The Best Experience of Bamboo Rafting in Thailand
It’s nine o’clock on a sunny morning and here comes the minivan to take us bamboo rafting at Khao Lak, some 100kms north of Phuket. We’ve been looking forward to this trip and its entertaining stops along the way and it’s not long before we’re crossing the Sarasin Bridge and barreling along the highway in Phang Nga Province. Apart from the bamboo rafting today is all about animals. Hawksbill and Ridley Turtles, crocodiles, lots of fish, gibbons and of course, Thailand’s wonderful birdlife.
Turtles in Thai Muang
After a 30-minute drive we pull into a seaside government fishery center devoted to the breeding and releasing of turtles. From a distance it looks like any other fishery; big concrete tanks, lots of bright-blue water pipes and piles of fish food sacks everywhere. But up close we discover a whole ocean-full of aquatic life. In the first tank absolutely huge black giant groupers silently regard us then swish off after deciding we are not going to feed them.
There are all sorts of fish species here in these tanks: sea bass, red snappers, clown anemone fish, big nose unicorn fish, small nose boxfish saddle-backed anemone fish and many more. A mean-looking Indian threadfin trevally slices the water surface looking a lot more dangerous than it really is; it’s the fin that does it – turning a humble-looking fish into a Jaws character.
Just a short ride away is the Wang Khiang Koo River and the Ton Pling Waterfall. “God’s Jacuzzi” says Lek, but no one’s in the mood today for a refreshing dip in cool water. We just sit there in silence, contemplating the beauty of the scene and marvelling at the power of the water as it crashes and splashes down the granite boulders and past us down the hillside.
A little later we’re clambering into bamboo rafts that look like over sized pan flutes. They’re quite simply designed: several large bamboo poles tied together with two cross sections for people to sit on. The boatman uses one as a punting pole and off we shoot downstream Lek was right, it’s not too dangerous but once in a while the raft’s aft end collides with a boulder or a tree trunk as we sweep past. The boatman doesn’t look that strong but he must be, considering the manoeuvres he is conducting and the weight of three adults and the raft. We go through rough water to smooth to rough again for 20 minutes as we pass through shady glades, a palm oil plantation, past huge felled trees, under makeshift bamboo bridges, and past fisherman baiting lines and trapping eels and fish.
The boatman slows the raft and points up above us to a tree branch. There’s a green snake coiled up and fast asleep. Does it like to eat farangs? No, the boatman says it’s harmless and shoves us off again. Minutes later Lek is helping us out of our raft and we’re sipping on a cool drink and drying off at the restaurant where we had lunch. Actually the only part of our anatomy that got wet was the seat of our pants. We’re back in Phuket at five o’clock and at the hotel at five-thirty. All in all, as there’s practically no one who doesn’t love animals this is a tour for pretty much everyone. It’s not too top-heavy, and keeps moving in an engaging way. The tempo is relaxed and easy and the activities are genuinely interesting, neither is it too physically demanding. It’s well thought-out and well executed.
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