Koh Yao Noi | Bangkok Post: Lifestyle

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Koh Yao Noi

Negotiable

Address:Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao, Phang Nga 82160 Thailand

Tel:+667621 2213

Service day:Everyday

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Official description

Located in Phangnga Bay between Krabi and Phuket, Koh Yao Noi wows visitors with abundant natural resources on land as well as under the sea. Many tourists travelling there even said they would want to keep the island just the way it is, as their secret escape.
The island is quite small, running 15 kilometres north to south, and is about 40 sq km in size. It is home to 5,000 people, mostly fishermen and farmers, and boasts a hospital, schools and a post office, all linked by a network of roads including one that follows the coastline. Some 30 households on the island are members of the tourism club. Combined, they can accommodate up to 150 people at a time. Guests get to observe the local people's way of life via the homestay experience and the tour that includes stops at a rubber plantation, a coconut farm, a rice field, a batik shop, followed by free time on the beach.

Rating

Editorial Reviews

A short boat ride from Phuket is Koh Yao Noi, a glowing example of homestay and community-based tourism Located in Phangnga Bay between Krabi and Phuket, Koh Yao Noi wows visitors with abundant natural resources on land as well as under the sea. Many tourists travelling there even said they would want to keep the island just the way it is, as their secret escape. Tranquil and scenic, fringed by sandy beaches, Koh Yao Noi is home to communities of Muslim who lead a simple life, and are also equally at ease playing host to tourists. The island first caught the eye of tourists two decades ago, but in just 10 years their number soared at such an alarming rate that the villagers were left with no choice but to control the tourist traffic, and in 2002 under the guidance of the Responsible Ecological Social Tours Project, the villagers managed to form the Koh Yao Noi Community-based Tourism Club that today regulates all tourist activity on the island. ''We have played host to many a tourist these two decades. It'd got to a point we knew we could not stop them coming, so we needed to manage them wisely,'' said the club's coordinator Dusit Butree who locals fondly call Bang Bao. Born and bred locally, he recalled that as far back as 1993 he and his neighbours launched a campaign to fight off poaching of the area's marine resources. ''We resolved to stand on guard on our shores to ward off the poachers,'' said Dusit. ''Later we successfully lobbied government agencies to slap a ban on illegal fishing within three kilometres of the island.'' The news of their triumph spread like wildfire. The media and tourists descended in hordes. Using the publicity thus generated, Dusit and his friends made a pitch for conservation of natural resources. In the mangrove on the fringe of the island the villagers began planting trees. This successful campaign won the island many admirers who travelled there, keen to learn how it was achieved. And the loose coalition of fishermen responsible for the success was forced to expand its scope, leading to the establishment of the community-based tourism club. The club runs all aspects of tourist activity including homestay service, for which tourists need to book in advance, and a choice of tour itineraries lasting two to four days. On this tour my guide was none other but Dusit, who usually finds himself assigned to English-speaking groups. It began with a visit to the club for a briefing on the island's background and geography. It was a half-day tour. Before setting out we were treated to a big seafood meal. I can assure you seafood here is really fresh, tasty and served in generous portions. ''We like guests to follow our rules: dress properly when roaming the island, no littering, no collecting shells or corals, no alcohol nor drugs,'' said Dusit. The island is quite small, running 15 kilometres north to south about 40 square kilometres in size. It is home to 5,000 people, mostly fishermen and farmers, and boasts a hospital, schools and a post office all linked by a network of roads including one that follows the coastline. Some 30 households on the island are members of the tourism club. Combined, they can accommodate up to 150 people at a time. Guests get to observe the local people's way of life via the homestay experience and the tour that includes stops at a rubber plantation, a coconut farm, a rice field, a batik shop, followed by free time on the beach. The next day we went island hopping and snorkelling. Dusit prepared a big seafood lunch served in plastic boxes with fruit and bottled water. Styrofoam cups and containers are not used. ''We are well-known for our green community and scenic beaches that we are all proud of,'' he said. The progress made by the club won it the World Legacy Award 2002, the Tourism Award 2002-04, the Hospitality Management Award 2007 from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Award for Outstanding Performances 2007 and a certificate endorsing quality of homestay service, relevant facilities and activities. ''We do what we love and we like it when people see its value. Although past experiences were exhaustive, they were worth it,'' he said. After three days on Koh Yao Noi, I too want to save this destination as my secret escape. Koh Yao Noi is easy to reach from Phuket. From the airport, take a a taxi (300 baht) to Bang Rong pier and then a speed boat to the island. For full review: /travel/localtrips/203557

Location

Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao, Phang Nga 82160 Thailand

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