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  • Phang Nga Nature Tour

    Bamboo Rafting, Elephant Trekking & Bathing in Phang Nga


    Phang Nga Nature Tour is the perfect opportunity to get away – for a moment - from the Phuket beaches and to discover the splendors of rural Thailand. The Province of Phang Nga is just north of Phuket Island (the two provinces are linked by two bridges), and the Phang Nga Nature Tour camp is located a few kilometres north of Phang Nga Town amidst a tropical setting along a river. It takes roughly one hour to get there by minibus from Phuket.

    Phang Nga Nature Tour fits in four outdoor attractions/activities into one full day: sightseeing at Wat Suwan Kuha (a.k.a. Wat Suwannakuha and Wat Tham – a temple in a cave); bamboo rafting on a tranquil river; elephant trekking in some majestic jungle surroundings; and last but not least, the unique experience of bathing an elephant in the river!

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  • Wat Suwan Kuha is situated off Phuket-Phang Nga main road, a dozen kilometres away from Phang Nga Town. This temple was built inside a huge cave at the end of the 19th century and features a large reclining Buddha, several Buddha statues and images, and a big Chedi containing the bones of the Na Takuathung family (founders of the cave’s first ever shrine). A second cave, located behind the first one, has a chedi and some beautiful rock formations ready to be explored. 

    Wat Suwan Kuha is famous for its colony of long-tailed Macaques that are scattered around the entrance of the cave (they are not allowed inside). The miniature monkeys wait patiently to be fed by the visitors who can purchase fruit and peanuts from the vendors by the cave’s entrance. Feeding the monkeys is great fun for children and adults alike - just remember that these are wild animals, thus their behavior can be somewhat unpredictable at times…

    After this pleasant cultural experience, we head on to the camp at which we secure our belongings in safe boxes before venturing on to the next activity: bamboo-rafting on the river. The rafts are about four-by-one metres in dimension, with two seats for passengers and a spot at the front for the captain – if you could call him that – to handle the controls, which come in the form of a large wooden pole. 

    The experience is simply great and the relaxing drift down the river, which is flanked by lush vegetation, is a great opportunity to spot various botanical and zoological species (with help from the trusty guide, that is). We even sampled some local acid drops fruits named ma-fai (a.k.a. look-fai), that our guide plucked from a tree on the river bank.

    After bamboo rafting, we head back to the camp for a hearty lunch consisting of fried vegetables, chicken with cashew nuts, omelette, Tom Yam Talay (spicy seafood soup) and some fruit; coffee and tea are also available at a self-service counter. We then move on to the next activity, elephant trekking, which is located a few kilometres away from the camp.

    Set on a plain with a river at its centre and surrounded by small mountains covered with lush vegetation (mostly rainforest and rubber tree plantations), the elephant camp is rather basic: a single elevated shack allows access to the seat fixed on the back of the elephants. The elephant trek goes along a path covered with tall grass and a few coconut and palm trees, before the elephants cross the river to get back to the starting point. In total, the trek lasts for around 45 minutes.

    The climax of Phang Nga Nature Tour starts as soon as we finish the trek. It’s now time for both tourists and the giant beasts of the jungle to cool off in the river, and enjoy an elephant bathing session together. The mahout ‘asks’ in a commanding voice for the elephants to lie down in the river so that everybody can give them a good ol’back back rub with brushes and water. The elephants splash everybody with water spurting out from their trunks whilst also letting people climb aboard their backs: it is indeed a unique experience.

    After this exhilarating moment, we get back to the main camp to change our wet clothes for dry ones (don’t forget to bring extra shorts and T-shirts in your bag), before heading back to Phuket at the end of the afternoon, our heads filled with memories of this exciting day out.

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