Phuket with kids: Koh Khai Nok, or not?

Sun, sea and sand on Koh Kha Nok, Phuket

The brochures tell us that Koh Khai Nok is a teensy tiny island tucked away in Phang Nga Bay, surrounded by turquoise water and teeming with a ridiculous quantity of fish. And, hints the glossy flyer, being just fifteen minutes by speedboat from Phuket, Koh Khai Nok with kids is a no-brainer.

After a few very busy and long days in Phuket, the island sounds like a perfectly relaxing antidote for my weary, snorkel-happy children. Unfortunately, the brochure fails to mention that there’s an hour and a quarter drive to reach said speedboat and that any relaxing can be done only if we survive it.

During our stay in Phuket, I’ve proudly watched Raffles and Sugarpuff step way out of their respective comfort zones. Raffles has taken on the Boomerango and Superbowl thrill rides at Jungle Safari Water Park – which is more than can be said for his cowardly mother – despite a long-standing phobia that is the result of a watery mishap as a toddler. And the usually timid Sugarpuff too has blossomed into something of a tropical socialite, making new friends wherever she goes.

But no matter how brave my babies have been, nothing could have prepared them, or me, for the psychotic (and seemingly deaf) driver who has us all bent over plastic bags ready to hurl as he careens around the streets of Phuket! He stops and starts, swerves wildly, runs motorcycles off roads and hoons down the wrong side of double lines into oncoming traffic – despite the protests of his terrified passengers.

It’s like being in a movie car chase and I look over my shoulder to check if we’re being followed by James Bond or Jason Bourne or some other sociopathic loon with the same initials who drives really, really fast! In fact, so convinced am I that we’re all going to die, I start singing Koh Khai Nokking on Heaven’s Door quietly to myself while trying to hold my children’s chunder bags in position.

It is at this point I realise why mention of the island back in Phuket had drawn blank stares. No one has ever survived the return trip to talk about it.

Despite our drivers best efforts we arrive in one piece at a wharf where we fall to our knees and kiss the ground. There’s just enough time to coat the kids in sunscreen and suit up with life vests for our speedboat ride. But with both of the kids already squeamish from the death-defying drive, I still can’t relax as I am expecting chunks to fly on the journey to the island.

Instead the fresh air clears their nausea and, as the boat approaches Koh Khai Nok, their tiny faces light up at the jaw-dropping sight of the tiny islet covered in sparkling snow white sand and plonked in a pretty pristine blue puddle.

Things are looking up.

Long boat in Koh Khai Nok, Phuket

At least they are until we draw closer and see that, even at this early hour, the tiny island has already been inundated with several hundred tourists packing an arsenal of selfie-sticks. And there is not another kid in sight.

Koh Khai Nok is not so pretty when it's over crowded with tourists an their selfie-sticks

We’ve already forked out an awful lot of money for our little adventure, so we’re surprised when we’re told we have to pay for the use of one of the umbrella covered beach chairs. But given it’s around 41 degrees and there is literally no other shade on the Island, I cough up the cash and start lathering on another litre or two of 5000+.

Sugarpuff is all about kicking back. Koh Khai Nok with Kids

With enough sunscreen on the kids to block the whole in the ozone layer I finally stop for a moment to properly survey the island.

Kicking back on Koh Khai Nok

In the centre are quaint stalls and restaurants selling everything from sarongs to ice cream. There’s a rickety timber bar perched prettily on a rock and several traditional long boats, strewn with flowers, are floating by the edge of the beach. Despite the swarm of selfie-obsessed humanity, it is an undeniably pretty scene.

Raffles loves the long boats; Raffles loves getting up close with the eleventy billion fish: Koh Khai Nok with kids

Our tour guide interrupts my reverie to show us the way to the island’s best snorkelling spot. We attempt to navigate our way around the 41,234 people already crammed in to the pretty but tiny area… and then things get a little complicated.

Raffles loves getting up close with the eleventy billion fish: Koh Khai Nok with kids

You see, Raffles is desperate to snorkel amongst the billions of fish we can spy in the shallow water, but Sugarpuff is passionate about staying on the beach to collect treasures. I am equally keen that neither one of them drown due to an inattentive parent. None of us are prepared to budge and much bickering ensues. With Mr Eats World sadly back in Australia at work, I’m flying solo on this trip. Working out how I can safely watch them both do their thing makes my brain explode a little bit, and my already substantial awe of single parents soars. How do they manage this shit every day?

There’s no choice but to take it in turns, Raffles snorkels while I standby in the shallows with Sugarpuff on one hip as a shoal of pretty tropical fish, who are punching way above their weight, attempts to chew my legs off.

Snorkelling amongst the tropical fish off Koh Khai Nok

Then it is Sugarpuff’s turn. Raffles is forcibly removed form the fish-filled water so I can assist her in scouring the shoreline for shells and bits of broken coral without leaving him to drown. For the next few hours, between liberal slathering’s of sunscreen, the kids alternate their individual island quests. Raffles is utterly enchanted by his underwater encounters and Sugarpuff too – having plundered the island’s considerable treasure (which will be left behind, albeit in newly formed piles) – is in her happy place.

Koh Khai Nok with kids

In our final thirty minutes on the island, the crowds mysteriously disperse, and Khai Nok finally becomes the picture-perfect paradise of the brochures.

Koh Khai Nok with kids
But by the time we’re due for our return speedboat ride, I sulkily realise that I’ve been so busy keeping the kids happy I haven’t even managed a dip into that irresistibly pale blue water. So I do what any sensible parent would… pop them both into the speedboat with our guide and dunk myself head first into the water to marinate in it for a few magic moments.

Three hours later and i still haven't managed a dip in the beautiful blue at Koh Khai Nok

And what bliss that thirty seconds is.

After our return speed boat trip, we find lunch waiting for us under flame-hued flowers. While the kids chow down on curry and tom yum, I have a quiet chat to the tour organisers about the chance of us finding an alternative route back to town.

Flame hued flowers in Phuket

I’m soon joined by a throng of fellow passengers equally insistent that they’re not prepared to get in to any vehicle driven by their psychotic stunt driver. Happily, they acquiesce and with a sane person installed in the driver’s seat we all head back to town in safety, happy to have seen the pretty island but happier still to be back in the safety of our resort in one piece.

So would I recommend an excursion to Koh Khai Nok with kids? Sure. As long as you’re prepared for the long drive to get there, have a plan to accommodate the differing needs of your kids if you’re travelling solo, carry several litres of sunscreen and a sick bag, don’t have an aversion to wading through a sea of selfie-sticks, and can possibly avoid sociopathic drivers, it can make for a pretty and pleasure packed few hours.


16 Comments on Phuket with kids: Koh Khai Nok, or not?

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    April 28, 2016 at 11:16 pm (8 years ago)

    Wow what a trip! And those beaches with so many selfie stick carrying tourists can definitely get overwhelming. You all look serene in the photos but the story tells us the real tale 😉

      April 30, 2016 at 10:19 pm (8 years ago)

      The key to it’s serene beauty is all in the editing. 😉

  2. Jennifer St Louis
    April 29, 2016 at 1:51 am (8 years ago)

    Great post! I can handle a long drive and a sociopathic driver but several hundred tourists with selfie-sticks would be my breaking point. The water looks amazing!

      April 30, 2016 at 10:18 pm (8 years ago)

      It was. AT least the few metres of it that were free of swarms of selfie-obsessed humanity

  3. Amy @ HandbagMafia
    April 29, 2016 at 7:38 am (8 years ago)

    I am totally living vicariously through your travels- gorgeous!

  4. Vanessa
    April 29, 2016 at 8:13 am (8 years ago)

    It looks gorgeous but sounds too crowded for me!!

      April 30, 2016 at 10:17 pm (8 years ago)

      It was way too crowded. Paradise isn’t quite so pretty when it’s packed with posers! 🙂

  5. Vicki @ Knocked Up & Abroad
    April 30, 2016 at 7:55 am (8 years ago)

    Well it looks gorgeous but I can appreciate the difficulties to experience it. I recall these all too well and even the whole parenting challenge of trying to accomodate everyones desires and forgetting to enjoy a place myself because, too busy parenting. I salute solo parenting, what an onslaught!

      April 30, 2016 at 10:17 pm (8 years ago)

      It’s a juggle. Solo parents are my heroes

  6. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    April 30, 2016 at 10:05 am (8 years ago)

    It looks picture perfect but you know what they say, every picture tells a story. I felt car sick just reading about that journey!

      April 30, 2016 at 10:16 pm (8 years ago)

      It was beautiful. And the kids had an awesome day. At least I can laugh about the getting there now.

  7. Cristin @ Between Roots and Wings
    April 30, 2016 at 8:57 pm (8 years ago)

    I feel a little sick just thinking about that horrible ride to the boat. It does look beautiful on the island – glad to hear you got a few minutes of paradise, at least!

      April 30, 2016 at 10:15 pm (8 years ago)

      It was the single most terrifying car trip of my life. Just glad we all got out unscathed.

  8. mamagrace71
    May 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm (8 years ago)

    Definitely an adventure you guys won’t be forgetting any time soon! Traveling around Asia can be a real hit and miss, can’t it? And just when you think you’re safe from all the other tourists…nope.
    Love all those fishes that Raffles got to swim with, though. I made that made it all worthwhile x

  9. Jane
    May 10, 2016 at 11:23 pm (8 years ago)

    I remember reading in a book one ‘don’t pack your expectations’… which sometimes applies when we travel with kids! Loved your article and glad you all found the fun in the trip. Wish we had seen that many fish when we were in Thailand last year…


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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