The scenery is stunning, but you have to be prepared to share it with LOTS of other people!
We did seastar's phi phi tour. Unlike comments above, we found them to be quite organised in the morning at the marina. It was explained to us that a photographer would be taking pictures, and that when we came back, we could buy our picture on a souvenir plate. But at no time on our return were we forced to look at these plates or any other items.
We booked through one of the street tour companies rather than our hotel and paid less than half the advertised rate. It was low season, so perhaps the big discount was enhanced by that, but we only paid 1400b each.
We had 36 people on our boat (3 engines), but were told their capacity is actually 45. I can appreciate that if you were on a full boat, it would be quite uncomfortable. We had a reasonable amount of room, but any more bodies would have been tight.
The first island we stopped at was only a short ride from Phuket, but I can't recall the name. Unfortunately, it was terrible. It was a very small island, covered in tourist shops and must have had 12-15 boats there. Our snorkeling area was tiny and really difficult to swim in - very shallow and rocky and though meant to be sheltered, the current kept spinning you around and sending you back towards the rocks. We spent less than five minutes in the water and then the rest of the time laying on the sand under a tree. The beach was filthy, full of cigarette butts and other litter. It was a very disappointing start. We thought there were a lot of boats on a similar trip in koh samui the week before, but it was nothing like this!
We then travelled out to phi phi don to monkey beach and for lunch. The ride out was rough, but I found it quite fun... Like a crazy roller coaster! The boat handled the waves quite well, compared to the smaller boat we'd been on in koh samui. For those that complain the drivers don't slow down over the waves... I am sure there would be others complaining it was too slow a journey if they did! The driver did not seem to be getting enjoyment over people screaming as we crashed through the waves (though in samui, they definitely did!). And although it was disappointing that the sides of the boat were too high to enable us to see much as we were travelling, it was far better than getting soaked by the endless spray of the waves that we experienced on the smaller boat in samui!
We had a short stay at monkey beach where they handed out bananas to throw to the monkeys, then headed off for lunch. I was at the tail end of a dose of travel belly, so I didn't eat and can't comment on the quality of the food, but there was plenty of fresh fruit.
We then travelled to another area to go snorkeling. I felt we had enough time there - there were some beautiful colored fish, but they mostly hang around the boats as they get fed. So after a short swim, you pretty much feel like you've seen it all and don't need to hang around too long.
We then headed to phi phi ley, passing Viking cave and going for a swim at Pileh Lagoon. Despite all of the other boats in the area (and there were a lot), this area was simply stunning and to have the chance to swim in such an amazing location was worth it. Just block out everyone else and take in the stunning scenery!
Maya Bay was our last stop. Again, lots of others there and we were in the low season, so I'm sure it can be even worse. But it is still a stunning area and lovely to have seen it.
Overall, the only stop we didn't enjoy was the first one. Beyond that, if you are willing to accept you will be surrounded by a lot of other people and can still realise that you are exceptionally lucky to have the opportunity to be in such stunning areas of the world, you'll enjoy your day. If you don't want to be around others, then don't go!
Can't fault the service of seastar though - we had friendly staff and were well informed at the outset what we would experience. Perhaps not worth their advertised price, but ask around at the street tour vendors and you'll certainly get a better deal!
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