Boat Rides and an Elephant Sanctuary: Phuket’s Best Outdoor Activities

Sunset on Patong Beach is not to be missed
Sunset on Patong Beach is not to be missed | © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lynn Carratt
5 September 2021

Blessed with a stunning coastline and tropical weather, Phuket is the perfect place for an active adventure in the open air.

Known as the Pearl of the Andaman, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. Located on the country’s southwestern coast, it is a magnet for outdoor adventurers and beach-loving tourists. You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy the outdoors here, though – here are the best activities for everyone to enjoy in Phuket, and the best seasons in which to do them.

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Enjoy a seafood barbecue on a boat

Restaurant, Bar, BBQ
Courtesy of Phuket Goodwill Tours

The legendary Phijittra is a unique three-storey boat decked with Chinese dragons and exquisite Chinese art. It whisks visitors off for a three-hour cruise to enjoy the sunset over the Andaman Sea, and there is no other boat like it on the island. For many, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Guests can enjoy a delicious seafood barbecue buffet and a variety of drinks, while watching the vibrant hues of red, blended with oranges and purples, disappear into the darkness. The dragon boat experience is an excursion that runs year-round. However, there may be some cancellations between the rainy season months of April through to November. The Phijittra boat departs from the quiet port of Chalong Bayon on Phuket’s south coast every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5pm. An adult ticket is £54, children get on board for a reduced price and those under six go free.

Visit an elephant sanctuary

© Chris Miller / Alamy Stock Photo

This sanctuary was the first ethical tourism experience to be developed in Phuket. Set in 30 acres (12 hectares) of tropical jungle, it is the final resting place for many elephants. One of the sanctuary’s primary purposes is to rescue sick, injured and abused elephants and rehabilitate them. Visitors can enjoy an eye-opening experience with the gentle giants in many ways, the most popular being to spend a morning or an afternoon touring the sanctuary. The tour lasts for three hours, and guests are given the opportunity to feed the elephants and walk side by side with them in their natural habitat. It is important to note that the wellbeing and protection of the elephants is the sanctuary’s top priority, therefore they do not offer rides or trunk hugging. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is open daily all year round. Tickets for kids are half price and children under six get in for free.

Take a day trip to the Phi Phi Islands

Natural Feature
Boats to the Islands of Thailand, Asia
J7184W Boats to the Islands of Thailand, Asia | © KURLIN_CAfE / Alamy Stock Photo
Phi Phi is a group of six stunning islands that lie to the southwest of Phuket. The pearly white sand beaches and picture-postcard turquoise waters make for an ideal day’s escape. The largest of the islands, Koh Phi Phi Don, is just a 45-minute speedboat ride, or a two-hour ferry journey, from Phuket. Movie lovers will probably recognise the name Maya Beach on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh, which became world-famous following the 1999 Danny Boyle film, The Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio. Unfortunately, due to the strain of thousands of daily visitors that severely damaged the environment, it has now closed until 2021, giving it time to recover. However, there are plenty of other experiences to enjoy in the meantime including the Viking Cave, Monkey Beach and Bamboo Island.The best time to visit is in Thailand’s high season of November through April, when seas are calm, as rough seas from May to October may hinder journeys. The cost of a return Phuket ferry ticket starts at £20, and the ferries run every 1.5hrs between Rassada Pier in Phuket to Tonsai Pier in Phi Phi. Organised trips are available from tour operators throughout Phuket and start at around £25.

See the majestic Big Buddha

Architectural Landmark
areial photography Phuket big Buddha in blue sky. Phuket Big Buddha is one of the Phuket island most important and revered landmarks on Phuket island
R6R3K0 areial photography Phuket big Buddha in blue sky. Phuket Big Buddha is one of the Phuket island most important and revered landmarks on Phuket island | © Narong Niemhom / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the most popular and important landmarks in Phuket is the Big Buddha, or The Great Buddha of Phuket. Located on Mount Nagakerd, the statue complex offers visitors beautiful views of Chalong Bay. First opened in 2014, the majestic structure is made of white jade and is 45 metres (148ft) high and 25 metres (82ft) wide, making it a humbling experience to visit. Next to the central Buddha is a smaller Buddha statue, which is gold in colour and made of 20 tonnes of brass. Entrance to the Buddha is free, but visitors can purchase a gold metal leaf to write a message on and hang up, which is a great way to donate money towards the upkeep. The Big Buddha is open daily from 6am-7pm, but on rainy days, the journey up to the mountaintop can be difficult, so it might be best to avoid. Also, it is essential to remember that it is a religious site, so no shorts or short-sleeve tops.

Challenge yourself with a bungee jump

Amusement Park, Natural Feature
© Ville Palonen / Alamy Stock Photo

A bungee jump in Phuket is an adventurous yet memorable experience. Let yourself plunge 50 metres (164ft) over a lake surrounded by jungle and feel the exhilaration while witnessing an amazing view over the whole of the island. Just a fifteen-minute drive from the lively resort of Patong Beach lies Jungle Bungy, managed and run by a professional team from New Zealand. They offer the choice of five different jumping styles, including a standard bungee, a backwards bungee and a catapult bungee. The best time to attempt a bungee jump is in the dry season from November through to April. Prices start from £54, and participants must be aged over 18.

Note: January and February are the peak months for travel to Phuket, so if you’re not a fan of crowds, it is best to avoid this time. Thailand is famous for its rainy season, and it visits Phuket from April through to October, but if you can deal with a daily evening downpour, this is the best time to bag yourself a bargain. The flight and hotel costs are low, and the beaches and attractions are less crowded.

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