Adventure cruising in Thailand lives up to it's promise of idyllic beaches, remote islands and cultural experiences. Reporter Kristin Edge goes aboard the sleek 50m Panorama 2 and sails the Andaman seas, snorkels the warm azure waters with thousands of brightly coloured fish and speaks to villagers affected by the devastating 2004 Thailand tsunami.
A rooster tail of sea water sprays into the air behind the traditional Thai long-tail boat as it motors across the Andaman sea.
The small, but muscular, captain appears to wrangle the long steering rod that is attached to the stripped down second-hand car engine, mounted at the stern of the beautifully crafted wooden hull.
The propeller attached to the end of a long pole and is powered by the roaring engine.
It's apparent physical strength and stamina is required to operate this long-tail boat - the equivalent of New York's iconic yellow taxis or tuktuks in bustling India.
They're noisy, a bit primitive but a colourful part of the Thai seascape and a great way to skim across the ocean.
The strip of dazzling golden coastline comes closer and the long tail gently slips onto the sand at our destination Baan Talay Nok – a traditional Islamic fisherman's village wiped out by the devastating 2004 tsunami.
This village is on the tourist map but the path is not so well beaten. Forget the crowds typical of most Thai tourist attractions.
The experience of getting to meet locals are the benefit of being part of a smaller cruise party.
Once ashore we soon learn a magnitude 9.15 earthquake off Indonesia triggered the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami, on Boxing Day, and left around more than 5,000 local residents as well as Thai and foreign holidaymakers dead along the Andaman Sea coastline.
Before the tsunami struck the lower village, located along the beach, it provided easy access for the fishermen to go out to sea. The tsunami destroyed all 20 houses killing 46 villagers, including 16 children.
Those in the upper village near the tropical forest could only watch as their loved ones were swept away to a watery grave.
It's hard to imagine a 30m high wall of water rearing up out of the ocean, which during our visit is flat and benign.
But one of those who was on higher ground, who could only watch her husband try and out ride the massive wave on his motorbike was Mai.
Through our guide and interpreter Ja deh we learn Mai's husband was a 27-year-old fisherman and they had been married five years before Boxing Day tragedy struck.
"He was on his motorbike he tried to go faster than the water but couldn't," Mai says.
After the devastation Mai and her daughter, then aged 3, stayed with others in the village while the Thai government came to the aid of those who had lost family by building 20 new homes in the upper village.
Mai helped build her home.
Sitting on a mat on the concrete floor of her home Mai expertly twists strips of Nypa palm leaves around her finger then pulls them out making a long twirl. After drying in the hot sun they will made into cigarette papers, providing her with an income.
Her new husband , also a fisherman, makes money from the same stretch of ocean as her first one did. Mai turns her head and looks to a tall wooden cabinet on the back wall of the modest home.
Behind a small glass door in the cabinet is a framed photo of a young Thai man.
"There he is, my first husband. He there with us, always," she says with a smile, her nimble fingers continuing to roll the strips of palm leave.
The trip into the village is topped off with a delicious meal of red and green curries and sticky rice pudding that we have helped prepare under the watchful and experienced eye of a local family.
We also take with us some beautiful scented soaps we have crafted prior to our delicious meals. It's a cottage industry helping villagers make some money to top up their incomes mostly from fishing.
In rebuilding their homes, local villagers recognised the importance of mangroves as protection from natural disasters; the new village was built having the notion of conserving nature in mind and is developing as an ecological tourist attraction.
Along the Thai coast plenty of villages suffered in the Boxing Day Tsunami. Baan Nam Kem suffered proportionately the worst losses from the tsunami of any town or city in Thailand.
Fishing boats were carried several hundred meters inland and remain where they landed as a reminder of the power of the ocean.
A Tsunami memorial bearing the names and faces of some of the 3500 Thais and foreigners who lost their lives in the area was constructed near a stretch of Nam Kem beach in 2006.
As we walk along the memorial reading the names of people from all round the world, including New Zealanders, it is once again hard to believe the relatively flat ocean could reek such death and destruction. It's a sobering moment and a reminder that the sea must be paid the utmost respect.
It may have been some 15 years ago but as our guide Pimnibha Ujjin – or Golf for short – recalls the moment she found out about the Tsunami and her emotions bubble to the surface.
"I looked at the television and there were pictures I thought looked like Thailand. I stopped and realised it was and there were temples full of dead bodies.
"Oh dear god it was a sad story and day by day there seemed to be more dead. People were coming from around the world to identify dead people."
She says she had tourists she had guided killed in the Tsunami. Their lack of email contact an indication of their death. Their names on the official toll confirmation
Now signs warn tourists they are entering Tsunami territory and the sturdy two story concrete buildings spread along the coast at regular intervals have been built for people to seek refuge in if another Tsunami should hit.
A gin-clear coral cocktail
Another exhilarating long tail boat trip takes us to an excellent snorkelling spot at Ao Su Thep in Surin Islands Marine National Park. The Surin Islands is an archipelago of five islands in the Andaman Sea, 60 km from the Thai mainland.
It's home to some of the best dive sites in the world and equally as spectacular for those who snorkel.
Holding my dive mask in place with my hand I gently roll off the side of the boat and splash into the turquoise-coloured water.
The warmth of the water envelops my body as I propel myself forward with my yellow fins.
The water is so crystal clear it's like snorkeling in gin.
The waters are home to a rich underwater ecosystem and as the brightly coloured fish swim passed it looks like some one has scattered a box of coloured confetti beneath the ocean.
It's like swimming in the movie set of Finding Nemo.
The electric blue and vibrant yellows of the Emperor Angelfish glisten in the shafts of light that make their way through the water. The striking fish uses its small mouth to feed off the staghorn coral, spitting out small items that don't take it's fancy.
There are corals galore, slipper, Elephant Ear, Tube, Leafy Crater and the massive Brain Coral.
Taking in a huge breath I duck dive and swim closer to the sea life picking out the cheeky clown fish darting in and out of the swaying tendrils of the sea anemone.
I give the Crown of Thorns Starfish a wide berth as it looks poisonous as well as lethal with the myriad of spikes coming off its arms.
Every where you look there is something new- or weird- including a bright yellow square looking fish I discover is called a box fish.
After we surface its a quick boat ride to a sandy white beach where there are no other tourists. It's hard to beat foot-print free sand and azure waters. In this heat it's not difficult to spend all day in the water so it's time for another swim.
Rain forest covers most of the islands and during a walk on the island lizards and monkeys are spotted in the lush undergrowth.
After a glorious day of snorkeling and swimming and relaxing it's back to the mother ship for drinks before diner and then more drinks.
The ship for all seas
Travelling on the Panorama 2 is made extra special by the super friendly staff, from Greek hotel manager Mark Tziamtzis who greets everyone with a smile, to bartender Ricky who has a great repertoire of cocktails.
They are part of a team of 18 staff onboard. During the eight day high seas journey they will tend to every need of the 42 guests onboard. A maximum of 49 passengers can be catered for in the 25 cabins.
As a Motor Sailer, the Panorama 2 mostly uses motors for propulsion, reaching a cruising speed of 10 knots, but also features sails for a more romantic option. The ship was fully renovated in 2015, all cabins have wood trim finishes and plush blue accents.
My cabin has two single beds a great shower and most welcome airconditioning. But I spend little time here during the cruise. And there is Wifi onboard but I spend even less time on the internet using the time to do some digital detox.
Any trip on the ocean can change due to weather conditions and this trip is no exception.
While the scheduled route had us anchoring and visiting the Similian Islands on day two, a swell meant boarding a secondary launch to take us ashore was too dangerous.
Our Captain decides we should continue to Ko Surin.
While disappointed it's an excellent opportunity to take up Captain Anargyros Komnas' invitation to visit the bridge. There is a distinct Greek influence with the captain, the two chief officers and the chief engineer all coming from Greece.
The captain and chief engineer Ioannis Tzortzakakis have a few nautical miles under their belts and a few stories that only they will share with each other, but they are only too happy to run through the array of dials and maps on the bridge.
But it's not long before they are sharing photos on their phones of other trips around the world and photos of their families and their other interests including farming goats, police and making wine.
This is another advantages of a small cruise ship. I suspect it would be very rare on cruise liners with thousands of passengers to spent three hours on the bridge getting to know the captain and his mates.
And the other bonus of having just 41 fellow passengers is by the middle of day two I can name all of my fellow passengers.
They're a great bunch of people with varied stories to tell.
Our oldest traveller celebrates his 77th birthday onboard, he's an intrepid traveller who has bought his wife and their travelling friends another couple form Aussie.
A Canadian drugs detective has taken time out from the seedy side of life in Toronto to work on her bikini tan and read her way through crime mystery novels. There are people from Israel, England, Ireland, Australia and of course you can't go anywhere in the world with Kiwis.
At meal times the upper deck is laid out and the crew in the galley produce a buffet of mouth watering meals. Just because this is a smaller ship it does not mean roughing it at all.
It's during the meals we get to know each other and a real bond is created between the passengers. What is special is birthdays onboard are celebrated with a cake, song and a drink. During our eight day cruise we celebrate at least eight.
Evenings are spent working my way through the cocktail list, dancing and getting to know my fellow travellers.
As the sun dips below the horizon and the sky darkens the lights of the fishing boats sparkle. It's like a string of fairy lights across the ocean as the crew onboard the fishing vessels work hard to catch squid attracted by the lights.
The breeze is warm and this is an idyllic way to end another day sailing the high seas.
Another thing that strikes me is the fact on this smaller ship cruise the impact on the environment is far less than more traditional cruises.
Peregrine has a number of responsible travel practices in place from community engagement to carbon offsetting to daily operations on board.
The ship is free of all single use plastic and we all make use of the complimentary reusable drink bottle.
This trip has taken me beyond the reach of mega cruisers and exposed me to some beautiful beaches away from the hordes of other tourists.
Forget the bustling tourist crowds in Phuket a jump aboard his trip which is ultimately good for the soul.