The long, brightly painted longboat thumped and skipped across the sparkling Andaman sea, throwing up ghostly wisps of spray that vanished as quickly as they came. Ahead of us, something hugely impressive was filling our field of vision.
The outcrop known as James Bond island looked like nothing so much as some jagged, long decayed molar, flung from the heavens into the ocean by a vengeful god. Stark and swathed in serried layers of dense green foliage, it loomed up in front of us like some ancient monolith.
The island itself is known to the locals as Koh Tapu, but it will always be always ‘James Bond Island’ for the estimated three thousand or so visitors who make the pilgrimage to it each day. It starred as the lair of Scaramanga, Bond’s would- be nemesis in The Man with The Golden Gun, and was used again as a backdrop for the more contemporary Tomorrow Never Dies.
Truth be told, it’s not hard to see why Koh Tapu makes for such a great locale. It is by turns part impregnable fortress and prison. The soaring limestone face has an imperious, craggy stance. Studded with small caves at different heights that look like gaping battle scars, it has an air of aggressive self confidence; the perfect lair for any cultured megalomaniac.
And yet… as we beetled up to the brute… it revealed a softer, more layered facade just under the surface. The clumps of gaunt white limestone came splashed with shades of silver, grey and even rust red in places. What seemed like one solid facade folded back into several layers. Maybe the scales of some ancient sea dragon? In this land of half realised myth and legends, who knew the real truth?
The vast, emerald green carpet that sheathed and shielded the exterior was reflected almost to perfection in the still, silent expanse of water that lapped at the base of the island. At one point, small boats could actually sail right through the middle to emerge on the other side.
Our visit to Koh Tapu was only one of the string of highlights on our cruise aboard the smart, stylish little Aegean Odyssey. The Voyages to Antiquity team created a series of excursions that unveiled a series of shimmering, magical experiences with almost each new day. And while I was stunned and awed by the jagged majesty of Koh Tapu, there was more- much more- waiting just beyond the line of the horizon…..