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Exhaustion, sunburn and lizards: kayaking to Koh Nok

April 16, 2012 | Thailand, Travel | 6 Comments
Longtail on the beach, Koh Nok

“We should go kayaking.  It’ll be fun.”

And with those fateful words, an exciting day full of sunburn, exhaustion and monitor lizards was ours for the taking.

Not that we really knew what lay in store when we started out, mind you…

Koh Yao Noi doesn’t have hundreds of different tourist attractions lined up to choose from.  Perhaps that’s because one of the greatest attractions of the island is the lack of tourists.  Still, there are a few options for things to do beyond lying on the beach, including …

…kayaking to a different beach.

Koh Nok sits just off the eastern coast, and is little more than a couple of limestone cliffs with a thin sliver of beach at high tide.  Standing on shore and looking out at it, it seems that you could almost swim out there.  Two fit (ahem) strong (cough) people kayaking there and back shouldn’t be a problem at all, right?

And so it was that loaded up with essential supplies, and with barely a backward glance at the slightly nervous kayak vendor, Lauren and I headed out into the bay.  The sky was blue, the sun was warm and we could see little fish darting around just out of reach of the paddles.  It was an idyllic scene.

After about fifteen minutes, though, a weary and slightly concerned voice drifted back to me on the salty breeze.  “Do you think we’re half way yet?”

No.  Not even close.

Hmmm.  Perhaps when the guy at the shop recommended the lighter, more expensive kayak option he might have been onto something.  The 500 baht version that we opted for cut through the water with all the grace of an armoured personnel carrier, and weighed about the same.

Kayak on Koh Nok

Half an hour later we finally neared the tiny beach, with arms burning from both exertion and sun exposure.  Rounding the tip of the island, our hopes of having the beautiful spot all to ourselves were dashed by a couple of longtails anchored in the shallow water and several beach towels lined up with colourful precision.

There were barely a dozen people on the island, but they were all crowded onto that miniscule strip of golden sand.  Still, as the water receded so did the crowds, and after a couple of hours we were left with far more beach and far less company.  We hadn’t done much in that time – swam in the ocean, lazed around reading books, added to our sunburn, that kind of thing – and having exhausted the available entertainment options we eventually decided to put the kayak back in the water and head back.

Lauren wandered away to take a few last photos while I got things ready, but soon returned at a much faster pace, eyes wide and arms waving frantically.  “Dave … there’s a crocodile over there!!

Well used to Lauren’s powers of exaggeration, I just nodded and smiled.  Yes dear.  She was adamant, however, and despite crocodiles having been extinct in Thailand for decades I apparently wasn’t going to be able to rest without taking a look myself.

Peering into the undergrowth, I couldn’t see a thing beyond the usual tree roots, leaves and half a million ants.  “Over there, beside the cave.”  Looking up at a hint of movement, I was just quick enough to see the back half of something scaly disappearing behind a tree.

Crocodile?  No.  Good sized monitor lizard?  Very much so.

Either way I wasn’t planning on getting any closer.

Kayaking off Koh Nok

After a quick circumnavigation of the island – me looking out for submerged rocks, Lauren checking for a surprise attack from the Lesser-Known Man-Eating Monitor Lizards Of Doom – we turned tail and headed for home.

Battling the outgoing tide, exhaustion, heat and sunburn, let’s just say that it was a long and painful journey. More than once I wondered how much I’d have to pay to be towed back to shore by one of the occasional boats that went past.

Eventually we struggled back to our starting point, close to an hour later and with no shortage of swearing along the way.  Dragging the kayak back up the beach, my suggestion of doing it all again the following day was met with stony silence.  I can’t imagine why.

Drinking a cold beer on the balcony an hour later, the pain in our shoulders finally starting to subside, I reminded Lauren of her earlier excitement at the idea of a week-long kayaking and camping trip around the islands of Phang Nga Bay.  Was she quite so keen on the idea now, I asked?


Perhaps a little more practice might be required before taking on that particular challenge…


  1. Reply

    Audrey | That Backpacker

    April 16, 2012

    Haha, reminds me of canoeing on the lake on a very windy day. That really gives your arms a workout!

  2. Reply


    April 16, 2012

    Kayaking can be deceptively difficult. It seems like a nice relaxing paddle on the ocean, but turns into a full on workout. When I first tried it out I found new muscles that I didn't even know I had, because they were pretty damn sore the next day! ;)

  3. Reply


    April 16, 2012

    We took a kayak out on Koh Chang, which I managed to capsize trying to hit the beach in heavyish surf. Total loss: two sets of snorkels, one expensive pair of sunglasses, and a heap of parental dignity.

  4. Reply

    Marcia Clarke

    April 16, 2012

    Kayaking, canoeing, it looks like such an innocent activity I often wondered if I should try it; but my better judgement always wins out. The idea of finding creatures in the water that can out swim me, keeps me grounded.
    I have never paddled anything in my life and it is clear it will not be happening at this later stage in life. LOL Still... it is fun to see others do it.

  5. Reply


    April 17, 2012

    Three days later I'm still sore and stiff from paddling the boat along the Lazy River at our local theme park - you guys must have been exhausted!

  6. Reply


    April 17, 2012

    Great post - love the site!

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