Phuket is Thailand’s biggest and busiest island and has long been considered the quintessential ‘beach vacation’ in the country. As tourism in Phuket has grown and the beaches are taken over by big name resorts, many believe it has lost some of that Thai island magic along the way. However, at Buffalo Tours, we pride ourselves in finding the new, unique and often hidden gems of all our destinations. Phuket is no different.
So, what is there to do beyond the beach and outside of your 5* resort package? For gastronomers, history-lovers and adventure fiends alike, there are plenty of unique things to do in Phuket.
Sealand Phuket Camp
Close to Phang Nga City, Sealand Phuket Camp is reached via a breathtaking drive through jungle and beside sheer cliffs. Here, you will find an adventure camp with an interesting story to tell. As well as their adventure packages, that include exhilarating white water rafting trips, the camp is home to a family of elephants.
Buffalo Tours are extremely passionate about responsible wildlife tourism and in 2015 audited elephant camps across Asia. Sealand camp did not pass our intensive audit. However, with the help of our expert team of responsible tourism champions, we helped Sealand understand how they could offer responsible activities- that focus on the overall well-being of the elephants- while continuing to bring clients and revenue to the camp.
If, like us, you are fascinated by these gentle giants, make the effort to find an elephant camp that is fully qualified in leading responsible activities. As tourists, your choices are what could really change the face of wildlife tourism in Thailand. For more information on this issue and the other qualified camps, head to the Forbes Asia feature on Buffalo Tours initiatives.
Rum Distillery Tour in Phuket
If you are looking for unique activities for after the sun goes down, avoid chaotic Patong and head to Chalong Bay. You can discover all there is to know about small batch rum distilling on our Phuket Master Class experience. Chalong Bay Rum is crafted with 100% Thai sugarcane, sustainably sourced from local farmers, and processed using traditional French machinery. It is smooth, pure and tastes a little like paradise.
What better way to appreciate it than seeing how it’s made, before trying your hand at cocktail creation alongside the experts? These guys are seriously passionate, and you will be too after spending an evening of rum sampling with them.
Phang Nga National Marine Park
The picture perfect beaches of Phuket are not the only natural beauty in the area. Nearby Phang Nga National Marine Park hosts some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Southern Thailand. The best way to see the park is by taking a cruise through the mangrove forests and jungle clad karst islands. This gives you the opportunity to take in a vast area of the bay while stopping along the way to snorkel, kayak and explore hidden caves.
For an extra cultural element, visit Koh Pannyi. This is a small fishing village famous for its traditional stilted and floating homes. The locals that live in this area are known as “Sea Gypsies”, as they live almost their entire lives on water. Most locals make their living off of fishing or other seafaring trades.
Phuket’s Old Town is well worth a day away from the beach and is a surprise to many visitors. Wander through quaint streets lined with Sino-Portuguese shop houses and grand mansions – a legacy of the island’s booming tin trade. Each building here tells the story of how the British, French and Portuguese descended upon Phuket island to seek their fortune in tin mining. Most are beautifully preserved testaments to this significant period in Phuket’s history. Today, the buildings have been turned into charming cafes, galleries, restaurants and boutique shops. It’s easy to spend a few hours perusing here, stepping in every now and again for a refreshment, souvenir or respite from the heat.
While all the major resorts have high-class eating options, we encourage you to get out onto the streets at least once on your Phuket trip. After all, Thai street food is arguably the best street food in the world!
A great street food tour will take you to markets and street corners, as well as restaurants, to help you find the best local foodie spots. On the bustling streets of old town Phuket you may just discover a life-long love of Thai cuisine.
Are you intrigued by all that Phuket has to offer? Is there anything we have missed? Talk to one of our travel experts today to see what you could discover in Phuket.