Walk to Koh Chang’s ‘Secret’ waterfall
Updated for 2018-19 from my original 2011 post.
Kai Bae Waterfall doesn’t merit a mention in any of the popular guidebooks for Koh Chang and isn’t marked on maps. And yet it does exist, it’s being only grudgingly acknowledged by locals and long term expats who speak of the ‘Secret waterfall’ in hushed tones less it be discovered by outsiders . . . i.e. You. But in the spirit of glasnost and seeing as there are now signs in English pointing towards it, here is a quick guide on how to find the mythical Kai Bae waterfall.
The good news is that it is relatively easy to get to and you don’t have to pay a National Park entry fee to visit it. Even more enticingly, it isn’t located in a remote location. It is 30 – 40 minutes walk from Kai Bae beach.
Anyone will just a couple of fluid ounces of adventurous spirit flowing through their veins will be able to get there and you could even take your kids. Although why you would want to do that is beyond me as they would just want an ice cream or there would be too many insects or the water would be too cold. So, on second thoughts, maybe best to leave them in the bungalow with their Facebook friends and just pray they aren’t being groomed online in your absence.
The best time to visit is from May to November. During this time the plunge pool will have enough water to swim in and there will still be water coming over the top, so good for photos and less chance of catching a dodgy waterborne disease.
Location and Directions
The starting point for your walk is the 7-eleven opposite the entrance to Kai Bae Hut. Go inside and buy a couple of bottles of water and a packet of mints or, if you have money to burn, an isotonic energy drink and bag of roasted cashew nuts. It doesn’t really matter which, but history tells us that the great explorers never set off without supplies for their journey and neither should you.
From here take the dirt road leading inland. You will go past the elephant camp on the right and Sanook Sanang Resort on the left, then the road joins the Kai Bae bypass – a new paved road. Turn left and then turn right onto a dirt track. Keep the large white building on your left. It’s the laundry from Sea View Resort.
The dirt road now meanders through a pomelo field, there’s a new apartment building being built on your right, still under construction in late 2018. Then you pass some simple homes and a large water tower on your right.
There are a couple of signs for the waterfall and bungalows to rent in this area, so you know you are on the correct route.
Another five minutes walk and you will come to a paved section of road and some well tended gardens with bungalows for long term rent. From the 7-eleven to this point is about 15 minutes walk in total. There is also a sign saying you can’t go any further by scooter and you should pay 40 Baht if you want to visit the waterfall. There’s no official ticket counter or office. But if someone is home, pay them.
The footpath then takes you past the front of a couple of newly built concrete bungalows – looks like a nice, quiet nice place to stay and then onto a very narrow path which runs parallel to and a few metres above, the river. The path isn’t always easy to follow as it is quite overgrown, especially in rainy season. Even though you are not far from civilisation you get a feeling of being in dense jungle.
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The canopy blocks out the sun, there are lots of things that buzz and bite or crawl and bite. The good news is that for most of the way, blue plastic water pipes run alongside the path, so you don’t have to be a wilderness expert to guess that they lead towards the waterfall. A tree has fallen down on one section which is a bit tricky to get over or under. And then, a short distance before you reach the falls the riverside path ends and although you can’t see the waterfall from here, you’re under 100 metres walk away up.
The path actually crosses the river. It is possible to see where as there are some stones on the riverbed forming a narrow ‘bridge’ to the other side. On the opposite side you will then see the trail again. As soon as you start walking on it you should begin to hear the waterfall, although won’t see it. The path then comes out into a cleared area facing the falls. As of late 2018, some very large trees have fallen down into the riverbed, making it hard to get to the pool to swim. In the past you could easily walk up the riverbed to the falls or sit on rocks by the pool. Now that’s not so simple.
From starting along the trail in the jungle to this point takes around 15 minutes. Maybe longer if it is a bit slippery or you’re taking selfies.
Near the clearing where you get this view of the waterfall, you will notice that the rail leads off, uphill to the left. You can follow this around the pool to the top of the waterfall. It ends at the riverside about 10 metres before the drop.
There is a mobile phone signal all the way, so if you have an accident or get lost you can at least call someone back home to say your Goodbyes.