Images of mangrove forests rarely appear in material advertising the delights of Phuket. The short trees grow in mud along the shore, lack majesty, and don’t have flowers worth talking about. But they are a crucial part of Phuket’s tropical and coastal ecology.
Fisherman have always understood the importance of the mangroves as nurseries for fish and crustaceans but, as in many other parts of the world, mangrove forests have been destroyed here as well.
However, Phuket people have been replanting them in earnest since their true value became apparent following the 2004 tsunami, as a natural barrier against large waves and flood damage. The mangrove is also a very good natural filter of impurities in water and can hold large amounts of carbon in its roots too.
And, leaving aside the ecological, safety and economic value of mangroves, Phuket.com found that there are also plenty of fun ways to enjoy the island’s mangrove forests.
How to Explore the Mangrove
ATV Discovery Tour
ATV tour starts in the ATV camp in Thalang district, a few kilometres from the Heroines Monument on the east coast of the island. After familiarising everyone with the controls and the safety rules, the guide takes you into rubber plantations and then to beautiful deserted beaches.
The landscape is amazing, with mangroves emerging on twisted stilt-like roots straight from the sand. The beach we went to is not long – only 300 - 400 metres, but that’s plenty of space to enjoy the challenges of driving an ATV on the sand and along the muddy tracks just off the beach. These ATVs are not fast, but the fun comes from the difficulty of driving them in these conditions. Guaranteed fun for the adventurous.
The beaches are amazing. All beaches in Thailand are public, but no one comes to these ones because they are hard to find. You feel like you own the beach, especially at low tide. The tour is perfect for families; with the ATVs being big enough to carry two, kids can ride along. After all the fun, Phuket ATV provides coffee, tea or soft drinks and snacks. The company has two ATV tour packages, one lasting an hour and the other two hours. For more details, please see Phuket ATV Tours.
The Mangrove by Mountain Bike
For those who get itchy feet at the mere thought of spending all day lying on the beach, a bicycle tour is the ideal activity. Here in Phuket you can stay fit and at the same time explore parts of the island that few tourists get to see. Tours include visits to small villages to see the local lifestyle and stops along the way to learn about tropical plants such as mangroves, coconut and rubber plantations.
Anyone who is reasonably fit can take one of these trips. The tour company provides a mountain bike with lightweight aluminium frame, 21-24 gears and front suspension, along with a full support vehicle, an English-speaking guide, coffee, fruit, snacks and drinking water and more. This is a delightfully unhurried way to relax and enjoy the scenery.
The company lays on a half-day 28-kilometre Northern Trails trip, or a full-day Northern and Southern Trails trip, which covers 28 kilometres in the morning and 32 in the afternoon. For more information, please see Phuket Biking Tours.
Kayaking in the Mangrove
If you have only a short time and you can put together a minimum of four people, you really should try a canoe trip along Klong Mudong (Mudong canal). The journey is about two kilometres.
This canal is just wide enough to be able to paddle in comfort yet still see all the denizens of the mangroves, including snakes, birds and macaque monkeys.
If you have more time, try a longer trip such as the Elephant Hills Safari and
Earth Lodge Camp organised by Siam Safari. You will leave Phuket in the early morning, stopping at a coffee shop on the way, followed by different activities depending on the program chosen.
These may include visiting the mangrove swamps near Baan Nam Khem, canoeing on the Sok River, jungle trekking on foot, or a tour of the vast Chieo Lan reservoir with its spectacular limestone cliffs.
One must-do package if you have the time is the Beach and Rainforest Nature Safari, which takes two days and a night.
Part of the first day is spent exploring rivers that cut through the mangrove forest aboard a dinghy fitted with an outboard motor. There is a maze of channels between the islands and mainland. It really feels like some primeval swamp. On this tour there's also an opportunity for people who want to explore the smaller creeks, see some bird life and get closer to nature. You can borrow a canoe and life jacket to paddle your way silently into this dense green world.
Where to Eat - Restaurants by the Mangrove
Mor Mudong Restaurant
Mor Mudong, next to Klong Mudong, right in among the mangroves. Many of the dishes are typical fiery Phuket food, with no holds barred, but there are milder dishes on the menu.
What’s fascinating about this place is its location and atmosphere. Here, you can sit and enjoy your meal with the mangroves alongside, within your reach. The restaurant has several open-sided huts for group dining as well as smaller huts for more intimate groups.
- Opening Hours: open everyday except the 15th of the month
- Location: To get there, turn into Soi Palai off Chaofah Nai Rd (route 4021) – there are large signs for the Phuket Zoo – go past the zoo then turn left about a hundred metres before the sea. Go right to the end of this road and you’ll find the restaurant.
- Tel: + 66 (0) 76 282302
Chaiyo Seafood Restaurant
Chaiyo Seafood Restaurant is on the way to Cape Panwa, on the Narang-Bohrea road. It serves “real” Thai food and very fresh seafood. The restaurant has a “gra-chang” – a large keep net in the water containing live carp and other fish. Choose the fish you want to eat and they’ll haul it out for – the ultimate guarantee of freshness.
The location couldn’t be better, right next to beautiful Klong Mudong. You dine with the view of beautiful mangrove forest in front. It’s such a treat. If you feel like it, you even can borrow a canoe from the restaurant – no charge – and paddle around the area nearby before or after your meal.
- Tel: + 66 (0) 76 393142
- How to get there: To get to Chaiyo Seafood from Phuket City, take Chaofah Nai Rd. Go past the Dowrung Wittaya school and turn left at the next traffic light, Continue along this road until you reach a small circle. Turn right there and keep going for about a kilometer until you see the sign – in Thai and English – for Chaiyo Seafood Restaurant.
If you feel like dining on good-quality Thai seafood, it’s really best to go where the locals go. Bangpae Seafood is one of the island’s all-time favourite neighborhood restaurants and is located in Bangpae Village, not far from Bangpae Waterfall near Thalang. Yes, it is a little bit out of the way for most tourists, but it offers diners the real deal. Try their tom yam talay (hot-and-sour Thai seafood soup), steamed crab, deep-fried tempura shrimp, stir-fried vegetables with cashew nuts, fresh oysters with local herbs and deep-fried squid with garlic and pepper.
This seaside restaurant has a spectacular location with a small beach for kids to run around on or to stroll up and down before or after a meal. There’s a lovely backdrop of mangroves, too. Try to remember to take along mosquito repellent but don’t panic if you forget; the restaurant has mosquito coils to chase them away.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 10:00 – 20:00
- Location: About nine kilometers from the Heroines’ Monument towards Ao Por Pier and only a few hundred metres further down the road from Bangpae Waterfall and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. The restaurant is on the right-hand side of the road. Look for the big red sign.
- Tel: +66 (0) 87-8875785
- Cuisine: Seafood and Thai