can fly at 60 mph, yet the can hover with enough accuracy
to thread a needle. They can also fly backwards.
There are no hummingbirds in Southeast Asia unfortunately.
There are plenty of other beautiful nectar-eating birds
such as sunbirds and spiderhunters. These birds
also spice up their meals by eating some insects and,
as their name suggest, spiders.
Province and Tarutao Island
were in for a real good time right from the start.
Our long-time buddy
that a hummingbird?
people insist that they've seen hummingbirds here.
Unfortunately, they're wrong, but you can't blame
them. There is a moth that looks very, very similar
to one. It hovers around flowers, sucking in nectar
through a long proboscis.
There was one in the garden the other day.
Our plan is to dedicate some time to getting a
shot of one... soon hopefully.
Bill was coming over from the states with a life-long
buddy of his. In fact, Rick has known Bill since
he was a few months old. I reckon that qualifies
as 'life-long'. Simon Warren of Ultimate Asia,
a newly formed trekking and general adventure company,
was also on this trip. Simon used to work for
the same sea canoeing company that I did. We both
left about the same time. Simon had organized
this trip. He called us to join him. What
Ko Muk is a very popular vacation spot for Thais from
Trang province. During the high season, November through
March, Thais frequent a very special cave called the
“Emerald Cave”. It's called this because of the
color of the water just inside the cave entrance.
Hundreds of Thais swim anxiously through the cave daily.
Once through, the scene is awesome – a near pristine
beach inside the island. We saw no litter or damage
whatsoever. This is very impressive considering
what other areas that receive mass tourism look like.
prefer coming here during the low season. If we
go during the high season, we wait till no one else
is there. Going late in afternoon is usually all
we need to do. We've been here twice this low
season and we've not encountered others. It's
truly magical when you've got it to yourself.
There are still orchids and other epiphytes in this
We had hired a longtail boat (traditional Thai motorboat)
to take us out to Ko Muk. It's a short ride, but
we weren't as interested in the crossing as we were
in getting out there. Our boatman told us to watch
for a big turtle that hangs out around a particular
point. Well, we didn't see the turtle this time,
but it was quite pleasant sitting and waiting.
We were in the shade of some towering cliffs and there
were White-bellied sea eagles soaring overhead.
I'd still be there if they hadn't insisted we leave.
Our journey around the island landed us on a couple
fairly nice beaches. We ended up at a beach with
some new bungalows. The fried rice went down quickly.
It' s funny how a simple dish like that can be so good
at times. After eating, I asked around to see
if anyone was interested in paddling back to the mainland.
The plan had been to take the same longtail boat back.
We had arranged for it to meet us at this point.
Rick piped up and said he'd love to join me.
Once we left Farang Beach, we had the best side of the
island, the one with the high cliffs, all to ourselves.
The magical lighting of sunset on the sheer limestone
cliffs is ineffable. We would paddle a bit,
then sit in amazement. We
saw Crab-eating macaque monkeys getting their last tidbits
of food before dark. We saw Brahminy kites and
White-bellied sea eagles soaring high above the cliffs
in slow circles. 'Yep, this is what life is all
about' I thought to myself.
We finally left the island at dark. The paddle
back was very pleasant. The stars were sprinkled
across the skies. The rich blue bioluminescent
plankton left circles of light in the water with every
paddle stroke. Looking back, there was what appeared
to be lit up stepping stones in the water. If
you've got some speed up, you can put your hand in the
water and leave trails of light.
There was still Tarutao waiting for us. I had
been there a few times, each time seeing something new.
This time, the treat would be brief, but well worth
Pak Bara (literally the mouth of the Bara river) is
the standard pier for trips departing for Tarutao Island.
Tarutao is a marine national park. It’s also been
designated by UNESCO as an ASEAN Heritage site.
Tarutao National Park consists of 51 islands – seven
big ones. The main island features tidal rivers,
primary mangrove forests, primary hardwood forests,
primary nipa palm forests (this palm’s fronds are customarily
used for roof thatching), and lots of wildlife.
We had to get up early to make the tidal river that
Simon was leading us to. It's a great place with
a good variety of mangrove. A freshwater creek
flows into it at its upper reaches, so we saw species
of mangrove from all zones – freshwater types, brackish
water species, and full saltwater varieties.
Oh, that special treat I referred to earlier happened
on our way to the tidal river. We were in a huge
cove. The water was dead calm. The skipper
yelled for us to look at the dolphins on our starboard
side. Those weren't dolphins, they were dugongs!
I've seen them four times in seven years. They’re
as unmistakable as they are rare. They are similar
to the manatees of Florida (USA) which are just as endangered.
Upon coming back out of the tidal river, we opted to
paddle down a wonderful coastline. Simon paddled
out to tell the escort boat captain to pick us up 'down
there'. Well, the paddle was going just fine when
the escort boat came looking for us. It seemed
that the clouds in the distance were packing a punch.
The skipper had been listening to the fishing boats
talking about getting pounded out at some island just
north of us. We hopped back aboard and as we were
in transit to the park headquarters, where we would
spend the night, the weather hit us. It wasn't
too bad, but we did the right thing by not taking a
We did some paddling on the tidal river back at the
park headquarters. A huge area of mangrove exists
here. We split up to see what we could find in
the many different channels. Roy and Rick had
an encounter with a crab-eating macaque monkey.
It was close enough to jump onto Roy's boat at one point.
Bill and I saw a bird or two. I couldn't make
out one bird that was deep in the mangrove. I'd
sure like to know what that was. It sort of looked
like one of the many cuckoos, but it wouldn’t sit still
long enough for a positive ID.
We joined back up and headed on together. Monkeys
watched us from a high cliff. We could see their
outline against a clear sky. Um… we watched them
'making out' too! On our way again, we saw what
Bill was after. He just loves his reptiles, especially
snakes. A Reticulate python was coiled up on the
fork of a mangrove tree right overhead. Bill ventured
directly under the snake. He said he'd sure be
happy if that snake landed in his lap. This was
a sentiment the rest of us did not share. We all
mentioned that they can still bite even if they're not
poisonous. He told us it would hurt like crazy…
but, he stayed under it. As our luck would have
it, the snake ignored us after briefly giving us a quick
final day of our journey landed us on Ko Khao Yai (literally,
it means island - mountain - big). Again, we had the
whole place to ourselves. There was a bit of a swell
coming in. The swell was hitting one side of the island
pretty hard. We were being bounced around a bit and
decided to not push our luck. It was pretty thrilling
for the short period we were there. Some of the rocks
had formed 'blow holes'. When the waves arrived, the
water would shoot really high up into the sky. A weird
rumbling sound preceded the water spraying. It was fascinating.
There were several of places where it was doing this.
The most notable was one spot where the water shot in
a massive mist high into the trees. It must have generated
tremendous force in order to do what it did.
We worked our way back around to the calm side of the
island. We got amazingly close to a juvenile monitor
lizard. The little guy must have thought that we didn't
Trang and Tarutao are still not affected by mass tourism.
We just love going there. Even in the high season,
it's easy to be alone. We've never encountered
other paddlers down there. Fishermen come around
at times. So, to get a real taste of southern
Thailand, Roy and I highly recommend giving either or
both of these exotic spots a try. You'll not be