The 2004 tsunami left a trail of devastation in its wake that was nigh on impossible to comprehend, but one positive lesson learnt was how nature, through its mangroves, brunted the force of the wave in areas where development had not ripped them out – Phang Nga in southern Thailand for example.
Here in Koh Chang, we were mercifully unaffected by those dark days, though many argue that the island’s development was accelerated by it. Holidaymakers, continuing to pour into Thailand at its peak Christmas/New Year period, were redirected here, causing a unprecedented increase in arrivals for both that year. Indeed this continued the next year too, when the un-repaired destruction left by the tsunami, coupled with its emotional rawness, caused tourists to continue to look elsewhere.
It was two years later that they headed back to the south west coast, leaving Koh Chang relatively empty. The quickly built accommodation used to house the overspill then appeared over-built, as numbers dropped to pre-2004 levels.
Mangroves in Koh Chang
First up, over on the northern canal in Klong Prao, you can rent kayaks or SUPs from the SUP Center at Iyara Seafood to explore the mangroves there. That restaurant and AANA Resort also run evening boat trips to see the fireflies.
Meanwhile on the east coast, you can spend a great couple of hours right in the heart of the two largest forests on the island at Salak Phet and Salak Khok.
The government and TAT built walkways through the mangroves a few years ago and recently gave the one at Salak Phet a much needed spruce up, renaming it Baan Nai Nai (The Red Bridge).
To reach the forest down at Salak Phet, follow the main east coast road for 25 km – ignore the turning above to Salak Khok (see bleow) and keep going straight along the main road until you reach the temple.
The temple too is worth an look too now you are here. It has a little museum and some wonderfully garish deities around its perimeter.
Opposite, the bridge and then a track take you to the entrance to the mangroves and the start of the freshly painted, newly planked rust red walkway, which winds back and forth through the trees before finally emerging out onto the bay.
It really is very beautiful, the myriad of roots, views of the mountains behind, no one else about and a time to reflect perhaps on nature’s solutions to its owns demons.
To get to the Salak Khok forest, follow that east coast road and this time, take the left turning at signs for Long Beach and Parama. It’s then only a matter of half a kilometre or so before you reach the understated entrance, opposite the temple.
There is an in and an out but whichever you pick, the whole tour round will take a mere half hour. Unfortunately, the walkway and observation tower are in quite a state. Here and there, faded information boards tell you how mangroves and its inhabitants (mostly crabs) exist and co-exist, all interesting stuff to dawdle over.
Wal over, pop in the tiny shack for some somtam and sticky rice – recommended.
Entrance is free at both mangrove walkways.
Tour in the Salak Khok Mangroves
You can also take a gondala tour around the mangroves in Salak Khok bay. Head for Salak Khok Seafood and the office is just before on the right hand side.
It costs 200bt per person for about 45 minutes.
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