Thailand is one of those places that you just have to see to believe. With is expansive white sand beaches, breath taking lagoons and canyons, delectable food and affordable prices, it’s no secret that Thailand hits the top of many peoples bucket lists. Just a short 2 hour drive from Phuket airport lies Khao Lak, a hidden gem along the Thai coastline, boasting a plethora of outdoor activities, cultural excursions and an idyllic setting. In this post I have outlined the top things to do in Khao Lak to make the most out of your next trip to the area.
- Elephant Retreat Feeding and Bathing – elephants are by far my favourite animals in the entire world, and once I heard that there was an elephant retreat not too far from our resort, it didn’t take much convincing for me to organise it! We booked our tour through Eco Khao Lak Adventures who provided the transfers and guides for the day. On arrival at the retreat, we were given an introductory talk by the staff who run the sanctuary. They gave us an in depth description of the life of the elephant trainers, or mahouts, and of course the elephants themselves and the trouble they have had as a species overall with worldwide poaching. It was fascinating to learn how the mahouts literally dedicate their whole life to these wonderful creatures, bringing their wives and children to live with them onsite.
Next, we were given baskets of fruit to feed to the elephants, from which they would reach out their trunks to accept banana after banana.
We were then taken to the river at which time we had changed into swimwear to help the mahouts bathe and wash the elephants. This really was an experience I will never forget ! Each couple or family was assigned an elephant and given a set of brushes. The mahouts ushered us into the water and showed us how to bathe the elephants. It appeared that they deeply enjoyed it, I mean who wouldn’t love a cooling bath and a back scratch!?
- Tour of the Phi Phi Islands – this had been on my bucket list for so many years, and it did not disappoint! I booked this tour through Eco Khao Lak Adventures again, who were prompt for our pickup and fantastic at keeping me updated even before I arrived in Thailand. This tour is a very long day as it has a very early start; if you choose to do this tour I recommend you book it a few days into your trip when you have overcome jet lag a bit. We were picked up at around 3am by our shuttle before making a few stops picking up other guests on the way to Phuket Royal Marina. The resort that we were staying at (Beyond Resort Khao Lak) was furthest from the marina so we were picked up first (and earliest!).
On arrival at the marina, we were offered a complimentary breakfast at one of the cafes surrounding the plaza. There were a lot of tour groups meeting here, all determined to get to the best tour spots before the majority of other tourists. As we were ushered to our boat with the other guests on the tour, we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise on the horizon, which definitely made the early wake up worth it!
Our first stop was to Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh which features THE beach from the famous film, “The Beach” – unfortunately, as the time of our tour the beach was closed so that the nature and wildlife could recover after years of over-tourism in the area. We were still able to pass by fairly close, and it really was just as awe-inspiring as it was in the movie.
Our next point on the tour was to Pileh Lagoon for a brief stop for snorkelling and swimming. This location is famous for being featured in the film, “Blue Lagoon”, and you can understand why, the emerald waters and tall, towering limestone cliffs are what Pinterest travel boards are made of!
We had a couple of other snorkeling stops on to our next location – Monkey Beach. The beach was absolutely stunning, powdery white sand with the enormous cliffs providing a dramatic backdrop; and even though we didn’t see any of the monkeys during our short trip here, it still remains one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
For lunch, our boat sped through the Phi Phi island archipelago to Bamboo Island, where the crew prepared a wonderful BBQ lunch for the guests of the boat. We were given time to explore the island and indulge in the crystal clear waters that surrounded it before starting our return back to Phuket marina at around 3pm.
It was nearing dinner time by the time the shuttle dropped us off back at the resort, a very tiring day but one I will remember forever!
- Exotic Fishing Thailand – this was by far the most epic fishing experience we have ever had, of which my husband can vouch (and he is a much more experienced fisherman than I!). We arranged a transfer through Eco Khao Lak adventures again who took us in a direct private shuttle. The fishing resort boasts an incredible lake with breathtaking views from an overlooking canyon, an onsite restaurant and private rooms if you wanted to stay overnight. Once we had paid for our day pass (which was very reasonable compared to fishing experiences in other countries), the staff outlined the rules and regulations and introduced us to our guide for the day. We were assigned a private cabana overlooking the lake with two fishing rods. The cabana had various seating options and ample shade to escape the sun in the middle of the day. Our guide baited the rods and cast them out into the lake for us. We didn’t have to wait too long for our first bite, my husband rushed up to the rod and began reeling it in. It was an Amazonian Red Tailed Catfish and put up an incredible fight! With the help of our exceptional guide we were able to reel the monster fish into a small netted area where it was given oxygen and I prepared to get in the water to take a picture with the fish. This was one thing I was particularly impressed with at Exotic Fishing – the gentle and humane way that they treated any fish caught. They were allowed to recover in an oxygen tank and would at no point be lifted out of the water – any photographs you wanted with the fish would involve you physically getting in to the lake and supporting the fish from underneath.
Another plus of visiting this wonderful resort was the ability to place food and drinks orders from your cabana and have it delivered directly to you. At various intervals throughout the day, the staff would cycle around to check if you needed anything and to take any food and beverage orders.
We caught another three fish over the course of the next few hours, it was incredibly exhilarating! At the end of such an epic filled day we tipped our guide generously and thanked him for all of his help and skills in making our day truly wonderful.
- Beach Bar Hop – walk down the beach, grab a cocktail and sample some of the local delicacies, from the classic Pad Thai to mango sticky rice. The cost of eating out is incredibly favourable, and a fraction of the price compared to many other places in the United States and Europe. Most cocktails were in the ballpark of $1-2 and with most main courses <$5. At one restaurant, we even ordered half a lobster caught fresh that morning for just over $5 including accompaniments! Some of my favourite restaurants in Khao Lak were – KruaThai, Chil-lay, Boom Boom, Elicious, Pason and Mr Bao family restaurant – stay tuned for my upcoming blog article on what to eat around Khao Lak!
- Get a traditional Thai Massage – what better place to get a traditional Thai message than Thailand?! And there are plenty to choose from! I recommend getting one from one of the lovely massiesus on the beach, they are incredibly affordable and you can’t beat a relaxing massage listening to the waves break on the shore!
- A visit to James bond Island – a visit to the famous location is commonly top of many people’s must see list, and for good reason! This iconic landmark was featured in the James Bond movie, “The Man With The Golden Gun” and is just as awe-inspiring in real life! Tours to James Bond Island often include visits to sea caves by canoe, mangrove forests and nearby fishing villages.
- Sea Turtle Conservation Center – Phang Nga Naval Base – this was a great little place to visit for an afternoon, they have various different pools for endangered sea turtles and marine fish, depending on the age and species. The staff and volunteers working there were very knowledgeable about the creatures, and I recommend you schedule your visit during feeding time as this was wonderful to watch! There is a small gift shop on site with which the proceeds go towards the research efforts and rehabilitation of the sea turtles.
Have you been to Khao Lak or plan to? Let me know in the comments below!