Imagine Krabi. What drifts into your mind? Movie-worthy beaches and traditional longtail boats sailing around limestone karsts? A steamy waterfall surrounded by rainforest? From sea caves to coral reefs, the beauties of Thailand’s Andaman coast are within easy reach of the best hotels in Krabi. But to really explore every nook and cranny of this archipelago, cycling, rock climbing or scuba diving are the way to go…
CYCLE OF ADVENTURE
If you’re mountain biking, your ‘must visit’ list should include the Crystal Pool, also known as Emerald Pool, near the Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve. Here, under a rainforest canopy, you can relax in the Krabi Hot Springs – nature’s Jacuzzi filled with pure thermal water.
Another picturesque trip is to the sacred Tiger Cave Temple. If your legs are up to it after the ride, climb the 1,260 steps to the top. You’ll be rewarded with a gilded, bell-shaped stupa and sea views stretching further than Ao Nang.
You can also take a looped trail through a valley of 1,000 year-old trees to a hidden sanctuary of caves filled with Buddha relics and altars.
If you’re hankering to get off the well-cycled tracks, there are plenty of small and bumpy roads leading to rubber and palm plantations. Or follow the main coast road to the peaceful seclusion of the Klong Muang and Tupkaek beaches. And you can escape to your own secret patch of powdery white sand.
ROCK CLIMBING HEAVEN
From kids to seasoned pros, Krabi’s variety of limestone karsts, cliffs and rocky overhangs are like catnip to climbers.
The most popular spots are along the Phranang peninsula at Ton Sai, Ko Phi Phi and Railay Beach.
With more than 700 bolted routes, you’ll find ample space to hang around and appreciate the far-reaching views of land and sea.
You don’t need special skills, but it’s worth hiring a private guide or booking a course at one of the resident schools. These tend to include an instructor, (much needed) refreshments and equipment. Most people go Sport Climbing, which uses metal bolts permanently fixed to the rock. It’s one of the safest options, with a harness and rope that leave you feeling secure as you abseil down the 17 metres.
Scuba diving around Krabi is out of this world. The reefs of Koh Phi Phi and other local islands feature a number of protected sites and diverse marine life.
And high season, between January and March, promises the clearest visibility along with balmy water temperatures of 30°C.
Here’s where to view Krabi’s most spellbinding underwater shows:
• Koh Ha
Shrimps, crabs and over 60 coral species make their home here. Often you’ll see schools of barracuda and squid, along with leopard sharks mooching along the bottom of the sand.
• Koh Dor
To spy on the normally timid black-tip reef sharks, snorkel around the west side of this island. Then dive down to where the large barrel sponges and colourful soft and hard corals live, including fans, leather and sea whips.
• Koh Si
From snappers and giant groupers to seahorses and scorpion fishes darting about, these two shallow, coral-covered plateaus on either side of the island are teeming with life.
Can’t decide between climbing and diving? Then do both with the latest craze – deep water soloing. You’ll travel to an island and climb straight from the boat (without ropes) onto a bare rock overhang. Falling isn’t a problem, as you’ll splash into water.
The sea gypsy spirit
During your stay, you’ll probably hear about the ‘sea gypsies’ – once feared as pirates, centuries ago. Today, this minority community known as Chao Le – ‘people of the sea’ – have settled along the Krabi coast in simple stilt-houses erected over the water. And while most make their living fishing and catching lobster, some drive boats for tourists.
Great believers in nature and the supernatural, ‘sea gypsy’ ceremonies are exuberant, symbolic affairs.
‘Floating Boats’ is a particularly joyful event. This is when the village men place wooden statues of themselves, along with their hair and popped rice (amongst other things) in a specially made vessel. As they ask the gods for forgiveness, the boat sails out to sea, taking away any evil with it.
For tips on other Thai islands, read our guide to island hopping for grown-ups.