Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pirates of Phang Nga Bay

The island of Phuket is known for its resort-filled beaches and its nightlife, but we were looking instead for its quiet Thai peacefulness and spectacular nature, so we joined a canoe excursion to the phenomenal limestone caverns and wildlife-filled lagoons of Phang Nga Bay.

Phang Nga Bay is dotted with huge limestone islands, some of which have hidden lagoons, accessible only through caverns in the rock. Entering our first cave was an experience straight out of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” complete with the eerie tlop, tlop of the water dripping off the cavern walls and the squeaking of hordes of tiny bats.

After a short trip - through total darkness (the guides do the paddling here) - our path opened out onto a spectacular lagoon open to the sky. The towering limestone walls were covered with trees, ferns, and orchids, and everywhere we saw the colorful flash of kingfishers in flight. Looking up at the vertical forest surrounding us, we were tiny, floating intruders, tiptoeing quietly through the hugeness of this paradise.

Suddenly, there was a whoosh of wings as the air above us filled with a colony of flying foxes (huge, fruit-eating bats) who lived in the highest trees on the island. We could see the reddish glints of their fur as they soared high over the lagoon.

By the time we traveled to our next cave, the tide had risen, narrowing the openings of the caverns. The guides jokingly reassured us we’d be able to get out again, so we laid back in the canoes and slid through. Staring up at the low ceiling of the cavern, we were dazzled by the brightness: thousands upon thousands of oysters were gleaming in the dim light.

We could have stayed for hours in the lagoons. But the tides were still rising, so the guides carefully paddled out of the low cavern into the open water, and we looked back once more at the now seemingly impenetrable islands of Phang Nga Bay.


Mom said...

It's so beautiful and exotic - and a bit claustrophobic when leaving on the rising tide!

LauraS said...

I am so enjoying reading your blog entries and happy to see you are enjoying your adventure!
Laura S

Andrew said...

wow.... adding this to new zealand fjords on the list of places jodel and i have to follow in your footsteps...