Washed over by the Tsunami on 26 December 2004, Koh Prathong has today fully recovered with plenty of interesting forest types like dark green mangrove forest on the east cost, dusty green coastal forest on the west coast and in the middle a beautiful Savannah with rare, wild orchids clinging to the special trees and red, insect-eating plants scattered on the ground under the short, silky grass.
To maintain the natural forests on Koh Prathong as well as to protect against commercial exploitation, the Royal Thai Forestry Department has joined hands with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the local people on Koh Prathong to protect and preserve all their valuable natural resources while developing eco-tourism in order to increase the sustainable income to the local population.
Rich in rare birds
Birdwatchers will find several rare species of kingfishers, egrets, herons and even horn bills, which on Koh Prathong are far less timid than their cousins in the jungles on the mainland. A research conducted by the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand recently found that Koh Prathong has at least 137 different bird species. However, Oriental Pied Hornbill seems to be the most interesting for bird watchers since Oriental Pied Hornbill is otherwise only found in Khao Yai or Kang Krajarn.
Sea eagles circling over the island is also a majestic and common sight.
Along the forest line, there is also an abundance of natural resources fascinating for tourists to explore. A visit to the Tung Dap Village where one of the farmers is breeding the “Dendrobium cruentum” species of orchids is also popular among the mostly nature loving visitors.
Sand and Rock
The beaches of Koh Prathong may look similar to the beaches elsewhere in Thailand. Only if you look carefully you’ll see different footsteps of rare sea animals that let you imagine what kind of animal left those footstep behind. In November and December the sea turtles will crawl up on the beach to lay there eggs. A walk on the beach in the sunrise at 5.30 will reveal the characteristic broad and shuffled tracks leading from the sea up to the pitch where they have laid their eggs and back out into the sea again.
Previously, the villagers earned their income from concessions on collecting turtle eggs. But as turtle eggs became a rare commodity, the government and Conservation Authority today have extensive turtle conservation projects and build turtle breeding farm instead of hunting them at sea.
Other tracks on the beach are from monitor lizards hunting the crabs that live in abundance on the beach and play hide and seek with the waves washing over them.
The local people
There are only four small villages on Koh Prathong; Baan Pak-Jok, Baan Paeyoy, Baan Tung-Dap, and Baan Kah-Ra. Ethnically, 70% of population are ethnically a tribe called Morgan, with the rest being immigrated Chinese from Hainan. Fishery is the main occupation for local people on Koh Prathong. In ancient times, zink and other metals were extracted and traded.
Before the Tsunami, about 1000 people lived in Baan Pakjok village. Even though Lion Club helped build 150 houses to replace the ones destroyed by the disaster, only 50 local people live there today. The rest are too scared to return and have settled elsewhere. To make good use of the houses built by Lions Club, the few local people now offer the uninhabited homes as home-stays for visiting tourists to generate a small income for their family.
Kanitha, an elderly woman who survived from Tsunami, describes vividly how she heard a loud, thundering noise on the day the Tsunami hit. She thought it was a bomb exploding at a pier nearby. Then she saw her two horses screaming and the big wave coming gushing at her. She and her horses floated together until the water receded. She feels lucky that she and her husband are still alive but she lost one of her horses by that big wave.
Golden Buddha Resort
Golden Budha resort is the best resort on Koh Prathong. A resort that was previously located here before the Tsunami has disappeared without a trace. The Golden Buddha Beach Resort that has replaced it extends along the Andaman Sea facing the setting sun. Each beach house is uniquely designed and comfortably sleeps between 2 and 6 people. The resort has a total of 25 private houses. Some are located tugged in among the tall pine trees, some are beach front houses with sea view, peace, and total privacy.
Each beach house is fully equipped except for TV and electricity. The houses are supplied with electricity from a generator between 17:00 and 23:00. After that the electricity is turned off except at the resort’s restaurant where the dinner buffet is being served.
Apart from Golden Buddha Resort one small resort with few guests are found. But in Baan Pakjok there are several home-stays that are built in the style of a traditional Morgan house which are offered at a low rate for eco-tourist.
Koh Prathong is good place for people who want to get away from tension at work, newlywed couples on their honeymoon, naturists enjoying the 10 km long deserted beach, eco-tourists exploring the rare fauna and wildlife – or even heart broken people who need time to recover from their loss.
Although there are small shops in the local villages, it is a good idea to bring a torchlight as the light is turned off at 23.00, sun lotion, bugs prevention lotion for the little black beach flies that emerges when the sun has set and the rare mosquito, good book(s), snacks to keep you from being hungry between restaurant opening hours, common pills and whatever medication you may need.
Koh Prathong is for outdoor loving, low speed people. You can go for long walks, go snorkeling, go on a boat trip to dive on a reef, or just relax. The internet is slow or sometimes off which is good for having a relaxed time without any technology. Even the mobile phone is slow speed.
At Koh Prathong you can stay on your porch and read a book and suddenly look up to find rare birds flying over your head – no need to go on deep jungle trekking trips, just sit still and don’t blink.
How to go there
By road from Bangkok, take Route 4, passing Prachuab Khirikan, Chumporn, and Ranong, to take the boat from the Kuraburi harbour. The boat is about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Where to stay?
Golden Budha Resort / Ms Tanya: Tel. 081 892 2208, 081 919 5228
Pak-Jok Home Stay / Ms Lamyong: Tel. 087-281-1360
Tung-Dap Home Stay / Mr. Thep: Tel. 087-993-4331
For more information:
Tourism Authority Thailand, District 4 South
Tel. 0-7621-1036,0-7621-2216, 0-7621-7138