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Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series
Kayaking is something that’s been on our to-do list for a while. We’ve paddled around a pond or two but never anything like a trek.
We got hooked up with Krabi Trek and signed up for a paddling tour of Ao Thalane or Thalane Bay with a goal of getting a close look at mangrove forests, a karst canyon and maybe some monkeys. We didn’t even expect the starfish.
Everything – transporting us from near the house in a Song Taow pickup (Remember? The one with two bench seats in the bed and a canopy.), kayaking in a sizeable group with guides, a bottle of water and even a fruit tray – cost only 500 bahts each. That’s less than $15 US.
Our pickup ride out … probably 30 minutes … gave us a chance to get to know our fellow passengers. There was a mother and her high school-aged son from Peru. Her English as limited, but he was studying it in school, was anxious to practice and was quite good.
There was a young couple from China with a precious young daughter. Conversation with them was restricted to rudimentary exchanges. Mostly, we interacted with the girl. There was a slightly older Chinese man whose family was in the cab of the truck. Finally, our pickup bed included a young, interesting couple from San Francisco.
When we arrived at the bay, we found a buzz of activity as other guests came in on numerous other rides. We all hung out for a while awaiting instruction. Eventually, we were divided into groups and one group after another received kayaking tips, paddles, flotation vests, ordered to remove our shoes and were directed to the water and assigned crafts.
Leah took the front seat and I the back as we drifted out onto the water of Ao Thalane.
We set out with our group across open water. There was one guide, plus I believe two assistants who helped herd us along.
Periodically, he would point out something and answer questions. Eventually, we saw the sailors ahead of us hit a sand bar and start clambering out. Soon, we were there and found what I thought was the neatest part of our experience.
Even before we got out of our kayak, we could see several starfish at the bottom of two inches of water. As we walked around the sand bar and crossed over to another, they were everywhere, easily hundreds and likely thousands of starfish.
I didn’t think to consider it at the time, but I guess now that they were about six inches across.
From the sand bar, we paddled toward the karst island and into what they called the canyon.
Sea water filled the canyon and we paddled quite a way, easily a few hundred yards, twisting and turning deeper into the island.
Here we got a close look at the dense mangrove forest, in addition to spotting a couple of monitor lizards, several monkeys and Leah even saw a squid “jump” out of the water.
I did have one major discomfort.
Unlike some kayaks – such as one I paddled around the pond at Darien Lake Amusement Park last summer – this did not have seats where your feet ride lower than your seat. Instead, this “sit on top” version requires your legs to stick pretty much straight out in front of you.
For most people, that’s not a problem, but I don’t fold that way. To be honest, I never have, even when I was young and in good shape.
Soon, my lower back was killing me and continually changed my position as much as I could, including lying straight back over the mesh backrest or taking turns tucking one foot underneath the opposing leg.
Our guide noticed my issues and, when we stopped on the starfish sand bar, I asked him to tighten the backrest. That help a good bit and I squirmed less the rest of the trip.