Before being chosen as location for the 1974 Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun Ko Khao Phing Kan was a rarely visited indigenous area. After the movie release it turned into a popular tourist destination and it is popularly called James Bond Island.
In the movie the islands were the hideouts for Bond's antagonist, Francisco Scaramanga. Koh Khao Phing Kan in Phang-Nga Bay was the bad guy’s base and cone-shaped Koh Tapu was where he hid what we would call today a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.
There is no doubt that James Bond Island is a ‘must see’ destination but just be aware of what you will get. Most people reach the island by tour and although there are some genuinely beautiful sights to be seen, the tours usually involve you being dropped of on a beach to be confronted by swarms of vendors trying to palm off tasteless souvenirs! The flow of tourists has gradually contaminated Khao Phing Kan with household litter.
Ko Tapu is the tall islet most commonly featured in the photos. It is a limestone rock about 20 metres tall with the diameter increasing from about 4 metres near the water level to about 8 metres at the top. Since 1998, it is forbidden for tourist boats to approach Ko Tapu. This measure aims to stop erosion of the limestone rocks on and near the islet that might eventually result in its collapse.
There is a bus boat that moves around the islands and ends up at James Bond Island but by far the largest number of people do this trip via a tour that leaves from Phuket and takes people through some of the major sites on the way. Alternatively, take a boat cruise from the north of Phuket Island – less crowds and a bit quieter.
The tours do often include a lunch at Koh Panyi which is a step in the right direction.