Cockney-walking monitor lizards, thousands of sweet little hermit crabs bringing the ground to life, little red squirrels, rats and mosquitoes galore – this is Koh Rok.
Tales of panthers, tigers and pythons and only one little cat roaming in a little dream world round the island, as cats do. Bless her, there were many before her – I’m not sure she knows of her fate.
I’m so pleased to say there is no picture of a python!
Crystal clear waters, so pristine it doesn’t seem real. Even post cards don’t look this good and they certainly don’t paint the full picture of the feeling when swimming in these bath temperatures, snorkelling in this giant tropical fish tank and feeling the fine, floury sand between your toes and friendly Sea Gypsies quietly hiding from the midday sun. If there is a Heaven – this is it.
We booked a one night camping trip through Freedom Adventures and it is safe to say this is definitely a huge highlight of our trip. I’d done a lot of research before we left the UK and paid a deposit as I’d read they get booked up quickly. They only do small group trips or private charters and have excellent reviews online so didn’t want to miss out. Although I am kicking myself for some of the over-planning I did for Thailand, this is one thing I will certainly never regret; once in a lifetime experience and never to be forgotten!
We got collected from our accommodation on Koh Lanta about 8am and taken straight to the pier in Old Town where we caught the boat. There was a nice mixed group of 9 of us plus the host and his crew. It was a comfortable size with shade and everyone was lovely, we all got on really well. I always think that makes a huge difference; it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, the company can either make or break an experience.
The boat broke down 30 mins later. Another boat stopped to help which was sweet but luckily our guys knew exactly what to do to fix it and we were shortly ‘back on the road’ 🙂
We made a stop for some out-of-this-world snorkelling. I think I’ve touched on this before, but I had my first experience of diving and serious snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. If you’ve done it there, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. That was almost 10 years ago and since then, I have never seen anything on that level. The Barrier Reef is still special to me and still the best I’ve seen, BUT, this did come close. Stupidly, we didn’t take even a disposable underwater camera and I’m still really kicking myself for not investing in a GoPro for this trip. Next time
And then we arrived. Wow. Magnificent. As we waded through the sea to reach our home for the night, the day trippers started leaving. You could almost see the bitterness and disappointment in their eyes; they’d seen heaven but it obviously wasn’t for long enough and they knew we were there to stay. I’m sure we looked pretty smug too 😉
We had a lovely home (boat!) cooked lunch made by Ned our host and his crew and then spent the day wandering around and exploring. We did a bit of snorkelling from the beach but I think we all agreed it wasn’t quite as good as the spots a little further out.
For sunset, we all made the 20/30 minute uphill trek to the viewpoint. We climbed hundreds of uneven stairs of various sizes and condition, chewed to pieces by the mosquitoes every time we stopped for a few seconds – even with industrial bottles of deet and when we finally arrived to the top dripping with sweat, we enjoyed the sunset. Without sounding like a cranky old cow; it was stunning, it was a bloody good sunset. But it was just a sunset. The same sun I’ve seen set so many times, bear in mind it’s one of my favourite things in life. But was it worth that trek and 20 bites? For me, not really. I have seen some absolutely amazing sunsets in my life from beautiful viewpoints. I’ve been spoilt. There is nothing negative about this one in at all, it was stunning and I’ll never forget it. But would I do it again? No.
After dinner we chatted about life, Kristian got his hands on a guitar for the first time this holiday (his first true love!) and we sat around enjoying the vibe. We also watched in awe as the hermit crabs wandered round aimlessly. These guys deserve their own little post one day soon! Ned kindly lit a fire on the beach and one of our group was a budding photographer. He enjoyed teaching us the ropes of lighting and exposure, settings and tricks we’d never used. There were things he was just trying for the first time that night and we all mucked in to make some stunning wall-worthy shots. I will post some of these and give him the credit once he’s emailed them onto us all. He’s certainly got some skills, a hell of a lot of enthusiasm and so much love and passion for his new hobby and what he hopes will become a career.
It’s safe to say I didn’t sleep well that night. Not at all. I am not a princess when it comes to creepies and wildlife, but with just thin canvas between me and the list of beasts I opened this post with, I slept with one eye open! Good job I had such a stunning view through the tent door straight out to the beach and sea. The soft sound of the waves and wind blowing through the trees was like a self-help recording to aid a good night’s sleep; shame the fear took over! Add in the niggling tsunami thought at the back of my mind and hey presto 🙂
We survived and made it to the morning unharmed, yippee! Had a delicious breakfast, our new friends taught us ‘Vietnamese Poker’ and then got taken over to Koh Rok Nai to relax and do some more snorkelling and swimming. Another delicious lunch on the beach and then we were taken to another snorkelling site before making our way back to Lanta. To say this was a breath taking, once in a lifetime experience in an understatement.
If you’re ever in this part of the world, you MUST go.
Facts and how to book:
We went with Freedom Adventures who only offer camping trips to Koh Rok. I would definitely recommend them for their knowledge, food, safety and warm personalities. I’ve seen a handful of people online moan about the snorkelling in the area: Ned our host/guide knew exactly the best spots to take us to so that will always make a difference to what you see. It was also really nice to just have a small group but still enough people to chat to and get to know. You can contact them through their website.
When I researched this before we left for Thailand, I saw a couple of posts from people who had camped alone – it seems people get a day trip speedboat and then just stay there then get collected again a few days later. This is certainly a viable option as the tents are already erected and you can pay the rangers to rent one, however the shop/’restaurant’ opens at odd times and realistically you’d need to bring your own food if you want to stay for a while. They don’t have a huge selection and it’s expensive for obvious reasons. Don’t forget to hang your food on the trees so you don’t get invaded by rats! We decided not to take this option as we couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of taking our own food and fending for ourselves especially as we didn’t have much time. We also wanted the opportunity to meet people and learn about the island from our guide so I definitely think going with Freedom Adventures was the best route for us personally. It is the pricier option but worth it if you want easy organisation
Alternatively, a couple of our friends took a speedboat day trip from Lanta which they really enjoyed (and they are also seasoned snorkellers who have been disappointed in the past!) They got their tour from the agent next to Otto’s on Klong Nin Beach, but you can take your chances and book a day trip from almost any agent on Lanta or Phi Phi. Do some TripAdvisor research first to get the best experience for your budget.
Koh Rok is two islands – Koh Rok Nok and Koh Rok Nai. Nok is where you camp and also has 5 static huts/bungalows but I have no experience of this so have no comment. You could swim between the two I’m sure you’d sleep a bit better though, but it just takes from the adventure! Nai is completely uninhabited except for resting Sea Gypsies and an array of protected wildlife. 100 meters apart you can swim across if you’re fit, kayak or take the boat.
I haven’t been asked to review Freedom Adventures and paid full price like everyone else. But they deserve the shout out and I would recommend anyone to book with them
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been to Koh Rok – what did you think? Have you got any other tips? Fire away with the questions if you’re planning on going to this part of the world I’ll be happy to help!