Nga Bay in the Low Season
season has some very big advantages that the guide
books don't address. When it's windy and the water is choppy,
the companies running day canoeing trips in the Bay may not go
out at all. The inflatable kayaks they use are not suitable for
windy conditions. The freelance operators also stay at home as
their smaller 'longtail' boats are not designed for use in anything
more than mild 'wind chop' (the waves produced by wind in the
predominately shallow waters of the Bay).
PaddleAsia guests have quite
a different experience. Our trip to Phang Nga Bay gave us three
days without seeing a single tourist! We saw very few local fishermen.
We truly had the place to ourselves. We enjoyed this major tourist
attraction as it was a hundred years ago (minus the pirates)!
This is the essence of low season with PaddleAsia!
guest, David, was familiar with kayaking and had some
experience paddling in choppy conditions. We followed the normal
itinerary and maintained a close watch for any local storms.
David and I paddled around
familiar islands, but followed comfortable low season procedure.
While in the lee (protected side) of the island, we took it easy
and maintained a lookout for birds, orchids, monitor lizards,
crabs scurrying to avoid the waves, schools of little fish, monkeys
and the other usual attractions. At one point, David spent some
quality time right below a branch on which sat a large Brown-wing
David was the first to reach
one of my favorite 'hongs', the karst islands' interior rooms
which seem to be complete ecosystems isolated from the rest of
the world. As he looked in the narrow entrance, he saw a White-bellied
sea eagle lift off from a low branch and fly slowly only a few
meters above the water. As I approached the entrance, the eagle
rose slightly and flew right over us. It flew beside the island
then spread its wings and glided into the trees high on the rock
Later, we rounded the corner
and faced the wind! The change was as abrupt as moving from a
quiet eddy on a river into the powerful downstream current. The
wind-driven swell meets the steep rocky boulders of the headland.
This situation produces irregular waves that seem to churn up
and down without pattern or rhythm. It's not difficult to paddle
through, just exciting. There isn't, however, much opportunity
to look for orchids while moving through that stuff. David enjoyed
the combination of appreciating the great beauty of the islands
alternated with adrenaline-fueled focus on moving through the
What about the novice paddler,
how can he or she participate in these low season pleasures? If
I were a beginner considering these weather and sea conditions,
I'd want to know what PaddleAsia could safely do for me. To put
it as clearly as possible, I'd say to PaddleAsia, "I want to see
the Phang Nga Bay in the low season, but I don't want to be tossed
about by waves".
The solution lies in the experience
Dave and I have gained from paddling year 'round in this area
for almost two decades. We consider several factors:
a) We assess the abilities of the people in the group and
teach basic paddling technique as necessary. We watch as our guests
paddle and make suggestions when appropriate.
b) We occasionally spend some time demonstrating and practicing
assisted reentry. In the event a kayak does capsize, we want each
person to understand and feel confident that we can get him or
her back in the kayak quickly.
c) We modify the itinerary as needed. Normally our escort
boat anchors and waits for us to return from our various circumnavigations.
When the sea is choppier, it is better for us to paddle the lee
side of our favorite islands. We put the kayaks in the water and
the escort boat moves to the pick up point, also in the lee. As
people gain confidence and familiarity with paddling, we may move
about in the waves as we reach the open, exposed side of the island.
d) On a three day trip, we spend one day in the mangroves.
The waters of the mangrove estuary systems are naturally protected
from the wind and waves. It is an education, an appreciation of
the nursery where young fish and shrimps grow among the roots
until they are ready to make their way in the open sea. We get
some idea of the wealth of life there among the trees and root
systems; all the creatures protected by the mangroves, and all
the birds, animals and reptiles that come to feed on the 'protected'
creatures. Healthy mangrove forests mean a healthy marine environment.
Mangroves are great fun for paddling during the windy days, especially
at higher water levels.
Significant areas of southern Thailand's
mangroves have been destroyed to make way for shrimp farms. We
do not visit these areas. We visit what is still healthy and beautiful
along Thailand's coastline. PaddleAsia celebrates natural beauty
and we celebrate it all year long.
Come paddle with us in the
high season and we'll have a good time. We avoid the masses.
Come paddle with us in the
low season and we'll have it all to ourselves. This gives us a
sense of ownership of the whole vast beautiful place! We'll work
with the weather, whatever it may be at the time.
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