Jungle Paradise Part 3: Animal-Watching
If seeing rare pink dolphins tickles your fancy, then the pretty and often overlooked Ao Khanom lies halfway between Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The beaches here are quiet largely because tourists flock to the jungle islands nearby; making Khanom an excellent place to visit if you’re looking for secluded and tranquil beaches unmarred by corporations. A ban on jet skis protects the dolphins, adding to the quiet and more “authentic” feel of this region.
Tours take you off to view the pink dolphins (or the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins) in their natural environment, which is also home to a variety of breath taking geological features such as waterfalls and stalagmite-filled caves. But the highlight is undoubtedly the beautiful albino dolphins with their stunning pink hue.
Unfortunately this kind of respect for animals is not widespread in Thailand, or indeed anywhere, particularly when money can be made. However, there is a wildlife rescue centre 45km west of Hua Hin that adopts and cares for over 500 abused, injured and abandoned animals that cannot be released back into the wild.
Whilst this centre is located in the Upper Gulf, so a journey from Surat Thani, it is a great place to visit - and far better than the majority of unethical elephant and tiger tourist traps that should be avoided.
Some of the animals the centre cares for include bears, tigers, gibbons, macaques and birds, as well as an elephant rescue program which allows these majestic creatures to live out their lives chain-free.
You can book onto a full access tour that introduces the animals and gives you their rescue histories, with a full day option that includes walking and bathing the elephants. But you can’t just show up, the number of guests is limited each day and booking is essential. And for those looking for a more in-depth, hands-on working experience, there are opportunities to volunteer at the centre.