Images of mangrove forests rarely appear in ads showing the highlights of Phuket. The short trees grow in the mud along the shore, lack majesty, and don’t have flowers worth talking about. Even so, they are a crucial part of Phuket’s coastal ecology. Fishermen have always understood the importance of the mangroves as nurseries for fish and crustaceans.
The people of Phuket 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. Mangroves filter of impurities in water very well and their roots can hold large amounts of carbon. Aside from their ecological, safety and economic value, mangroves offer plenty of fun!
- Phuket FantaSea Cultural Theme Park
- Phi Phi Islands Tour with Express Boat
- James Bond Island Full-Day Tour via Big Boat
- Coral & Racha Islands Full-Day Tour
- Whitewater Rafting & 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
- Sea Kayaking at Ang Thong Marine Park
- Flying Hanuman Ziplining Experience
- Canoeing Excursion in Phang Nga Bay with Thai Buffet Lunch
- Introduction to City Tour
- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
How to explore the mangroves of Phuket
ATV discovery tours
An ATV tour typically starts out from the ATV camp in Thalang district, a few kilometres from the Heroines Monument on the east coast of the island. After everyone becomes familiar 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 coast offers 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 very fast, but the fun comes from the challenge 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 simply hard to get to. You’ll often feel like you own the beach, especially at low tide. The tour is perfect for families. The ATVs are big enough to carry 2 and kids can ride along. After all the fun, coffee, tea or soft drinks and snacks are typically provided.
Mangroves 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 ideal. Here in Phuket, you can stay fit and at the same time explore parts of the island that few visitors get to see. Tours include visits to small villages to see the local lifestyle as well as 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 a light-weight aluminium frame, 21 or 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.
Tours typically lay on a half-day, 28-kilometre 'northern trails' trip, or a full-day 'northern and southern trails' trip, which covers 28 km in the morning and 32 in the afternoon.
Kayaking in the mangroves
If you have only a short time and you can put together a company of at least 4 people, you really should try a canoeing trip along Klong Mudong (Mudong canal). The journey is about 2 kilometres.
This canal is just wide enough to be able to paddle in comfort yet still see all the mangroves' inhabitants, including snakes, birds and macaques.
You will leave Phuket in the early morning, stopping by 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.
If you have the time, a multiple-day safari can be a great choice. 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 the mainland. It will easily come across as some primaeval swamp. On such a tour, you'll also have the opportunity to get closer to nature and explore the smaller creeks and see some birdlife. You can borrow a canoe and lifejacket to paddle your way silently into this dense green world.
Dining among Phuket mangroves
Mor Mu Dong Restaurant
Mor Mu Dong, next to Klong Mudong, is right in among the mangroves. Many of the dishes are typical fiery Phuket food, with no holds barred, but there are also milder dishes available 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 and within reach. The restaurant has several open-sided huts for group dining as well as smaller huts for more intimate groups.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 9.30pm (except the 15th of the month)
- Location: Soi Palai, Chao Fa Road, Chalong, Muang, Phuket 83130, Thailand
- Tel: +66 (0)88 766 1634
Chaiyo Seafood Restaurant
You can find Chaiyo Seafood Restaurant along 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 you. It's the ultimate guarantee of freshness.
The location couldn’t be better, right next to beautiful Klong Mudong. You dine with the view of the beautiful mangrove forest ahead. You even can borrow a canoe from the restaurant – no charge – and paddle around the area nearby before or after your meal.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 10.30am to 10.30pm
- Location: 25/2 Soi Mueang Thong-Khao Khad Sakdidet Road, Wichit, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand
- Tel: +66 (0)76 393 142
Bang Pae Seafood
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 neighbourhood 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 visitors to Phuket, 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 10am to 8.30pm
- Location: Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand
- Tel: +66 (0)87 887 5785