We paddle our way through the calm Ao Thalane Bay, leaving behind the open waters of the Andaman Sea and venturing into the towering limestone cliffs that mark the entrance to a unique ecosystem. From the main branch of the channel, we follow a secondary path enclosed by two tall rock cliffs, standing like gateways to a magical world.
The fishing village of Ao Thalane, 30km south of Krabi town, sits at the mouth of a vast salty lake where the karst topography gives rise to cliffs, caves and sinkholes that emerge from lush mangrove forests. The best and most sustainable way to explore this intricate and changing network of waterways is undoubtedly on a kayak.
We enter a realm of dense mangrove forests, where all sounds from the real world drop away and there’s only silence, interrupted by the rhythmic music of our paddles breaking the water’s surface.
Suddenly, the canopy above seems to come alive. The mangroves sway and creak, and mysterious sounds grow closer and closer. A tiny face with a beard, almost human, peeks out from the foliage. Then another, and another. Before we know it, we are surrounded by agile monkeys leaping from branch to branch, their curious eyes locked on us. In our kayaks, we remain silent and motionless, captivated by the scene unfolding before us.
Marco, my boyfriend, fumbles behind me with the camera bag, eager to capture the moment. With my GoPro in hand, I brace myself for anything. Without warning, one of the monkeys leaps onto our kayak, landing right in front of me. We look into each other’s eyes, and I can see that I am much more intimidated than he is. They appear friendly, but I am all too aware of the sharp claws and teeth behind their playful demeanor.
The monkey explores our kayak, passing by me and examining my boyfriend, who snaps photos at lightning speed. He then returns to me, perches on my feet and grabs one of the plastic water bottles we inadvertently left lying out. Without even trying to unscrew the cap, he punctures the bottom with his teeth and greedily drinks its contents. The other monkeys seem to take this as a cue, and within moments, our kayak is swarmed by the little creatures, each snatching a bottle for themselves.
For what feels like an eternity but lasts only five minutes, I just observe and laugh at the surreal experience. And then, just as suddenly as they arrived, the monkeys vanish, their chattering receding into the distance, leaving behind shredded plastic bottles in our kayak.
More than rock climbing
For a long time, only one category of traveler has truly discovered Krabi as the adventure destination that it is: rock climbers. Thanks to the stunning limestone cliffs, Krabi’s towns such as Ao Nang, Ton Sai and Railey have served as basecamp for climbers of all skill levels.