Snorkelling by night in Thailand

BY SARAH BELMONT.

Who does not remember the love triangle featured by Leonardo DiCaprio, Guillaume Canet and Virginie Ledoyen in the movie The Beach, as well as the beautiful landscapes where the story was set ? It is in Maya Bay, on Koh Phi Phi Lee, Thailand, that the three characters grow to love and hate each other. Let’s not forget the memorable kiss Leo gives the French actress under-water in a night twinkling with stars. Why not go for something bigger than a long embrace and discover Thailand’s turquoise waters ? In Maya Bay subaquatic explorations are all the rage, especially when they take place at night. Better than a simple midnight swim, this moonlight experience makes snorkeling even more thrilling than it already is.

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Sleeping on the boat is not mandatory. The excursion begins at 3pm and ends at 8am the following day. Visiting Pileh Bay and a few Viking caves, before casting anchor in Maya Bay are the first steps to this incredible adventure. The point is then appropriating the island as many visitors leave it. Back aboard  enjoy a delicious fish barbecue, served with fried rice. Typical and healthy ! It is only when the day draws to an end that the whole expedition makes suddenly sense. To dive and join luminescent planktons echoing the celestial constellations can only be tempting. Short-sighted or solely bad swimmers have nothing to worry about : life jackets are meant to ease their fears and enable them to dive peacefully with the rest of the crew.

 

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Otherwise, what is there to say about Maya Bay, in general ? Known for its lagoon and its lime cliffs, it belongs to Koh Phi Phi Lee, Ley or Leh, the second largest island of the Phi Phi archipelago, behind Koh Phi Phi Don, in the Andaman Sea. Teeming with tourists – all the more since The Beach’s shooting – it shelters a curious activity, hunting swallow nests. Committed by the Moken people, this crime serves a culinary purpose. The edible mucus which secrete some birds on their congeners’ habitat  is considered to be a luxury product in traditional thai cuisine. A product of high quality and good for health to crown it all.

 

Vamos a la playa ? Sure ! But which one ? To Maya Bay. A wonderful bay where, again, took place the making of The Beach. However, the paradise-like images scrolling down the screen gave rise to controversy. Complaints were filed against the 20th Century Fox although the production company had left funds to offset the damage caused to the landscape. Yet, the supposedly destroyed sand dunes eventually recovered their original state, and new coconut trees grew to a ripe old age. The proceedings dragged on for years. What a waste, of time, energy and money, especially when you think of the bay’s – natural or restored, who care ? – beauty ! Except that, in the dark and under water, nature puts on a different face.

 

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