From national parks to catching a wave
From south to north; The highlight for surfers on Nai Yang is the offshore reef that gets a very good wave when it’s working. The problem is it’s a bloody long paddle out to it and if the surf’s working boats can be a bit unwilling to take you out there. While Mai Khao may be the longest beach on Phuket, it also gets amongst the most average of surfing conditions. A steep drop off, a shifting, sandy base make for a beach break and that’s about it -- don’t bother, leave it to the turtles.
Sirinath National Park stretches across some 90 square kilometres between Naithon Beach to the south and Mai Khao to the north. The park was established to protect Phuket’s sea turtles, but they’re fighting a losing battle. While the main visitor’s centre is on Nai Yang Beach, the park also has a small mangrove section right at the northern tip of Phuket, near the bridge to the mainland. The mangroves have an elevated walkway built through it so you can wander through and observe the mangrove habitat. While it’s not worth the drive all the way north just to see, if you happen to be in the area, it’s worth a peak.
The second of the two national parks on Phuket, the waterfalls and jungle hiking paths of Khao Phra Thaeo National Park make for a fine day trip. Ton Sai falls is just inside the park gates, but a disappointing drip from November to April. You can swim in the chilly water of the larger Bang Pae falls which is a only a 15 minute walk into the jungle. A 200B entrance fee is collected at the gates, but a heads-up to early risers, the gates are unmanned before 9:00.
Also located within the park is the Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. This is a centre for gibbons seized from poachers, not a monkey show, so don’t expect to be able to handle these endangered primates. They don’t see a cent of the park admission fee, and even have to pay rent to be there. The centre does noble work and is run by entirely volunteers, so consider making a donation or buying something from the gift shop -- they have postcards, stuffed animals, and t-shirts (200B).
You can water ski and wake board on an artificial made lake near Kathu Waterfall with Phuket Cable Ski. Prices range from 500B for 30 minutes to 1,500B for a full day. Lessons are free and if you fall down a nice man in a boat will promptly come fish you out.
Sailing is a peaceful way to take in the gorgeous scenery of the Andaman Coast. Private boats of all shapes and sizes can be chartered (with and without a crew), but a more affordable option is a day trip with Phuket Sail Tours. They offer a range of one day tours including snorkelling trips, Phang Nga bay trips and sunset tours. Their junk rig schooner can be chartered for around 20,000B a day, but the day tours are more affordable, starting at just 1,500B. All trips leave from the Royal Phuket Marina in Thalang on Phuket’s east coast.
Phuket Cable Ski 86/3 Moo 6 Vichitsongkram Rd T: (076) 202 525-7. www.phuketcableski.com
Phuket Sail Tours T: (087) 897 492. www.phuketsailtours.com
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project www.gibbonproject.org
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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