“Why not?” he quickly heard, in five languages.
“There are crocodiles there.” he said readily, with a hint of a smile. “Big crocodiles. But they don't swim, so-- just don't go on the beach.”
“Crocodiles?” One of the non-English speaking tourists asked. They weren't getting the joke.
“Crocodiles,” he affirmed with a bigger smile, and then translated himself into Thai to relieved laughter. Obediently, we just went for a dip, and saved our beach-walking for later stops on the tour.
Under water, once the masks and snorkels were doled out, there were no signs of water-wary reptiles. Just hundreds of greedy little yellow-and-silver striped fish gobbling up the bread we brought them and dozens of other fish who ignored the splashing tourists above them.
We were on an all-day speedboat trip from the peninsular city of Krabi to the island paradise of Koh Phi Phi. After a lot of deliberation we had decided that actually staying on Koh Phi Phi was out of our price range, so we took a tour instead and stayed on the much-cheaper mainland.
The tour included stops at Koh Phi Phi for lunch, Maya Bay (made famous in Leonardo DiCaprio's The Beach), three snorkel jaunts (with lifejackets for those non-swimmers—what a lot of splashing!) and a couple of pauses for photo ops with the famous limestone land- and seascapes. The islands stretch above the cerulean Andaman Sea, sheer cliffs stained by streaks of red and green mineral deposits and lichens.
Some of the cliffs house caves full of edible-nest swiftlet birds. We stopped at one that is being worked by miners who sell the birds' nests for Chinese soup. The workers live in the caves for three or four years at a time, the tour guide told us.
Later, we stopped at a place called Monkey Bay, where monkeys come down to sit in the trees by a tiny beach and accept fruit from the tour guides. Our boat only nosed up to the beach, but we got close enough to see a few of the monkeys, completely used to human presence, sitting on the trees and looking down at the other boats' tourists' flashing cameras below them as if the monkeys were the ones sightseeing.
The best stop on the day though was a tiny island called Bamboo Island. This little flat island has a few tents and a park ranger station, a kiosk selling some beer and snacks, and a gorgeous expanse of beach on the Koh Phi Phi side. We stopped there for an hour or so, did some more snorkeling and took a stroll down the foamy sand to take pictures of Koh Phi Phi's coastline in the blue distance.
We were back at our hostel (The Blue Juice, highly recommended) in Krabi just in time for happy hour before the night market started up for our supper of curry, rice and cheap Chang beer.
**Click here to see photos of our snorkeling excursion!!**
Here is the website of the tour operator, Chok Paisan Andaman. Recommended.