Feb 15 2012
The lush tropical mountains of southwest Thailand’s Ko Adang rise from the Andaman Sea in dramatic fashion, looming over tiny Ko Lipe like a protective elder watches over a child. While Lipe has become highly developed in recent years, Ko Adang has remained a pristine natural haven, officially protected as part of the Tarutao
National Marine Park. The national park does offer basic accommodation and camping to visitors from November to April each year, but if you can’t bear to leave Lipe’s creature comforts behind for an overnight, Ko Adang makes the perfect day trip.
The only way to reach Ko Adang from Lipe is to hire a longtail boat, which may be easily arranged on any of Lipe’s beaches. Many drivers will start out with a ridiculous quote at around the 500 baht mark, but the going rate is a definitive 200 baht round trip unless a tour of Adang’s coast is included. Once you’ve been dropped on Adang’s beach you might stop in to the national park visitor centre to ask for information and let them know you’re there.
After a few minutes of relaxing on the beach — or a meal at the national park’s simple but authentic and cheap Thai restaurant — follow the signs towards the trail head for Chadoe Cliff, which is located a short ways beyond the national park offices. The trail leads to a series of three rocky viewpoints, the highest of which reaches 150 metres — high enough for stunning views of Ko Lipe, Ko Rawi, and even distant Ko Tarutao. The trail is a bit steep in places so wearing shoes is a good idea.
Take your time at the top viewpoint; there are a few hidden lookouts nearby with views of Adang’s mountainous interior that are not to be missed. When you’re sufficiently captivated, hike back down to the national park station, but this time head the other way towards the west side of the beach. There you’ll find the nondescript trail head for Pirate’s Falls. The sign was broken when I last visited; the trail head is at a rocky section of beach and almost looks like a drainage channel at first.
Through thick jungle the trail runs up and down gradual hills with old growth canopies stretching far above. Keep quiet and you’re bound to see a monkey, exotic bird, or even something more rare. About half way to Pirate’s Falls the trail runs close to the sea, and if you bushwhack through a bit of forest you’re rewarded with what’s usually a totally secluded sandy beach. A little further down the path and the sound of rushing water begins to appear.
When I first arrived at the national park headquarters, I had meant to ask the attendant why it’s called “Pirate’s Falls.” Well, I found my answer when I finally got there. Though the waterfall itself is not too grand, especially during dry season, the area is filled with massive, mossy boulders and there are all sorts of small caves and crevices — the perfect place for a pirate to stash his loot. With no pirates around these days, the falls are a tranquil place to relax in the jungle, unless you feel like poking around for lost treasure, that is.
By the time you return from Pirate’s Falls chances are the sun will be hanging low in the sky. If you made an especially early start — or just speed hiked both trails — you might ask a longtail driver to take you on a cruise around Adang’s coast; we hear there’s an interesting black sand beach to the northwest. This might also be a good time to rent a snorkel from the visitor centre (50 baht) and check out the extensive coral reefs near the beach, or just sit back and soak up the rays.
It’s sad but true — Ko Lipe is becoming developed to the point that hardly any jungle remains. Perhaps the saving grace, however, is Ko Adang’s formidable presence next door, still filled with untouched nature as it has always been. Go ahead, hop on a longtail and see for yourself.
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