Today, we went for a kayaking tour with our partner, Trang Wonderland whose shop is just down below Barefeet Heaven Hill Naturist Resort.
The resort had arranged everything, so we were just told to meet up on the Had Yao Pier. Here we climbed on board a long tail boat and sped up the river with two kayaks on the fore deck.
After a short ride passing by the impressive rock formations we stopped a a small side canal and off-loaded the kayaks. From here, we were going to paddle ourselves – but with each our instructor who was doing most of the steering from the back of the kayak, while we were doing the hard work up front.
The little canal ended in front of a gaping whole into the mountain. This was the cave, that we were going to explore. We propelled our kayaks up on the mud bank in front and stepped out and up to the entrance to the cave.
Inside, the cave expanded into a vast hollow. Our guides were wearing headlights, so they could show us what was worth seeing simply by looking at it. Glittering drip stone formations and little basins – filled with crystal clear water in the wet season – was a fascinating sight.
For me, personally, I was more fascinated by the view of the myriad of bats hanging from the ceiling of the cave and some of them fluttering about. My guide explained, that some of them were blood sucking bats the size of a thumb. They would stealthily land on your skin and painlessly start sucking your blood until you saw them and would brush them off like a beetle. They could carry diseases, but locals protected themselves by chewing some leaves, that he showed me.
We did not get any suckers on us on this trip, and maybe it is mostly a good story, but I believe the old man.
After a while, he told us to go back. The cave continued much further into the mountain, but there were wide cracks between the boulders that we could slip on and drop down five to ten meters below, so it was too dangerous.
Back in the fresh air outside the cave, we mounted our kayaks again. The water level had gone down even more, so we had to push hard to get off the mud. Then we were afloat and continued our adventure.
We eventually reached our parked long tail boat, but we didn’t climb back on board. I was already tired from paddling and would not have objected to a ride. However, instead we turned right toward the sea and paddled on the main river along the edge of the mangrove forest. After a while, we reached a new side canal, slightly wider than the one, we had just explored. We turned into this and paddled on while discussing the reason why there were no more crocodiles and other animals in the area, except some birds and an abundance of fish.
My guide believed it was the greed of the people, who first felled the mangrove trees and hunted the animals and only when the area was eventually declared the Chao Mai National Park it was too late, even though the rangers did protect the nature from further encroachment and exploitation.
We did see some fish, in particular the mudskippers. The mudskipper is a half-fish half-reptile, which slowed down in evolution. It has powerful front fins, with the help of which it crawls ashore, jumps and even climbs trees. It is the only blinking fish on Earth. Its eyes are able to move independently of each other. In addition, it has a keen ear. If you want to see a fish at short distance, sneak up quietly.
Suddenly our canal ended in a whole in the rock and we paddled in under the mountain. We could touch the ceiling of the cave, it was so low that at times I had to lean backwards to avoid banging my forehead into the rocks. My guide turned on his headlight and we could see, where we were going. The cave continued deep into the mountain and we couldn’t help talking about the boys trapped in the cave in the north of Thailand in July 2018 that were miraculously saved by a team of Thai and foreign experts.
The canal turned in the middle of the path under the rock and suddenly there was light at the end and soon we were out in the mangrove forest again, only we were on the other side of the mountain. A fascinating feeling of having passed under a mountain through a natural cave tunnel and being back in the mud world of the mangrove forest.
The forest saved the area from being devastated by the Tsunami in December 2004. The trees absorbed the gushing wave and slowed it down as it rolled in. All the houses in the district were flooded to the roof, but the destruction was limited because the power of the wave was broken by the mangrove forest, my guide explains.
Eventually, we paddled back through the cave tunnel and out to the open water, where our long tail boat had followed us. This time, we stopped paddling any further and were asked to climb on board the boat while our guides hauled the kayaks back up on the fore deck.
On the way back, we were served fruit and soft drinks. Before we knew it, we were back at the pier at Had Yao an interesting couple of hours richer.
The tour is sold at 600 baht per kayak.
Can the trip bee done naked? Yes, if you wish, the kayaking and cave walk can be done naked, provided there are no other visitors to the cave that day. We didn’t go for that, as we had already planned to go to the nude beach after the trip and rather wanted protection against possible mosquitoes – but it is clearly an option.