Unspoilt Ao Luk

Ao Luk is a top spot for Kayaking

Ao Luk is a top spot for Kayaking

By Lesley Chittayanon

Sustainable tourism is much more than a flimsy fad in the travel industry. Awareness of the concept is spreading rapidly and reaching corners of the region where tourism is still just a twinkle in the eye of its community. While Krabi Province is renowned for its sparkling jewels such as Railay and Koh Phi Phi, there are many hidden gems yet to be unearthed.

Passing through Ao Luk, the small town appears nothing more than a cluster of dusty shophouses crowded around a busy junction. However, within a radius of a few miles there lies an array of natural attractions to rival any of the Kingdom’s nature resorts.

Ao Luk is set amongst a pristine natural landscape which includes ancient caves, meandering canals and lush vegetation. It is home to an adventure playground designed by nature that offers kayaking, trekking, caving, climbing and cycling.

Often confused with the concept of ecotourism, sustainable tourism focuses on more than just conserving the local environment. It is about protecting communities, culture, customs and lifestyles. Eight communities in Ao Luk have formed a group in hope of creating an alternative style of tourism which not only protects their livelihood, but offers travellers a rich and authentic experience.

The Ao Luk Community Based Tourism (CBT) network encourages local communities to be environmentally conscious, and create a framework which will allow tourism to prosper for many future generations. Instead of ‘selling out’ to capitalist developers, residents are encouraged to convert their humble abodes into homestay accommodation, so guests can sample the warm hospitality of the people in the area.

Guest rooms are set apart from the owner’s residence for maximum privacy and relaxation; however, visitors are invited to join residents in all other aspects of their daily life such as fishing, farming and religious ceremonies. Homestays have been built in a variety of natural settings, so visitors can choose a location to suit their mood. Rooms are thoughtfully positioned to offer the best views and indulge guests’ favourite travel fantasies.

At Raipreda Homestay, the rustic-style bungalows are perched precariously on a rugged hill, and encircled by a protective mountain range. Tropical fruit trees and exotic flowers add dapples of colour to the emerald blanket which covers the hillside. It’s a peaceful setting with only the chorus of birds and insects breaking the silence. Camping is also available.

Scenic spots around Ao Luk abound

Scenic spots around Ao Luk abound

The owner, Mr Jatuaporn, lives on site and takes care of visitors as if they were guests staying in his own home. There are bicycles and kayaks for rent, and the grass-roofed restaurant doubles up as a meeting centre for group tours. For those who prefer sea-green tones, Laemsak Homestay is the ideal choice. Comfy air conditioned chalets sit on the edge of the water, offering stunning coastal views.

Opaque silhouettes of rugged karsts jut from a watery bed; it’s a still scene apart from the occasional longtail boat cutting across the seascape and leaving a white foamy trail. For more on kayaking

It is well worth consulting nature’s timetable when planning a visit to the area. Each month at the peak of low tide, a geothermal beach, ‘Hat Sai Rawn’, is unveiled, providing the ultimate nature spa setting. Trips arranged by local agents include traditional massage, mud masks and ample time for wallowing in the warm soothing water

Fresh air, clean water and lush jungle will always be in demand, so it is imperative that communities and travel operators take social and environmental responsibility.

As towns spread and islands develop, more of the region’s nature is being sacrificed for tourism. Awareness of this devastation is growing, and more travellers are seeking out operators who are showing concern and respect for the land and its people.

Ao Luk CBT not only takes responsibility for its land and culture, but allows tourists to play an active role in sustainable tourism while enjoying cultural exchanges with locals.

This cultural exchange is often the highlight of any holiday. Ao Luk residents invite visitors to experience a 360 degree view of their daily lives. Whether it’s fishing, praying or cooking, homestay guests can participate in the activities and gain much greater insight in to the local culture.

Ao Luk offers an alternative view of Krabi. While Krabi resort areas are stunning, there is a lot more to discover if you look beyond the beach. For more activities in Krabi.

Travel insurance: although Kayaking around Ao Luk is extremely safe, occasional mishaps do sometimes occur so it's vital to have to the best quality travel insurance. We recommend the online travel insurance site Travel Insurance Discounts for UK visitors.

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