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After an hour and a half ferry trip from Koh Phi Phi we arrived at Saladan Pier Koh Lanta. I had prearranged to do 12 days of veterinary volunteer work at Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) and this was the main reason for visiting and staying for this length of time on this particular island. The taxi took us to LAW where I introduced myself and then searched for accommodation close by. The area we stayed at was not the central part but then again there is no central touristic place like eg Sairee beach in Koh Tao. We were not going to complain about paying 300baht (£6) a night for a private wooden bungalow at Andaman Bay Resort on Relax Bay beach which was only a 5 minute walk away from the shelter. Mentioning I was a LAW volunteer had it’s benefits at times, this and the fact we were staying for 11 nights was why we managed to haggle the bungalow price down (yes we learned you can haggle accommodation also, it’s not just for shops and taxis!).
After my return from the shelter we would spend the evenings at Relax Bay watching the tide move further and further away from us whilst watching the sunset and looking for hermit crabs walking along the beach. Max would spend his days by the beach with the locals from the bar and restaurant next to our bungalow resort and helped give out flyers one day at another beach with the owner of the bar and his two nephews.
A few plots down from us was a restaurant and we got chatting to the owner one night. He explained about the devastation caused by the Tsunami in 2004. He had been at the beach at the time when the tsunami hit, destroying everything. He showed us his scar where he had been stabbed by a stick as he held on to a tree for dear life.
Tsunami survivor Max with the locals
One thing I have to mention about this island is that it does not feel as touristic as other islands and it definitely is not a party place but more of a family orientated island, nevertheless beautiful.
One afternoon we drove to Saladan in the pouring rain which was standard as every day around 6pm it would start to rain heavily and do so for hours, sometimes raining the entire night. It is pricier compared to the usual places we had been to near us but it is expected as it is by the pier and more touristic.
Exploring the island:
We rented a scooter on my first free day and drove around, which was the cheapest and easiest method of exploring (200baht/day) the island. On the way to a waterfall there were elephants chained to trees just waiting for tourists to carry them on a jungle trek which was quite sad. Once at the waterfalls entrance we trekked for about 20mins to get there and passed a small bat cave on the way. Branches from above the cave had grown downwards and formed an attachment on the ground which we had never seen before. The waterfall was okay and we bathed in the water but there are better waterfalls compared, nevertheless it was nice to see. Old Town, on the other side of the island, was a small town set up on stilts over the water. The tide was far out when we visited and we sneakily entered a lobster farm where they were lobsters were held in tanks.
Four Islands Tour:
On my next free day we had booked a snorkelling tour which started at 9am. We were picked up from our bungalow and driven to the southern side of the island to hop on our long tail boat. There were probably around 20 of us which was a good size. It took about 45 minutes to get to out first stop where we snorkelled for half an hour. The crystal clear and warm water (unlike the beach where we were staying at) made it very favourable to swim and snorkel. Whilst swimming it occasionally gets very warm (similar to when somebody pees near you!) but there is actually no one around. A green curry lunch was served by the beach where we also snorkelled. One of the highlights of the trip was finding a family of clown fish in an anemone, just like in Finding Nemo which was very cute and we watched them for quite some time. This island was quiet with a few bungalows, a restaurant and a dive school. After our lunch stop we were taken to snorkel again, this time we saw a curled up water snake on the rocks above us and a massive school of fish swimming below us where there must have been at least a few thousand fish. Our last stop was Morakot (Emerald) Cave. It was compulsory to wear life jackets and the tour guide guided us through a dark cave which opened up into a tiny beach cove, sort of like a ‘sink hole’, enclosed by tall rocks. This place was prestige and one of our favourite locations up to now even though there is not much to it. On a whole this trip was quite enjoyable We returned back to land around 5pm just in time for the sunset.
Koh Lanta Noi:
Crossing the sea on a ferry with our scooter to Koh Lanta Noi was something different. A ferry carries vehicles over very slowly to the point that it doesn’t even feel like it’s moving. The drive was very enjoyable as we were virtually the only ones on the roads. We came across a long deserted beach on the left side of the island which we had all to ourselves. We spent the day watching sand crabs create sand balls out of the dug up sand from their holes. We are both the type that get fascinated easily when it comes to animals and their ways of life so we lay for a long time just watching. This beach was lined with periwinkles with very vivid bright colours. Just before we headed back we drove around the island until the sun started to set. This island is nothing like it’s sister island Koh Lanta Yai. It comprises of dense forests and a few small towns with no tourists to be seen. It was a nice change and allowed us to really see what the locals live like in this area. Just as a precaution we learnt the hard way why we were the only visitors on that beach as we had been bitten alive by sand flies without even realising it! So use coconut oil to deter the sand flies if you fancy a visit to that beach.
Javier stayed a few bungalows down from us and Maria in a resort just next to us so we spent some evenings together, with a Brazilian volunteer, having a few drinks and learning some fire acts (mainly Max). My favourite thing about this beach was the great number of hermit crabs we would come across and the surprise the frogs would give us in our bathroom.