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Ko Ra

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In a nutshell

A nature-lover's paradise, Ko Ra bursts with pristine jungle and abundant wildlife. If you seek an unspoilt island and don't mind roughing it, this is one of the best.

Despite its relatively close proximity to the town of Khuraburi along Thailand's west coast, the long, thin and rugged island of Ko Ra is one of the country's more remote islands with accommodation, and is a good choice for those seeking an offbeat, eco-minded destination. With most of the island protected as a wildlife sanctuary, this is a chance to experience a lush, untamed landscape.

When we last visited, Ko Ra featured only one place to stay, Ko Ra Ecolodge, which is a true eco-friendly establishment that had its modest beginnings as a base for a coral reef conservation project in the mid 2000s before officially opening to guests in 2008. We've since been told of a second place that also looks great - Koh Ra Beach Camp.

Today, the Eco Lodge still serves as a homebase for well intentioned environmental researchers and volunteers, including the Italian based sea turtle conservation project, Naucrates, and Reef Check Thailand, which has been monitoring coral reefs in the Andaman Sea for nearly 10 years. While these projects require an application process and possibly a fee for those interested in volunteering, the Eco Lodge offers free volunteer opportunities to anyone wishing to lend a hand in their extensive organic gardens and natural products workshops.

While the Ko Ra experience is most definitely an environmentally conscious one, it's not all about volunteer service. The Eco Lodge offers a wide array of leisure activities, including guided jungle treks and kayak trips, snorkelling, bird watching and animal tracking, and visiting Ko Ra's traditional Moken sea nomad village. Diving and snorkelling trips to nearby Ko Surin may also be arranged from Ko Ra. While all of these activities involve outward exploration, a popular yoga and meditation retreat program with a certified instructor who stays for the busy months from December to February each year is also offered for those seeking to explore inwardly as well.

Ko Ra's quiet and peaceful setting indeed make it an ideal place to retreat from the world for a while. The Eco Lodge is situated at the island's northeastern point near a small beach that's endowed with surprisingly clean, clear and very swimmable waters given how close it is to the mainland. A couple of larger beaches stretch across parts of the island's west coast and are reachable as part of a popular sunset kayak trip.

Though quite thin from east to west, Ko Ra stretches about two km in length from north to south, and most of the interior is rocky and rugged, although a small region of flat white sands savannah landscape is found near the Eco Lodge. Ko Ra is slowly catching on as one of Thailand's premier bird watching destinations, and many other forms of wildlife, such as monkeys, giant white boar, sea turtles, and snakes of many varieties may be spotted throughout the island. During our visit, a few of the Eco Lodge's docile dogs uncovered an endangered elongated tortoise during a guided jungle trek.

Ko Ra is typically reached from a pier in nearby Khuraburi, and upon arrival at the Ko Ra pier guests are greeted by Eco Lodge staff and volunteers before being led along a path to the Eco Lodge itself, which features a congregational open air restaurant, a few separated bungalows well out of the way, and a couple of small longhouses each with a few guest rooms. With an ever changing family of volunteers and guests, the Eco Lodge truly feels like a small, close knit island community, and the friendly, laid back staff quickly become friends as well. A great place to chat with other environmentally conscious travellers, even the most reserved people will quickly find themselves opening up to the ever changing but always thoughtful Ko Ra family.

Ko Ra is a remote island. There are no roads or motorbikes, only small foot paths, kayaks and one longtail boat for getting around. Three buffet meals are included in the price of your stay, and there are no convenience shops to be found, so make sure to bring any extra necessities along from the mainland. While the Eco Lodge has a solar array that provides enough power to charge batteries during the day, a generator runs only from 18:00 to 23:00 each night and electricity in the rooms is only available during those hours.

For Internet the Lodge relies on air cards, which are just fast enough to send an email but allow little else. The island does however get a clear cell phone signal. The Lodge are able to provide very basic first aid but anything serious will require being transported to the mainland. There are most definitely no banks or ATMs on Ko Ra, so be sure to bring enough cash for your stay.

The Ko Ra Eco Lodge is open only from November 1 to May 1 each year, and while it's possible to visit on a day trip during rainy season very few (if any) travellers do since the Eco Lodge and its facilities are closed down at that time.

Related reading

Thai islands for nature lovers

Text and/or map last updated on 19th November, 2013.

Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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