m+ and has a special focus on facilitating Superyachts.
Yachting owners and their guests or those chartering a yacht can enjoy a paradise of crystal clear blue waters, stunning beaches, lush tropical ambience and world class onshore entertainment in Phuket. Dubbed the “Monaco of South East Asia”, the very popular Phuket has a substantial ex-pat population and the nightlife in is spectacular with plenty of 5-star restaurants and wine bars, giving yachting visitors a choice of secluded bays or exclusive nightlife.
The highly experienced GM of Asia Pacific Superyachts Phuket, Gordon Fernandes, has some amazing itineraries and his company also offers Charter Yacht voyages, such as the following: “Starting out and staying close to Phuket you have Phang Nga Bay with its limestone monoliths rising up out of the sea or further south, the islands of Koh Phi Phi, made famous by the film, The Beach. Word class diving is within easy reach and guests can beach, swim, snorkel, look for monkeys and wildlife before heading off to the Similan Islands; 60NM North West of Phuket and classed as one of the top ten global dive destinations – a paradise for diving and snorkeling, where often guests can enjoy 30M+ water visibility. A journey to Phuket or Koh Chang regions offers over 3000 km of coastline of spectacular beaches, amazing rock formations and superb diving possibilities.
Phuket and Koh Samui, the Kingdom’s two largest and most populated islands, are in what appears to be a sustainable trend of increasing numbers of high wealth visitors, according to a recent article in The Superyacht Owner Report: “The (southeast Asia) region is home to some of the world’s fastest developing markets and sources of financial power, surpassing North America in the past two years as home to the most millionaires. High wealth individuals using their own luxury yacht or charter yacht are finding exotic and unpretentious South East Asia is the antithesis of places like the south of France, and offer more deserted islands, cruising havens and dive locations than in the whole of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean put together.” Coupled with the spectacular scenery and elite lifestyle marinas / anchorage advantages, Phuket and Koh Samui come out winners with the wealthy.
There are lots of places to play and new and glamorous beach clubs are bringing in visitors from around the world. Nikki Beach Worldwide is expanding its presence in Thailand with the glamorous Nikki Beach Phuket Beach Club & Restaurant and Nikki Beach Hotel & Spa Phuket. Phuket is the second location in Thailand following the 5 years of Nikki Beach in Koh Samui.
A prestigious annual event is the Asia Superyacht Rendezvous held Dec. 16-18 in Phuket with Fernandes, co-organizer with Captain Charlie Dwyer, welcomes new superyachts to join the event: “Superyachts planning to be in Phuket over Christmas can also join the exclusive event aimed at both motor and sailing yachts and a great way to start the festive season, socializing over three days with superyacht owners, captains and VIP guests.”
Moving to the eastern part of Thailand, extending into the Gulf of Siam to Koh Samui, is some of the most stunning maritime scenery in the world. Known as the ‘Jewel of the Gulf’ the island rises off the south-eastern seaboard of Thailand and has attained international standards of service. Enjoying a reputation for retaining a friendly image as well as a beautiful natural environment, Samui stretches to a group of 48 surrounding islands.
According to Captain Charlie (Champagne) Dwyer, skipper of the 36-metre Yanneke Too sailing superyacht and Asia Pacific Superyachts, the island’s growing status is evident: “Owners and brokers are looking to Asia as the next destination and right at the top is Thailand. The quote which I get from most captains is…they’ve ‘done the Caribbean’ for the past 15 years and they want to find a new and exciting cruising ground. This can be found in abundance in Thailand. The Caribbean has some fantastic cruising areas but the difference is that there will be 15 yachts in the same anchorage while in Southeast Asia there are many beautiful beaches where the yacht can anchor in luxurious solitude. This, coupled with the fact that Thai people are generally more hospitable assures visitors they’re going to have a fantastic holiday. We are starting to see yachts come back year after year and this is also making owners think about having a holiday villa or luxury condo.”
Koh Samui and the surrounding area offers fascinating cruising destinations like ‘Ang Thong National Marine Park’, a stunning archipelago of small and virtually untouched islands, the Marine Park is made up of 42 islands featuring lime stone massifs, tropical rainforests and deserted beaches. This fascinating group of islands, within sight of Samui to the north and west, is geographically different from the other islands in the region. The Ang Thong islands rise from the sea as dramatic walls of rock soaring hundreds of metres high. Besides the many small coves and beautiful beaches, erosion has shaped some interesting formations.
The captain of the 67.2 meter superyacht Vertigo, the largest luxury sailing yacht built in the Southern Hemisphere (so far), commented: “Though there is no marina there are many anchorages in Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and surrounding areas. Koh Samui is the ‘Hub of the Gulf’ and the best and easiest port of entry in the Gulf of Siam. Returning to the island I’m reminded each time of the breath-taking natural beauty of Koh Samui and its stunning cruising waters. In beginning a sea journey here one finds a perfect haven to regroup and enjoy life - and an important part of the fun and thrill of the destination, what brings visitors to Thailand, is the culture and people with their welcoming smiles and gracious nature. For those interested in a luxury laden stay, it’s perfect with some of the most exclusive and high end resorts and spas in the world. All in all, an incredibly beautiful setting. You won’t find this in many other international destinations which superyachts visit.”
A change in attracting upmarket guests to Koh Samui 2009 was signaled with the opening of the Four Seasons, the first to come with access to a private beach for the elegant Thai designed hillside villas. The island’s reputation has continued to flourish with a plethora of high-end hotels which includes the new Le Méridien, Banyan Tree, W Retreat and Conrad Koh Samui. In fact, a limited number of more new hotel projects in Koh Samui, as reported recently in Property Report, will be announced soon, while the existing luxury and high-end hotels on the island are predicted to continue to perform well throughout the year.
There is tremendous natural beauty in island and area, which boasts an International Airport served by direct flights from Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. There’s also a trend among the top luxury resorts to develop and add villas and second homes for the wealthier visitors interested in a long term stay in paradise. Captain Charlie enthuses, “Koh Samui is used by superyachts as a base while exploring the area. With its million dollar villas, world class spas and fine dining, the island is becoming the new playground for the Super Rich.”