Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010, Day 358 - Phuket, Day Four

Today saw another trip to Phang Nga Bay for us but with good reason, this time we went with a better informed and ecologically conscious company. What's more, we departed in the early afternoon so catch different tides so that we would have fewer people around us and would therein be afforded more time to enjoy the surroundings.

Our first stop was a return to the mangrove lagoon that we visited yesterday. This time we were able to spend almost half an hour in the lagoon where we saw mudskippers and sea egrets avoiding and hunting one another respectively. We also got to see more of the geological errosion that leave to the formation of knife-sharp rock outcroppings.

The mangrove trees supported on stilt-like roots.

Knife-edged rocks created by errosion.

Our second stop was at Hong Island, another place we had already visited. This time we kayaked into a different lagoon and were told that there are a number of lagoons on Hong Island; that was new information for us as yesterday we were told almost nothing about where we were going. Our guide also showed us where calcium and iron deposits caused a change in coloration of the rock and how different plants thrived when in close proximity to those mineral veins.

Iron deposits are illustrated by the rusty colored veins on rock towards the top.

The geological tunnel that is our exit from the lagoon.

Can you see Santa in the lower-right? Yup, he came to visit us in Thailand. Actually that is John Gray, the owner of the company who proclaimed "I haven't missed a Christmas trip since 1983 and I'm not about to start!"

After leaving Hong Island we moved to a different part of the island to travel through a cave inhabited by bats and into another lagoon. Once we were ensconced in our kayaks the guides spotted movement on the rocks and, upon closer inspection, we discovered long-tailed macaques. We were told that the monkeys arrived at the island by swimming from the mainland and favor a diet of shellfish but will scavange almost anything they can get their hairy little hands on.

Hee hee, monkey!

Into the bat cave we rowed and while we didn't find Batman we did find bat and the copious amonia-like smell of guano. Fortunately the caves are not excessively deep and a breeze helped to keep the smell from accumulating (that and the fact that many of the bats cling to the ceiling above water so that when they relieve themselves the waste is flushed out into the ocean).

When we emerged from the caves we were greeted by a lush lagoon teaming with life. The water was only a little more than a foot deep in most places and in it we could see school of little fish numbering in the hundreds. More sea egrets lines the steep walls of the lagoon and would call out on occassion, their cry reverberating through the rocky chasm. And mudskipped rested on the roots of the mangrove trees trying hard not to be seen and fleeing once their presenced was noticed.

Into the bat cave.

The verdant lagoon on the other side of the bat cave.

Freedom from the smell of guano and ammonia as seen from within.

We return to the boat and were given time to kayak independantly and to swim which we did with enthusiasm. Almost an hour later and the sun was getting heavy in the sky we were recalled to the boat and made our way to yet another part of the island as the sun began to set in earnest.

The warmth of the evening light.

The sun setting over the mainland.

As darkness blanketed the bay we returned to our kayaks for one last time. During our move from where we swam and kayaked on our own we were put to work making Thai offerings out of banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense. Once in our kayaks with offerings in hand we paddled towards a shallow cave where the candles and incense were lit and we placed out creations into the water. As we watched them bob gently in the ocean our guide then told us that the area we were in was teaming with small bioluminescent life. He suggested that we run our hands through the water and watch closely. Trailing after our offending appendages were tiny little sparks of green that lasted only and instant before winking out again.

Brad and Manuel making their offering.

Microorganisms thoroughly harrassed we retrieved our offerings, so as not to pollute the site, and returned to the boat. Within minutes we were cruising through the darkness back to the pier where we first boarded. The distance allowed us about an hour to reflect on our day and the sites we have witnessed.

Once at the dock we boarded our van and were taken back to our hotel to get to get some rest. Tomorrow we take a four and a half hour drive from Phuket to Koh Lanta.

Merry Christmas everyone!