Day of the dolphins

Pink dolphin sightseeing in Khanom. Photo: Pongpet Mekloy

Almost every morning, a batch of around 10, 2m-long pink dolphins, or Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, can be seen gathering around Thong Nian Bay off Khanom district, Nakhon Si Thammarat. They swim alongside fishing boats and wait for small fish to come their way. The endangered pink dolphins numbering around 50 attract many tourists to Khanom, especially during January-April.

A visit to Khanom to see the pink dolphins is a must and rare experience because pink dolphins live in only fertile habitats. The sea off Khanom’s Khwaeng Phao Bay and Laem Prathap Cape is full of the dolphins’ favourite food — small fish, prawns and sea grass.

Tourists can hire any of the registered 58 local fishing boats under the Laem Prathap Eco-tourism Society at Laem Prathap pier to see the pink dolphins and islands at the price of 1,000 baht per two-hour trip. Each boat can accommodate up to six passengers. The number of tourists using the pier has doubled or even tripled to 500-600 people per day on weekends since it was renovated in 2014 with financial aid from the Power Development Fund of the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Power Development Fund provides financial assistance to communities located near power plants through proposals of project ideas to support their livelihood. Tambon Khanom, which is situated near Khanom Power Plant, presented several projects that were approved by the fund.

Ban Laem Prathap is an old community nestled at the northern end of Thong Nian Bay. The majority of villagers are shoreline fishermen. Laem Prathap was so named because King Taksin the Great is said to have stayed overnight here on his way to Nakhon Si Thammarat. A statue of King Taksin was built in this village as well. Laem Prathap pier also has shops for local housewives to sell the famous kapi (salted shrimp paste) and local souvenirs, such as pink dolphin dolls.

The freshwater spring on Nui Island believed to be Luang Pu Thuad’s footprint.

Tourists also can visit a spring off Nui Island, Khao Hin Phap Pha (pancake rocks), a stage-like rock nicknamed Phumphuang’s Stage and Tha Rai and Phi islands on the same boat trip.

Nui Island is located in front of Tha Rai Island. It boasts a rock hole in the shape of a footprint with fresh water continually flowing out. At high tide, the area is flooded with seawater. At low tide, the hole is full of fresh water. Local people believe the footprint belongs to the late highly revered monk Luang Pu Thuad while geologists explained the water spring is connected to a cracked rock base and also a freshwater source underground.

Legend has it that Luang Pu Thuad set his foot there and turned seawater into spring water during his junk ship journey from Songkhla to Ayutthaya during the Ayutthaya period over 400 years ago.

The ship had to stop in front of the island during a rainstorm and finally ran out of drinking water. Hence, the monk incredibly turned seawater into drinking water for all crewmen and passengers. With strong faith, local people had a big statue of Luang Pu Thuad built and enshrined on the island.

On the way back to the pier, tourists can stop by Khao Hin Phap Pha — multi-tiered or pancake rocks ranging from Tha Rai Island to Nui Nok and Lak Sor islands and Talet Bay. Pancake rocks emerged from the sedimentary process of different rock sediments in the sea, which later became cliffs.

Another attraction is Thong Nian Bay. Part of the bay covering hundreds of rai becomes a sandy field as soft as grass on a golf course at the lowest tide from April-July. Therefore, the area is sometimes used as a venue for “sea golf tournaments” by the Khanom District Office.

Other must-sees in Khanom are Pak Nam Khanom and the new City Pillar Shrine. Sandwiched by two mountains, Pak Nam Khanom is where the Khanom stream flows to the sea. Despite the existence of the natural gas-fuelled Khanom Power Plant since 1995, the area still has a clean sandy beach and sea, which is safe for swimming. There is also a public park for people to relax and picnic. Meanwhile, the new City Pillar Shrine was beautifully decorated under financial support from the Power Development Fund and will be officially opened next month.

Every July, no one should miss the annual sand whiting fish festival on Nai Phlao Beach. This half-century tradition for tambon Khanom residents turned an annual event 14 years ago, but was short funding until the Power Development Fund started supporting it a few years ago. The festival consists of fishing contests for “biggest fish” and “highest amount” and a “monkeys picking coconuts” and “sea boxing” contests.

In Khanom, visitors can see dolphins, visit beautiful islands and beaches, enjoy diving, fishing and shopping.

The freshwater spring on Nui Island believed to be Luang Pu Thuad’s footprint.

The annual sand whiting fish fishing festival. Pichaya Svasti

Travel Info

By car: Take Highway 401 (Surat Thani-Nakhon Si Thammarat), turn into Road 4014 to Khanom when reaching Klong Leng Intersection (with dolphin statues).

Visit khanomcity.go.th/travel/ for more information about community tourism and attractions in Khanom.

Article source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/travel/in-thailand/1501946/day-of-the-dolphins

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