Ko Chang is one of Thailand’s most popular resort islands and holidays here are mainly about relaxing at the beach. There is, though, another side to Ko Chang beyond the beaches. While tourism now plays an important part in the local economy, there are plenty of islanders who still rely on fishing for their livelihood. Located in the south-east corner of Ko Chang is the fishing village of Ban Salak Khok. This area of Ko Chang may lack the beautiful beaches found on the west coast of the island, but it is home to a local community that provides another perspective of island life.
Community based tourism at Ban Salak Khok
Village life in Ban Salak Khok continues much as it always has done. Families still live in simple homes raised on stilts above the water and fishing and farming are still the main way to earn a living. But the people of Ban Salak Khok have also recognised that supporting responsible tourism can help them as a community. The villagers have formed a cooperative and work together on projects which benefit everyone. One of the main projects involves protecting the mangroves. Healthy mangroves are vital to the local ecosystem and marine life and this in turn helps the fishermen and farmers. Protecting the natural environment also encourages discerning tourists to visit the area and learn more about local life beyond the beaches.
Tourists who visit Ban Salak Khok can rest assured that the money they spend has a positive impact. Part of the income generated by tourism at Ban Salak Khok is distributed to the cooperative members, but money is also placed into other key areas. This includes a percentage that goes towards conservation, a scholarship fund for students, and other projects in the community. In addition, funding is also made available to train local tour guides and to ensure that environmental activities are properly conducted.
Glide through the mangroves
The pristine waterways and delightful views at Ban Salak Khok have proven popular with tourists. The Salak Khok Community Tour Club offer a couple of different ways to enjoy the natural attractions of the area. If you’d like to paddle your own way around the waterways, kayaks can be hired for 100 Baht per person per hour. And for visitors who prefer to sit back and let somebody else do the work, the community provide a traditional Thai boat complete with an oarsman who does all the rowing. The boats are known as ‘reua maad’ and they are an elegant way to soak up the scenery. These old-style boats originate from the Ayutthaya period of Thai history in the 14th century. Made from takien (iron wood) trees, the rounded bottom design makes them well-suited for use on rivers and canals. The boats seat up to four passengers with a relaxing tour of the mangroves and bay lasting an hour. Look for sea eagles gliding on the thermals above and listen to the gentle chorus of bird song emanating from the mangroves. Gliding through the calm waters surrounded by nature and with no other people around, it’s easy to forget you are on one of Thailand’s most popular tourist islands.
From sea to table
In addition to the daytime boat trips, it’s also possible to book a romantic sunset boat trip for two where you and your partner are treated to a candlelit seafood dinner as you cruise through the bay. Or you can sit down at Salak Khok Seafood restaurant and enjoy the sublime sunset views as you feast on the fabulous seafood.
Visitors to Salak Khok can enjoy a stroll through the mangroves via an elevated walkway that provides fine views of the area. Coffee enthusiasts can get their caffeine fix at Ban Kafae where the coffee is homegrown and if you are looking to destress or detox, look no further than The Spa Koh Chang Resort.
How to get to Ban Salak Khok
There are no metered taxis on Ko Chang. Public transport is in the form of the white songthaews which act as shared taxis, but which can also be hired privately. To go to Salak Khok and back you will need to negotiate a fare with the driver. Journey time from White Sand Beach to Salak Khok is approximately 40 minutes and around an hour from Lonely Beach.