Inside Thailand’s new adults-only island retreat
Forget breakfast in bed – the first meal of our day was about to arrive in serious style: floating in our private pool.
We’re in a luxury adults-only glamping retreat on a Thai island most people have never heard of.
Koh Yao Noi is often described as an untouched paradise of Thailand; almost unbelievable given it’s only a 30-minute boat ride from the holiday hotspot of Phuket, which has been ruined by mass tourism.
The just-opened 9 Hornbills luxury glamping retreat is one of a smattering of resorts on the island which overlook the stunning Phang Nga Bay – featuring dozens of towering limestone islands that jut dramatically straight out of the water.
The resort has 7 large African-style safari tents set on a hill a few hundreds metres away from the beach – which you zip down to with a golf buggy.
The retreat is designed to give a real camping-type experience.
It is even equipped with an outdoor shower.
But luxury is never far away with features like his and her bathroom sinks inside the tent.
We’d ordered our floating breakfast for 6.30am – alarmingly ambitious for a sleepy tropical island.
But as the first rays of light reflected off the emerald-green bay, our elaborate breakfast was being setup in the pool.
By the time we emerged from the tent an eggs benedict, fruit salad, omelet, fresh coconut, fruit juices and a latte were all floating in a large tray on our pool.
While the breakfast was stunning, it’s easy to be distracted by the backdrop of Phang Bay.
But the islands are much more than beauty.
They’re a treasure trove for brave hunters who risk their lives to make a fortune.
It takes just 20-minutes to reach the first island by long tail boat – and with it emerges a clue as to their mysterious use: wedged along the cliffs of the limestone rock face are tiny bamboo ladders which disappear precariously into dark holes.
The islands are a nesting spot for swiftlets, and the nest – made out of the birds saliva – sell for huge sums all throughout Asia, sometimes more than $2000 a kilo.
They are used to make bird’s nest soup; reputed to be highly nutritious.
A number of islands even have small caves where nest collectors live for a few months each year. It’s dangerous work; some collectors are killed from nasty falls.
Aside from getting an insight into the lives of nest collectors, the islands also have dozens of small secluded beaches and hidden lagoons you can spend the day exploring.
Back at the lodge, after a long day exploring, a candlelit dinner is being prepared for us to enjoy under the star
The island has a sense of calm that’s pretty hard to find anywhere in Thailand: it’s quiet, underdeveloped and a place where most locals still rely on a traditional way of life.
Get there and experience it before everyone else discovers it too.