There's quite a few waterfalls on Phuket, but I'm going to visit one of the less popular ones: Bangpae, a waterfall in a national park, towards the north east of the island. It's popular with the Thais who live in Phuket, but there are smaller waterfalls closer to the tourist beaches, that the tourists go to. It's free for me, but foreign tourists pay 200 baht to get into the National Park.
The park visit is 3 parts, there's a gibbon sanctuary, a nature walk into the jungle to see real gibbons, and a waterfall to wash off the jungle bugs after your walk!
The gibbon rehabilitation project is a few gibbons being prepared for release back into the wild, and some that are too domesticated and cannot be released. The gibbons were frantic, swinging about in their cages, well that's my excuse for the blurred photo:
But I didn't come here to see caged gibbons, I want to see them in the wild. So I headed off past the path to the waterfall and up into the hills and jungle to find wild gibbons.
Lots of people have been here before me, and there's a well trodden path through the jungle, that weaves left and right up the hill. Along the way take time to look down, that 8 inch long black leaf may not be a leaf, the insect above I nearly stood on. The millipede below, well thankfully I saw if after I'd pulled myself over that tree trunk.
But don't just look down, look up! The trees are tall, and the tree canopy dense. I can see why the gibbons like it in here. In Thai we say the whoop of the gibbon is like a woman calling her husband, over and over again. I can hear them in the trees, lots of women calling for lots of stray husbands.
As you press on, the path becomes less clear, sometimes it forks, and I took the main fork to be safe. When I was talking to the woman in the restaurant at the entrance later, she told me a party of boys had gotten lost here, with so many different paths, they couldn't find their way back and the park ranger had to go in looking for them in the dark at 9pm.
Sometimes the main path gets covered by fallen trees, but you can climb over them and the path continues, but until you climb over, you're not sure if its a dead end. Straight ahead over these trees:
Despite going deep into the jungle for over an hour, I only heard the gibbons calling and swinging in the trees. It's probably for the best, there are signs warning that gibbons can bite defending their territory, and the scary-shop-women told me foreign tourists sometimes get attacked when they push their luck and get too close.
Once back at the waterfall, I do what everyone should do at a waterfall, dive in! Waterfalls are not for looking, they're for playing! The teenage boys had the right idea, but perhaps not the common sense. They were diving from far too high into the water, close to a rock, trying to impress Thai girls bathing below.
I swam as hard and fast as I could, but couldn't get to the base of the waterfall, the current was just too strong. After I'd tired myself out, I realized I didn't have enough strength to pull myself up on the rocks, and would have to walk all the way down and back up the path! Further down the waterfall, smaller falls of water let children play safely.
If you have a car or bike with you, why not head up the hill when you leave instead of down. At the top there is a great view out to sea and the pinnacle rock islands that are dotted all over Phang-na bay. The road takes you back out to the main road near Bang Rong Mosque market. This is a great place to buy some fishballs shaped like angry birds, or coconut filled sweet pancakes.
Getting there: Take a bike or taxi and ask for Bangpae Waterfall. If you have a car take the eastern exit at monument. The waterfall is well signposted. Zoom out on the map below, sorry but Google maps is playing up), Bangpae is top left of the island.
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