A little piece of heaven on the Gulf of Thailand
There are no foreign lands, it is the travellerRobert Louis Stevenson
only who is foreign
Koh Mak seems like a million miles from nowhere but you only really discover the true feeling of how Robinson Crusoe may have felt once you are actually on the island. It’s a small slice of secluded utopia seduced by a peaceful pace of life. Being in almost total isolation, this island is primarily overlooked by tourism, which could make this the perfect getaway gem. You may just decide to stay awhile.
This minuscule piece of paradise is also known as Koh Mak and belongs in part to a tropical archipelago of 52 islands situated 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Ko Chang Island on the far east coast of the country in the Gulf of Thailand.
The island is shaped in the form of a cross measuring just sixteen square kilometres. There is no public transportation of note, so travel around the island is either by renting a motorbike or bicycle, although walking may be a preferred option.
In fact, with relative ease, you can certainly circumnavigate the entire perimeter of the island in less than ten hours. All this by walking, wading and or swimming. There is a small network of earthly amber tracks that twist and turn throughout the island, but there are no proper developed roads, thus creating the perfect opportunity to explore the jungle-like interiors while uncovering a few almost deserted beaches. It’s heaven as it should always be.
The island is home to no more than a few hundred locals who all somehow manage to make a livable income from either fishing or the sale of coconuts and the rubber produced from the abundant plantations that dominate the entire island.
As for tourists, the only real occupation is to laze around the main centre of Ao Nid on the eastern shore or one of only two beaches, Ao Kao in the south or Ao Suan Yai to the west. All three of these spots are within easy walking distance to one another.
Apart from merely relaxing on the beaches, other more strenuous activities you might like to involve yourself in would be things like snorkelling and diving at nearby Ko Yak, Hin Yak and No Name reef. The relatively shallow waters around these reefs have up to thirty different species of hard and soft coral.
If you’re a more experienced diver, you can try the 28 metre deep Hin Gor, where there’s a good chance you could encounter a few manta rays, leopard sharks and black and white-tipped sharks. Kayaking is also a great pastime activity around here.
Pursuits you may like to try include sightseeing across the island by tractor taxi, mountain hiking, elephant trekking, bicycle riding, night fishing, pearl farm tours, and the one-day trips to Ko Kham as well as some of the other surrounding islands.
Sea kayaks are available for hire from several resorts on Ko Maak and from there you can take a trip to several neighbouring islands. Expect to pay around 100 Baht an hour or 500 Baht a day for a 2 person kayak with life jackets and paddles. The white sandy beach and black volcanic rock island of Koh Kham are only one kilometre away and easily reached from Ao Suan Yai beach.
During low tide, you can walk across. Nearby Ko Pee island, to your left, is also within easy reach. Southwest from Ao Kao beach, lie the islands of Ko Rayang Nok and Ko Rayang Nai and to the northeast is the private island of Koh Kradad.
If you want to engage in elephant trekking, go to Ko Mak Pang Chang, a small camp located in a quiet area on the west side of the island near Laem Tukkata. Expect to pay 500 Baht per person for a half hour trek or 900 Baht per person for a one-hour trek including transfers from your resort.
The trek takes you through coconut and rubber plantations as well as along the beach. You are unlikely to wait long to catch a ride on one of the elephants due to the few tourists on Ko Maak
Though the island is pretty flat in places, the land rises to just over 100 metres above sea level near the western shore thus making mountain hiking possible. The only real trail begins near the bungalows at Baan Ing Kao. Though the hike is not difficult, you can hire a guide to make sure you stay on the right track.
Explore By Bicycle
Exploring the island by bicycle is probably your best option as motorised traffic is at a minimum. There are few motorbikes and scooters available for hire at around 300 to 400 Baht per day, but most tourists prefer to walk or go by bicycle. Unlike Bangkok or Pattaya, your chance of being run over is practically zero.
The lack of traffic, flat terrain, a multitude of shady trails through rubber and coconut plantations, fishermen hamlets, deserted beaches, makes bicycling the ideal way to see Ko Maak. You can hire a bicycle anywhere from 100 to 200 Baht per day.
Night fishing is considered a great pastime here with some of the best fish being caught between dusk and dawn. You can either take part in a private fishing trip or go on one of the scheduled trips which operate a few times per week in high season. Because fishing is not my thing, I am not sure what the charges will be.
Another option from Ko Maak is to take a trip to the tiny island of Ko Maisee to visit the pearl farm there. Ko Maisee is just off the north-west coast of Koh Kood both of which are part of the archipelago here.
You’ll get to see how pearls are cultivated, then made into jewelry, and later sold at gem stores around South East Asia. A pearl farm tour can be combined with a visit to Koh Kood. Various charter companies arrange trips or you could hire your own private speedboat.
A Natural Remedy for Parasite Bites
It may be in your best interest to bring along some of that yellow herbal oil mixture called Yaa Luand from the market town of Trat. It will most certainly help to lessen the unpleasantness incurred from parasite bites. In all probability, you will encounter the inevitable sand-flies and mosquitoes that inhibit Ko Maak.
Rub some of the stuff on exposed areas to help prevent or relieve any possible bites. The liquid was invented by a resident of Trat and used by locals to treat various ailments. I am also told that if you sniff the oil, it should prevent travel sickness. Alternatively, embalm yourself with some locally produced coconut oil.