Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Koh Prathong - Golden Monk Island

Koh Prathong is one of the least visited islands in Thai waters. It is located just north of Koh Kho Khao, just off the Andaman coast at the northern end of the Khao Lak area. It is possible to travel independently to Koh Prathong or to take a tour. Either way, if you are in the area you should make time in your schedule to visit this island with unspoiled nature.

While plenty of tourists make the small trip over from the Andaman coast mainland to Koh Kho Khao, few make it on to the neighbouring island of Koh Prathong. It is reached by a 1.5 hour boat journey from Kuraburi. Alternatively, you can join a tour group that leaves from Baan Nam Kem Pier. If you are staying in Khao Lak it is easy to find a tour going to Koh Prathong. The price of these tours usually includes free transfers to and from your hotel.

Koh Prathong was granted National Park Status in 2001. As a result it is protected against development that encroaches on the natural environment. The west coast has a series of golden sand beaches. The interior contains ‘Thailand’s Savannah’ composed of grass land and forests containing Melaleuca trees. Tours divide the island into four zones: coastal, savannah, mangrove and marine jungle

The island has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. There are over 100 species of birds. Other animals include the Lesser Adjutant Stork, Sambar Deer, the nocturnal Fishing Cat and Red Muntjak.

The ocean off the coast has coral reefs that are home to lobsters and numerous types of fish. You can snorkel the reefs.

The main village is called Ta Pae Yoi. It is a small community of Thais and Moken (sea gypsies). They lead traditional lives of farming, fishing and boat building. Near the village is a turtle nursery. Koh Prathong is one of the best places in Thailand to witness the turtles laying their eggs and also the eggs hatching and the younglings attempting their epic journey to the sea for the first time.

For those who want to spend some time exploring Koh Prathong and enjoying its great beaches there are a few small bungalow resorts on the north-west coast. They are simple wooden bungalows made from local and sustainable materials. A bungalow for 2 people including breakfast for 2 costs 800 Thai Baht.

This is an island without any concrete roads. It is sparsely populated and easily one of the ‘wildest’ places in Thailand that is accessible to tourists. It is ideal for those with an interest in eco-tourism. There are no cars or trucks on the island. People get about in homemade tractors pulling a trailer for passengers. These charming vehicles are called Tak Tak Cars.

Koh Prathong translates as ‘Golden Monk Island’. It is believed to refer to a golden statue or deity that was once housed in a temple on the island. The golden statue has gone but the golden beaches remain as does the natural environment. It is a place worthy of reverence.

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