Dec 07 2011
Although Ko Samui does not have much to offer in the way of true ‘wildlife’ experiences, a few activities will keep animal-loving kids entertained. Samui doesn’t have any wildlife sanctuaries or national parks — somewhere like Laos would be the place to really get back to nature, where you can visit gibbons in their natural habitat — but there are still forested areas and beaches to explore, and plenty of Thailand’s insect, reptile and sea life to discover. You may even be lucky enough to share your bungalow with a tokay gecko!
Elephant trekking is offered in several locations on Samui, the most popular treks being at Namuang 1 Waterfall and Wat Hin Lad in Nathon. Visitors get a chance to explore the forest atop Asia’s giants in specially designed seats strapped to the elephant’s back. Kids will love the swaying motion as ellies amble along jungle paths and across rivers and rocks near the waterfalls. Standard trips last half an hour — longer are available, but the novelty can wear off fast. It can also be a bit commercial — you can usually purchase photos of yourself and your giant mode of transport. Nevertheless, it is a pleasant way to encounter these animals that were once employed in Thailand for logging work.
Paradise Park Farm
Located high above Lipa Noi atop of Pom Mountain, Paradise Park Farm offers spectacular views and a pleasant day out. The drive up can be a little hairy, so make use of the pickup service from the main road if you have not hired a 4×4. Walkways and trails wind through a large expanse of forested hills. The restaurant and infinity pool offer spectacular views over the west coast and to the Five Islands. Kids can explore the enclosures containing the usual petting farm inhabitants and well as a few bizarre ones, such as the painted doves.
After researching this, apparently they are fed food colouring in egg yolk and not painted by hand, but decide for yourself! Other interesting residents include tiny hedgehogs, deer that harass you for food and Coco the monkey, who has a pet guinea pig that he likes to brush.
Not terribly exciting for adults, but kids love butterflies, the fairies of the insect world. Opposite Central Samui Village, the Samui Butterfly Farm is located on a steep hill, in a pleasant floral garden, covered by a high net to contain the star attractions. The farm breeds its own butterflies, and has a fair selection of caterpillars, cocoons and adult butterflies. Try to go early in the morning as it is a steep climb to the top and can be very steamy. Practise your photo skills while the kids explore.
Where NOT to go
We do not recommend that you visit the Aquarium and Tiger Zoo, as besides being ridiculously over-priced, the tigers are kept in small enclosures with concrete floors, and aquarium tanks are so small the fish can barely turn around.
Travefish.org does NOT recommend a visit to the Monkey Theatre. The animals perform demeaning shows for tourists, kept hungry so that they can beg for food, and are generally in poor health. The show itself is tacky, with loud music and animals dressed in corny outfits doing silly tricks. The living conditions are appalling, with monkeys kept in small dirty cages. Although kids may find the show amusing, any animal lover will struggle to hold back the tears.
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