Kayaking and sea-kayaking are great ways to explore Krabi’s dramatic scenery without impacting the environment. Slow and silent, these sturdy “sit-on-top” craft can move almost unnoticed through different coastal ecosystems, passing mangrove, canyons and caves.
The guided tours on offer take you to three main areas around Ao Luk in the north of the province: Ao Thalane (mangrove and canyons) at the southern tip of Phang Nga Bay; Bor Thor (ancient limestone caves); and Koh Hong (an island with a ‘hidden’ lagoon at its centre). There are also several new kayaking sites closer to Ao Nang that have been exploited in recent years – including Nai Sa and Sai Khao villages. These are more straightforward mangrove tours, without the dramatic scenery seen in the other locations.
Further afield is the beautiful Koh Garos, another cape with limestone canyons, caves and mangroves: it’s worth seeking out if you prefer more “undiscovered” areas not frequented by tour groups.
In every place, however, you’ll be able to observe wildlife up close. Several species of birds (kingfishers, little herons) are easily spotted, as well as monkeys, in particular the crab-eating macaque, and occasionally hornbills. On Hong Island, the marine life includes brightly-coloured crabs, jellyfish, many tropical fish and birds, and water monitor lizards.
If you’ve never kayaked before, don’t worry. Instruction is given and the routes followed are relatively easy – although you may have aching arms the next day! All kayaks can sit 2 – 3 adults, though only two people (front and back) can paddle at once. Equally, only one person on the kayak actually needs to paddle (if you are travelling with someone who can’t or won’t help). Very young children can sit between the legs of adults, though this makes it somewhat harder to paddle.
The best time of day to kayak in Krabi depends on the tides. At high tide, some cave entrances in Bor Thor are impassable; whereas at low tide in the canyons in Thalane, the water level can be too shallow even for a kayak to pass. Mid-tide is usually the best time of day – check the water levels on any given date here. For guided tours to Thalane, there is usually a choice of morning, afternoon, or “sunset” (starting at 4pm) sessions, so you can pick accordingly. For Bor Thor, there is usually only a morning or full day session available, so if it is very high tide between 10 and 12, do something else that day.
Of course, for open sea-kayaking (Koh Hong and elsewhere) any time of day is fine.
There are dozens of companies offering kayaking tours: most are similar in terms of service, routes and price, so it makes little difference which you pick – choose rather according to the tides and timings on offer, as explained above, though do note that morning is always the busiest time of the day. If you have a larger budget and a full day to spare, it is worth the additional cost to go with Sea Kayak Krabi, especially for Koh Hong and their full day programs at Thalane and Bor Thor. Timewise, they offer more kayaking, and will often take routes that others do not. Because of the higher price, groups also tend to be smaller and guides more informed.
For those with a greater sense of adventure, you can of course go it alone. Ao Thalane, Bor Thor, and many beach locations – Ao Nang, Tonsai, Railay – also offer sea canoes for rental by the hour or day. This option will allow you to explore the local coastline independently by paddling under dramatic karst overhangs where sea eagles nest, or even (for the brave and / or qualified) hit the open water and reach Poda Island some 5 – 6km from the mainland – please do check sea conditions and currents before embarking on such a trip. Life jackets (adult sizes) and dry bags are usually included in the rental price.