Krabi Tours – We recently added this new and original Krabi Kayaking tour program to our selection and the feedback from the first customers was really good, so as we always do I had to try it first hand in order to fully understand how it works so I can give better explanations to those interested in it, especially for this tour which is very different from the usual ones available from Phuket.
Pick up at Easy Day’s office in Kathu was on time at 7:45 as planned, then in the van I greeted the few other guests met the guide Som. We already knew each other since she was also guiding the Kapong River Tubing Safari Tour when I did it last year, so I already knew that me and my fellow travellers were in very good hands for the day. Regardless of the beauty of the sites you visit, a great tour guide’s skills, knowledge and attention can really make the difference.
The drive to Wat Bang Rieng which is located north of Phang Nga Town on the mainland takes about 2 hours, so instead of going straight there we had a first stop about half way at a kind of zoo/sanctuary located not far past the Sarasin Bridge. The guide explained that this is a place where they keep and give care to the animals that are seized from the illegal poachers that abused them for profit purposes, as well as other animals that got injured and need to be treated before being released in the wild. There were large cages hosting different primates like slow lorises, gibbons and macaques as well as birds, felines and others. The place looked very clean and the animals looked healthy and well looked after. This has been a good place to spend half an hour stretching our legs before proceeding with the trip towards Phang Nga.
Back in the minivan for another hour or so, we finally arrived at one of the highlights of the day, Wat Bang Rieng. This is probably my favorite temple in Thailand, at least among the ones I’ve seen so far. There’s something magical about the place, the complex is made of a main pagoda and two huge statues, one is of a golden seated Buddha while the other is a less common statue of Kwan Yin, (Chinese Goddess of Mercy and Compassion). The parts are stretched across different hills/mountains, the views from the top are simply breathtaking and there’s a unique mix of culture and nature.
The interior of the main pagoda is also very particular featuring warrior-shaped pillars, frescoes and a relic of the Buddha. This is also one of the few places where with a bit of luck can spot the Giant Black Squirrel, we actually managed to find one but it was sleeping on a shaded and high branch so I couldn’t take a decent picture. On the other hand, while walking back to the parking lot we stumbled on a “normal” brown squirrel that was happily eating a papaya which was bigger than the squirrel itself, quite a funny sight I must say.
The next stop was at at the area called Bor Thor, characterised by the tidal channels surrounded by mangrove forest and karsts, part of the Tan Bok Korani National Park, which is where the kayaking part of this day trip takes place. The area is at the northern edge of Phang Nga Bay, on previous tours I explored and kayaked around the huge bay a lot but always on the western and southern part, so this was a completely new experience for me.
Now I can say that this less known area is every bit as good as the more popular parts of Phang Nga Bay, it even has some unique peculiarities. The starting point of the kayaking tour is the floating restaurant where the lunch was served later on, before departing for the adventure we were given the opportunity to choose between self-paddling or having a professional paddler, I’m a bit out of shape so I thought that I needed a bit of exercise, therefore I opted for the first option.
The canoe tour lasted about 90 minutes altogether, back and forth through a first larger and then a narrower mangrove channel, and a middle part where we parked the kayaks for a while to explore a huge cave. The mangrove part of the tour was very nice, completely immersed in the natural environment of a thick mangrove forest with the impressive karst cliffs all around, we even paddled through some narrow openings in the rock all the way inside a “hong”, and later through a larger and longer cave (Tham Lod) full of stalactites.
Then the cave exploration by walk was really amazing, not only because the cave is huge and full of stalactites and stalagmites, but mainly because this cave called Tham Pee Hua To (“cave of the big head ghost”) hosts some very interesting prehistoric paintings probably made by people who found shelter there from the heavy rains in ancient times. There’s even a large boulder that resembles a skull, probably that’s where the cave’s nae comes from.
The set lunch was ready shortly after we returned to the restaurant, as usual there was a selection of 4-5 Thai dishes with plenty to eat for everyone. On the day’s set menu was the popular Tom Yum Seafood, a vegetarian dish, Chicken with Cashew Nuts and fried fish, everything was tasty and still warm. The restaurant is pretty big and floating on the mangrove channel so the scenery is quite nice, while there we crossed paths with a large group of Chinese tourists but only for a moment, while for the rest of the time both during lunch and kayaking we were almost alone. Looks like the tour schedule is well planned to run a bit off time and avoid the larger crowds.
Back on the van, we stopped at an Elephant Camp just about 10 minutes away from the restaurant I already did this activity several times in different parts of Thailand and must say that this wasn’t the most impressive one. The trek mainly takes place through a palm oil plantation (it’s the main industry in the area) and just a little bit through the jungle. On the other hand the elephants seemed healthy and well treated by the staff, which is an important point. This is an optional activity in this Day Trip and in the overall it can still a good experience for someone who’s never tried Elephant Trekking, while those who already experienced it in the jungle or in more natural an genuine environment could probably skip it without regrets.
Some 5 minuites away from the Elaphant Camp we had our last stop of the day, last but not least since it was no less amazing than what we had done so far. Than Bok Korani Waterfall is part of the same national park that covers some of the islands in Krabi as well as the mangroves and caves that we visited earlier in the day. I had been to this place by myself last year during the rainy season and it was totally flooded by brown water due to the heavy rains, now that I returned at the right time of the year can say that the place is really beautiful.
The waterfall is not a vertical one so do not expect something impressive in that sense, but more because it’s a river coming from inside a cave that splits into an endless number of waterfalls and streams creating an environment that looks as it came out of a fairy tale. The stepping grounds create a lot of little falls and pools where is possible to swim, the water has a nice turquoise color due to the deposit of diluted calcite from the surrounding mountains and it was surprisingly warm. I couldn’t think of anything better than a bath in this waterfall to relax at the end of a exciting day like this, it was really pleasant to relax there for nearly an hour. Aside from the waterfall itself, the area is very interesting also because of the large variety of plants and the story behind them, since many were planted directly by the Royal Family.
After about one hour chilling out at the waterfall it was time to go back to Phuket. We left Krabi around 17:30 and I was back at our office in Kathu by 19:30 or so, a bit tired but definitely happy at the end of a wonderful day in the nature.
I can’t find much negative points about this tour aside from the length, which means I would highly recommend it to anyone except for those who prefer to avoid long full day trips. Most definitely a must do tour during the dry season (December to April), while I wouldn’t recommend it much during the rainy season or at least in the days after heavy rains as in that case the waterfall would have a completely different “face” being flooded by brown water.
This tour can also be a good solution to “hit two birds with one stone” for those who must move from a hotel in Phuket to a new one in Krabi area, since a drop off at Krabi hotels can be arranged with a fair surcharge.