Not surprisingly, given its huge rainforest and mountainous terrain, Koh Chang has an abundance of waterfalls.
Klong Plu in Klong Prao and Than Mayom, after Dan Mai on the eastern side, fall into remit of the National Park, thereby costing 200bt for foreigners to visit (40bt for Thai), 100bt for kids (20bt for Thai), with one ticket permitting entry to both if on the same day.
Naturally, the ideal time to see them is during the rainy season or at its close end, but that in should in no way preclude a visit in the dry months of the main tourist season. If the falls may not be anywhere near as powerful at that time, the plunge pools will still be very inviting for a refreshing dip and the forest surrounds, at the smaller ones at least, will be beautifully peaceful and secluded.
Klong Plu Waterfall – Koh Chang Waterfalls
Per Person: 200bt/40bt, 100bt/20bt – 8.00am to 5.00pm
The principal waterfall on the island is Klong Plu, found down a winding forest road at the northern end of Klong Prao. After parking up – free inside the park rangers’ area, 10bt or 20bt to the locals outside of this – there is an obvious path that follows the river. This has both ropes and appropriate steps, so can be managed by all and it takes about 15 minutes to walk the 600 metres to the huge plunge pool and the falls themselves, with the water cascading down and the drop towering above.
The pool has small cliffs and rocks on its edges from where you can dive. The whole area does get busy with tour groups, Thai and Chinese, so the best time to visit is in the morning before they arrive.
The Old Trail
***Now CLOSED*** The park added a nature walk through the canopy a couple of years back, which is clearly signed along the main path and this is well worth taking as a diversion on your way back. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes, with steep climbs at the beginning and at the end, though there are those useful ropes and jungle steps to assist. You eventually emerge behind the park rangers’ office on the right hand side of the car park, so there is no reason you cannot start with the trail and leave the refreshing dip in the plunge pool to the end. ***Now CLOSED***.
Than Mayom Waterfall
East Coast – a few kms after Dan Mai
Per Person: 200bt/40bt, 100bt/20bt – 8.00am to 5.00pm
The park area of Than Mayom on the east coast road is located just a few kilometres after the island hospital and police station at Dan Mai. There are two entrances, the main one by the bridge and the older second one opposite the rangers’ accommodation.
Paths and bridges give you easy access to the the lower tier, with a rope stretching across the river as an added bonus, useful in the rainy season when water levels are higher than you might expect. You will need to cross and clamber up the rocks to reach the plunge pool beneath the fall itself.
There are four levels in total, but you will not get further than here unless on the cross-island trek. The 4th tier, by far the most dramatic, is some 5 kilometres inland. Kings Rama V and Rama VII engraved their initials in rocks at different points along the river’s course, so the falls have an added importance with Thais, making weekends in particular surprisingly busy.
Klong Jao Leuam Waterfall
Klong Son, free
If coming from White Sands Beach and the west of the island down into Klong Son, a right turn at the central 7/11 crossroads will put you on the inland road to Klong Jao Leuam, one of the free waterfalls on the island. At the very end, past the Klong Son Elephant Camp and a good few kilometres in, an orange wall indicates that you have indeed arrived and you now proceed on foot across the ford to a collection of buildings.
This was a homestay and cafe but the jungle has now taken over, to leave just a local house and shop selling cold drinks. Their owner will appear the moment you start to head towards the waterfall and charge you 40bt for walking across her land.
Various signs point the way for the falls themselves and after a short distance skirting around the trees, you reach the first of the waterfall’s 10 or more tiers. None of the drops are jaw-dropping but you are likely to be the only one there, so with a wonderful sense of isolation and just the sound of the water and birdsong, you can explore to your heart’s content.
By following old and new tracks, scrabbling up and down rocks, you will slowly climb upriver from tier to tier, each one being marked by a small sign and with the chance to take a dip as you fancy. It is, of course slippery, none more so than in the rainy season and care does need to be taken – there is no mobile phone signal.
Klong Nonsi Waterfall – Koh Chang Waterfalls
Dan Mai, free
Shortly after the hospital, a blue sign marks the turning to Klong Nonsi waterfall in Dan Mai, with the island’s police station a few meters further on.
A large open-fronted store with hammocks on display sits on the other side of the road, whilst a good somtam restaurant is perched up on the corner. The little track leads a couple of hundred metres inland to a house where you can park, with a tin provided for the 10bt fee. From here, it is a pleasant stroll through the orchards with the odd sign indicating you are still going the right way until, within about 15 minutes, you reach the riverbed.
Crossing to the other side and heading upstream brings you to the first level and a man-made set of steps allows you to continue onto the next tiers. As with Klong Jao Leuam, the waterfall is not overly dramatic but it is isolated and once again, you can explore further and further upstream, with plenty of chances to have a paddle. As with the other free falls, take water and a snack with you so that you can sit back, take a breather and enjoy the solitude.
About 500 metres further on from this turning off the main road, there is a second clearly marked route to Klong Nonsi which runs up the side of sports field past the large government administrative buildings.
Klong Neung Waterfall
Salak Phet area, free
Klong Neung waterfall is the tallest on the island, the least accessible and potentially the most dangerous to reach. It is worth weighing up the chances of an accident against the need for a visit, especially if you go in rainy season or after heavy storms when the river is in full and very powerful flow.
On the east coast, the road passes the turning to Salak Khok, Chek Bae and Long Beach before, after 4 kms or so, reaching two stores opposite each other, one marked with a sign for Chang Noi Minimart and a futher sign indicating a right for Salak Phet School.
Take that right and then almost immediately the next right, past the food centre and behind the coloured portacabins – you are now on the route to the waterfall. This road meanders through orchards and rubber trees until eventually coming to an abrupt halt, shortly after a little right bend. On the left, barely noticeable, a small gap in the foliage heads down a 5 metre incline to a man-made concrete weir.
Climbing to the Top
This weir is the start of the falls and the trek to the actual drop is literally upstream, as the trails or paths along the riverbank have long since overgrown. First, you must cross to the other side by wading onto and over the concrete wall with the water rushing over it. This is a good indication as to whether the trip is for you or not, as it is does not get any easier around the next corner.
Having crossed, it will now take 30 minutes at least to the waterfall, working your way back and forth across the river, with its surprise deep pools and its lichen and moss covered rocks that simply cannot be clambered over. There will be an element of doubling back to find alternative routes and even using tree vines as ropes to pull yourself up and over more tricky sections.
If you have a camera, it will need to be safely packed or waterproof, as you will get very very wet. Finally, at the end, you are confronted by the biggest obstacle of all, a huge seemingly insurmountable boulder. In fact, this can be sidestepped to its left and indeed, under it, via a little cave like-ravine, which briefly takes you into darkness before you emerge back into daylight, to catch your first sight of the dramatic falls themselves, with their plunge pool beneath.
Kheeri Phet Waterfall
Salak Phet area, free
Nam Tok (nam meaning water, tok meaning fall) Kheeri Phet is also found in the Salak Phet area but it ismuch easy to reach than its near neighbour.
By taking the right fork at the crossroads described above, but this time continuing straight on, rather than veering right to Klong Neung, you find yourself on the route to Salak Phet Marina and Salak Phet Seafood.
After a couple of kilometres or so, you’ll see an old rusting orange sign on one side of the right turning to the waterfall, with a small shop on the opposite corner and large imposing raised house opposite. This narrow road continues inland through the coconut trees and orchards to finally stop at an obviously abandoned parking area.
There are two routes to the falls. The easiest one is the trail to the left which leads across the river bed. Once over the other side, turn to the right and follow the path with the river on your right. After a few hundred metres, you will see another path branching to the left of which you should make a mental note but not take. Continuing on, you eventually come to the bottom of a steep forest slope and by dropping down to the river, you emerge at one of the lower tiers of the waterfall, great for a swim.
To continue on to the upper tiers, you have various choices. You can cross to the other other side of the plunge pool and climb up that way but it is tricky and overgrown. Indeed, at some points, it will appear impossible to go further but by using the tree roots to pull yourself up and keeping an eye out for odd bits of striped tape (from the UTKC trail run) tied to trees, you will be able to follow a path which brings you out at the top tier.
Alternatively, turn back from the lower tier and follow the way you came in until you reach the branch in the path of which you made a mental note before. This time take it and after a hundred or so metres, a small gap on the right, an obvious trail, climbs up the hillside.
By using this trail and it has human-made earth steps all the way up which makes things easier, you are clearly heading towards the top with the actual river and falls about 50 metres parallel to your right. Keep going up and up and after 10 minutes or so, cut back across to the waterfall.
There is no obvious point so you have to go on gut feeling but by getting near the edge of the river route, you will be able to see where you are and from that emerge at the top tier.
The final route is to go straight on from the car park and follow the path through the orchards and then rubber trees into the forest. Bearing in mind that that the river will always be on your left, you simply follow the tracks and trails that head in that direction. Do not take any obvious paths that head upwards away from the river. Ultimately, you will arrive at the lowest tier from other side.
As stated, the rainy season or November is the best time to visit, but it is also the most dangerous with everything very slippery and muddy underfoot.
If you trek Salak Phet and Khao Laem, the route back is usually one that visits the top tier of Kheeri Phet on its way down. It is also possible to find local guides for both this and Klong Neung – please do contact us for more details.
Kai Bae Waterfall – Koh Chang Waterfalls
Kai Bae, free
A rarely visited waterfalls sits in the valley behind Kai Bae Beach and it is an easy enough thirty minute walk or quick motorbike ride from the main street. A small track leads behind the 7-11 at the southern end of the village, with Sanook Sanang Resort and Kai Bae Meechai Elephant Camp on left and right respectively, before it then twists and turns its way deeper into the interior.
There are signs along the way but if you follow your nose, you are unlikely to go wrong. The track ends at various bungalows and long term houses for rent and the path needed for the waterfalls passes in front of them, easy to spot and pick up, though now only on foot.
After another 10 minutes along the river’s edge, the falls themselves hove into view. There is only the single tier, an impressive drop in itself and the cooling plunge pool but the solitude and peacefulness make the trek more than worthwhile.
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