When you read the stats on how tourism is contributing to environmental degradation, it can be a bit of a bummer, especially when the area you live in – in our case, Southeast Asia – is seeing tourism numbers continue to trend upward. However, a sure cure to this is actually getting out there and seeing all the good work that’s being done to make sure things never get too bad, and even better – pitching in yourself.
Smiling Albino spends a lot of time in Trang, one of Thailand’s southern provinces, most recognizable for its proximity to Krabi and Phuket. Or maybe you’re confusing it with Trad, a different province, which is easy to do. But no… this is Trang.
With nearly its entire western side fronting the Andaman Sea, Trang is a contender for the “most awesome shoreline” award that we’re thinking of starting up. Not only are there some pristine beaches and mangrove forests to explore, but there are dozens of nearby islands big and small that provide plenty of hidden and off-the-beaten-path places to discover.
One of the most interesting areas is around Koh Mook – an island just offshore known for its blindingly white beaches and awesome sunsets. It’s the busiest of Trang’s islands, but that’s not saying much – crowds are still sparse. Many people visit this area to spot dugongs, the manatee cousins that live in the warm, shallow waters off the coast of Trang.
Sadly, the channel between Ko Mook and the mainland has been widened and dredged to make it easier for boats to putt back and forth, which has wreaked havoc on the seagrass habitat. And wouldn’t you know it, dugongs just loooove seagrass.
But you can make a difference. Not only can we arrange excursions to spot these goofy, huggable-looking herbivores, we can also pitch in to spend some time with conservationists recording numbers of dugongs and planting seagrass, which, in addition to providing food for the dugongs, helps prevent soil erosion, and provides a safe, cozy habitat for all manner of sea critters.
In the afternoon, we find a great way to unwind is to visit the old town of Kantang, with its gorgeous vintage railway station (a huge hit with train nerds) as well as some beautiful old homes/museums that belonged to the old rubber barons who once wielded enormous power in this area (a huge hit with history nerds).
To get the best bang out of your eco-buck, we can continue the afternoon by lending a hand to a local outreach project that supports local communities creating handmade products with nipa palm leaves.
One last important point – the dugong spotting, seagrass planting, and outreach projects are all undertaken with the blessing of the people we’re helping. Many times, outreach efforts are done more for photo ops than to offer any real help, but under the guidance of local experts and community liaisons, it’s great to know that our efforts are not only wanted, but treasured by those we connect with.
Interested in learning more about dugongs and Nipa palm crafts, inquire about our Trang adventures here!