Probably one of the best ways to see dolphins close up in Thailand is by kayak. During my recent trip to Nakhon Si Thamarat Province, I joined Khanom Fishing & Tour for their one day tour called “Conserving Dolphins, Conserving Khanom Environment”. They operate out of Khanom which is a district at the northern end of the province. Our boat ride along the coastline took us close to the ferries that were heading out to Koh Samui. I am told that if you catch one of these ferries then you have a good chance of spotting some dolphins.
Our trip started at Thong Nian where we boarded the tour boat. Our guide for the day was “Uncle Daeng” a charismatic guy who used to be a park ranger. His knowledge of the area is extensive and he told us not only about the views from the boat but also of his days as a ranger when he used to track poachers. Most of the beaches along this coastline were deserted though in a few places there was evidence of bungalows and resorts being built. However, we were told that most of this area is going to be protected as it is part of the newly created Hat Khanom – Mu Ko Thale Tai National Park.
The coastline is a mixture of lush forests, limestone mountains and mangrove forests. Uncle Daeng told us that on one of his tours he takes tourists to Khao Wang Cave which has some beautiful stalactites and stalagmites as well as some amazing rock formations. During our boat ride he took us past a series of limestone rock formations which have been nicknamed “Pancake Rock”. Long ago these used to be on the seabed when alternate layers of hard and soft sediments were piled on top of each other. Later, when they were forced to the surface, the wind and rain helped to erode the softer rock leaving these formations.
During the boat ride, there was a lookout on duty the whole time trying to spot the dolphins. Whenever we passed a fishing boat they slowed down so that they could ask the fishermen if they had seen any dolphins today. We were in luck. Some had been spotted further up the coastline. About 20 minutes later we saw the fin of our first dolphin. They surfaced for only a few seconds before going back under. This of course made it very difficult to get any pictures. These weren’t dolphins like at Safari World in Bangkok. These ones don’t pose for pictures so I ended up with a dozen photos of an empty sea and a few shots of fins!
Although these humpback dolphins are native to this area and can be seen year round, they are an endangered species and their numbers are dwindling. Despite the fact that they can live up to 60 years of age, an increasing number of dead dolphins have been found. Some of them had obviously been hurt by fishing nets from the bigger boats. Uncle Daeng told us that Khanom Fishing & Tour were working with the local community to help safeguard the dolphins. A series of buoys have been set up to mark the feeding ground of the dolphins so that fishing boats know to stay away. During the tour Uncle Daeng took us to a cove where he showed us how to plant sea grass which is their way of giving back to the environment.
To be completely environmentally friendly, it is probably not a good idea to chase the dolphins in big boats. That is why we also went kayaking. This was great fun though maybe a little hot in the mid-day sun. We explored a number of different areas including a small rock island where a hermit monk used to live. The day long tour costs 1,200 baht for adults and 800 baht for childred aged 4-9. They also do free pick-up from your hotel and lunch is included. More details can be found on Khanom Fishing & Tour’s website. The map below shows the area where we explored by boat and kayak. More photos can be seen on my Facebook page.
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