Ko Maphrao

Once off limits, now possible to visit

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

What we say: 3.5 stars

It used to be off limits to tourists, but now tours can be arranged--just ask around in Chumphon, or go to the Haad Sai Resort for more information. Not that you would, but don't go out there on your own--you might be shot! The nest of the sea swift is highly prized in China, used to make one of the most expensive dishes in the world: birds nest soup. People have been known to fetch as much as US $5,000 a pound for the nests, and the guy that owns the island doesn't like to share the wealth with potential poachers. Locals in Haad Sairee have taken to making the top floor of their building into a bird sanctuary, hoping the golden gulls will nest there and make them rich.

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