A Jungle Trekking Adventure
In the past guided walks across the island have been possible but these always involved an overnight stay camping in the middle of the jungle. I was never too keen on that idea and I knew that in the past it was possible to walk across the island in a day on a trail that was made years ago in he early days of the National Park. This connected the two main waterfalls on the island, Than Mayom & Klong Plu. Of course the trail was never maintained and so large parts of it have been overtaken by jungle once more. The remnants of this trail can easily be followed at the Than Mayom end by visitors to the waterfall, but they soon disappear once you reach a rubber plantation after around 20 minutes walking.
The good news is that, as of a couple of weeks ago, ‘Jungle Fever’ have started running a cross island trek. This involves an early start – you will be picked up around 7.00 – 7.30am and will be walking most of the day until around 5pm, although there are regular rest stops on the climbs, which can be pretty steep and a half hour break for lunch.
The cross island walk that I took is about 50% on the original trail, where you can still see some old information signs and steps that are obviously man made up hillsides through the jungle, and 50% on trails that you wouldn’t know existed unless you had a good guide with a GPS leading the way. this definitely isn’t the sort of trek that you would try to do on your own. If you get lost or get into trouble there is no mobile phone coverage in the centre of the island and unless someone knows the route you are taking the odds of anyone finding you would be slim.
You will be dropped off in the morning near the entrance to Klong Plu waterfall. From here you head uphill along a narrow trail to join an old waterfall walk, which currently isn’t used – although it is shown of signs at the waterfall entrance. This takes you around the top of the falls, across the river and joins the old National Park trail up into the hills through. There is a fair amount of uphill walking, which is steep in some areas, after heading up one 300 metre hill you dip down into a valley and then up again to the highest point, just over 520 metres. On the way there is a rocky outcrop where you can get views west to Klong Prao beach.
From then on it is over the ridge and the start of the walk down to Than Mayom. After heading through leech valley, an area of very prickly plants ( “Be careful, spikey” will become the guide’s catchphrase by the end of the day ), a beautiful bamboo forest you realise that you are now well off the original trail and are now following paths that you would never know were there.
We headed down to what the source of the river that flows into Than Mayom, from here it was a matter of following the riverbank downstream, criss-crossing the river as we went and taking the occasional detour around a couple of nice waterfalls. It was whilst we were walking alongside the river that we encountered a King Cobra. The guide had a very close encounter indeed. We were walking by the river, guide at the front and I was a couple of metres behind. Next thing I know, the guide throws himself to the right and into the river as a 4 metre long King Cobra shot out of the rocks, head raised, and straight for him. Both ended up in the water and the snake was pretty much on top of the guide who was thrashing around a bit, then the snake swam off leaving a shocked and stunned guide. It was all over in a few seconds. I pulled him out and quickly checked he wasnâ€™t bitten. Which was a bit of luck as if he had been then it wouldn’t be good. We were about 3 hours walk from the nearest other people and the only place with King Cobra serum in the vicinity is Trat Hospital, on the mainland, thereâ€™s none on Koh Chang. So chances are he would be dead before help could arrive. I have never seen a snake move like that before and hope to never see it again. It really was just a matter of split second or a few centimetres. The guideâ€™s amulets worked on this occasion. But when you do a jungle trek, especially on a route that few people have walked, it isn’t surprising that you encounter some wildlife.
(It is very rare that King Cobras will try to attack humans. It is something that other guides on Koh Chang haven’t experienced before. As I was writing this I had a trekking guide from another company call me to ask about what happened. He has seen numerous snakes on the island, including Green Mamba, another very deadly snake for which there is no serum available in Thailand, but they have never come close to attacking him and always move away from humans. His best guess was that it was a female protecting her eggs or young. So I guess we were walking too quietly and startled it. Whilst this was a bit freaky, the chances of it happening again are very slim. It shouldn’t put you off taking a trek but does serve as a reminder that you are walking through a real jungle full of unpredictable wildlife. )
After the snake incident we were back on the barely visible trails for another 3 hours, gradually making our way down towards the east coast. Some very scenic river views to be had but no more wildlife. There was one other area we crossed that was apparently home to quite a few Green Vipers but we didn’t see any. Then at around 4pm the first sign of civilisation, a couple of rubber tappers shacks way up in the hills. These guys live up here with no electricity in makeshift huts. Around there were also hunting platforms in some trees. These are about 2 metres off the ground and at night hunters will sit on them waiting for deer or wild pigs to wander past.
Finally at 5pm we headed down the steep incline to the river at Than Mayom falls and walked out of the National Park to where the pick up truck was waiting to take up back to the west coast. Total distance is around 13-14 Km but due to the nature of the trail, progress is slow in places, especially after lunch. Not a trek to do in the rain due to the steep slopes and narrow trails and not one where you can stop for long periods regularly. Nightfall is at around 6pm and so you want to be out of the jungle before then.
But definitely recommended for the experience, for the challenge of doing something that most visitors to the island won’t even contemplate and just for anyone who wants to casually drop the fact that they walked across a mountainous island in Thailand into a conversation when they get back home. Not recommended if you aren’t used to doing some exercise, are obsessed with Health & Safety regulations or don’t want to end up a wet, muddy, sweaty mess at the end of the day.
I’d recommend bringing a couple of extra bottle of water with you and also having a big breakfast. Footwear should be something that you are comfortable walking in when they get wet. I wore my cheap but comfortable sandals and they were fine, but of course you may well get a few scratches & leeches if your feet aren’t covered. Have some tobacco handy to stop the bleeding from leech bites. ( Rub it onto the wound and it quickly stops the bleeding.)
If you are interested in the trek, contact Toon at Jungle Fever Trekking
Trek price is 1,200 Baht. (I paid for my trek – wasn’t a freebie.) This includes entry to National Park, round trip transfers between your hotel and start and finish points, licensed guide, drinking water, simple Thai food lunch & a small backpack. Group size is always small and a private trek can also be arranged.