There are only eight degrees of separation between this area of southern Thailand and the equator: most of the wooded land is thus tropical evergreen rainforest (so defined because rain falls more than nine months of the year), with some lowland swamp and mangrove forest. It forms part of the rainforest zone that sweeps through mainland Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and Java and is home to a whole host of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. There are also hundreds of different birds species, many of which are endangered.
A lot of these forest areas are easily accessible, with clear trails to follow. Popular trekking spots in Krabi include the National Park area of Khao Phanom Benja with its beautiful seven-level waterfall at Huay Toh; and Khao Nor Chu Chi’s verdant tangle of lowland vines, bamboo and ancient trees, at the heart of which lies the astonishing ‘emerald pool‘.
Treks vary from short, half-hour-long nature trails, to overnight camping trips to the summit cloud forest of Phanom Bencha mountain (dry season only). The best views can be found at the top of the 4 – 5 hour Ngon Nak trail in Tubkaek.
For a more relaxing time, visit the Tharnbok Khoranee National Park, in Ao Luk district, some 40 minutes drive from Ao Nang. It’s a peaceful spot, ideal for a picnic, with many small waterfalls and a deep pool for swimming. This could be combined with a trip to the Bor Thor caves and canyons in the same area, which can be visited by kayak, or simply by chartering a longtail boat from the pier.
The mangrove forest in Bor Thor is a critical natural resource that supports a whole ecosystem of plants and animals, as well as preventing land erosion. It can also be found along the coast, on some larger islands, particularly in the north of the province around Ao Thalane and Ao Luk, or along the Krabi Town and Neua Klong backwaters, and is best explored in a kayak.
For a rainforest “taster”, which is also close to the tourist areas, visit Tiger Cave Temple, which has the pristine Khiriwong Valley forest at its centre. Surrounded on all sides by high mountains and caves, it is accessed by 100+ steep stairs over the lowest cliff, to the left of the big Guan Im statue. Once over, there is an easy 20 – 30 minute nature trail leading in and out of caves which would make a nice “adventure” for younger children.
On the other hand, those looking for a more in-depth experience of the tropical rainforest should consider the overnight trip to Khao Sok National Park in neighbouring Surat Thani province. This area comprises a diverse range of caves, lakes, mountains and tropical evergreen forest and can be explored on a trip departing from and returning to Krabi.
If you dislike group visits, it is just as easy to go to any National Park yourself – although it is still recommended to take a local guide if you would like to learn something about the flora and fauna; and always stick to the footpaths. Note that designated National Park areas, and some popular tourist spots like the Emerald Pool, charge an entry fee, varying between 100 – 400 baht for foreigners; group tours will always include this in the ticket price.