What, transportation on a boat?
Yes indeed, once you get someplace, other transportation means become useful or even essential! First of all, the:
1) DINGHY: it’s absolutely essential to reach the shore when anchored off, and in view of the fact that in coral-fringed areas it’s common to anchor well out and quite often the only spot where it’s possible to land with the dinghy is not just in front of the anchorage, it’s advisable to have a dinghy suitable for somewhat long distances, possibly in choppy or windy conditions.
Large-diameter tubes then, and a relatively powerful (and reliable!) outboard: we had a Zodiac Fastroller, short but with large tubes, and a 4-stroke 6HP outboard which was good but heavy enough to require a crane to move it from the boat to the dinghy and back.
Although in Europe they are not sold anymore, 2-stroke engines are much lighter for the same power.
If feasible, it might be desirable to have a dinghy and an outboard motor capable of planing, making it suitable for longer-range trips away from the boat.
During a voyage like this, dinghies are subject to a lot of abuse, and the risk of theft is far from remote: better not to have expensive-looking boats, and it’s advisable to protect the tubulars from sun and scratches with a canvas cover (it’s possible to have them made-to-measure in a lot of places around the tropics).
NOTES: make sure you have a steel cable or chain and padlocks to lock the dinghy to the boat or the pontoons when you go ashore; the cable must be long, to avoid blocking the only landing-spot with a dinghy on a short leash!
If you have the room, it’s also advisable to carry a spare dinghy and outboard, not only in case of theft but also of damage: being without a dinghy is really a big problem and in many places a major repair (or buying a new one) is not feasible.
2) KAYAK: some boats carried one or two kayaks. They row much better than an inflatable boat, and in some places can be a good fun to explore nooks and crannies that cannot be accessed in an inflatable (some coral gardens in Polinesia, or the hongs of Thailand come to mind).
3) BICICLES: several yachts carried folding-bikes. Not very cheap and bulky as well, they are useful almost only when moored along a quay (carrying them ashore in the dinghy is not impossible but certainly quite cumbersome), but then they become very useful to extend one’s range to explore the neighborhood or to reach that faraway shop.
Multi-gear (roads are seldom running flat…), large weels (potholes abound!) and some means to carry packages are all important features to consider.
4) RENTAL CARS: once securely moored, we like to explore the area on our own, and renting a car is often the easiest way. Furthermore, a car is often essential for reprovisioning, as shops and supermarkets are seldom in the vicinity.
Usually it’s not too difficult to get a rental car, and prices are usually reasonable; in some remote locations, we even kept the car throughout the whole stay.
5) TAXI: sometimes, renting a car is not possible or advisable (nasty traffic/no parking/safety considerations), but then it’s usually not too hard finding more-or-less-official and more-or-less-battered taxis to carry you around.
Tariffs are usually reasonable, but beware of “tourist prices”: ask around for the market prices, and always agree on the tariff before boarding!
6) PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: sometimes public transportation is a viable alternative, and not necessarily only in the most advanced countries. Obviously shopping around in Singapore using the underground railway is good fun, but that’s really an exception!
In all Asian countries it’s common to see small, privately owned, mini-busses which follow a more-or-less-predefined itinerary and will carry you everywhere for a small amount. Never ask the price though, ask around beforehand and offer the standard fare before boarding.
7) ORGANISED TRIPS: in many of the places where there is a minimum of tourism, it’s possible to join organised trips of all sorts (on 4WD car, bus, boat, whatever!) which can be an excellent solution to be guided through the main attraction of the area.
Just ask around in the port office or the nearby hotels/restaurants/travel agents.
8) DIVING: wherever you go, you’ll find diving schools, clubs or private individuals organising expeditions to the best diving spots in the vicinity.
Be aware that almost everywhere a PADI certification will be required!
If you plan to dive on your own, ask around as in many places it is forbidden and you must join a diving club!