Koh Mak: Thailand's Best Kept Secret

Koh Mak is a lovely island that challenges so many of our views of Thailand.  In a country that’s an enigmatic mix of elegance and hedonism Koh Mak is a piece of Thailand that has not lost its treasured Thai values.  The simplicity of the Buddhist way of life and the clean tastes of Thai Cuisine contrast so vividly with the Full Moon parties of Phuket and Koh Samui that the country is more often known for.

Rubber PlantationHistory of Koh Mak

To understand Koh Mak you need to start with a little history.  Originally a coconut plantation established and run by a Chinese official in the late 19th century the plantation fell into Thai ownership. Rubber trees were also planted as they provided an extra source of income. Most of the inhabitants worked in agriculture but some also turned to fishing  Even today you can still see the abundance of coconut trees and rubber plantations.

The first traces of tourism started in 1974 when the first bungalows for tourists where built. Since Koh Mak was at that time very undeveloped and communication difficult, the development had to be put to a stop for some time. In 1987 bungalows and resorts where build around some beach areas so that tourists could be properly served. Today Koh Mak still largely belongs to the same family and has 3 diving schools, 3 fishing villages, 25 resorts and lots of coconut and rubber trees.  For an article that covers Koh Mak’s history more in depth click here.

Koh Mak Today

Kids Pulling Bamboo on Koh Mak

Koh Mak is one of the safest places on earth. You will not find any nightlife on the island and there is virtually no crime. There are plenty of good restaurants and places to go to drink you evening cocktail but you won’t find any disco’s or loud bars on the island. Situated about 40 KM away from the mainland, Koh Mak is still a well-kept secret for most travelers.

Cars are rare on the island and getting around the island mostly happens by foot, bicycle or motorbike. Renting a bicycle or motorbike is very cheap and affordable. As Koh Mak is a small island those 2 forms of transportation are a great way of exploring the island. Due to the size of the island getting lost is very difficult, so that’s one less thing to worry about!

As you might have guessed, this island is not a place where you go to if you like the crowds and a wild atmosphere. Instead it is a place you go to for relaxation and stress free living. Relaxing on the beach or hiking in Koh Mak’s beautiful natural environment, it’s all part of the package.

4 Beautiful Beaches and 3 Tropical SeasonsPalm tree on the beach in Koh Mak

The island is small by Thai standards and this is, perhaps, also responsible for the continued tranquility found on Koh Mak.  A mere 10km x 5km the island is home to some 800 local Thai people and its 27km coastline hosts a mere 600 tourist beds.  The coastline is predominantly mangrove swamps leading into shallow warm waters, however a journey around the island reveals the hidden treasures of Koh Mak.  Four stunningly beautiful beaches curve gracefully around with soft golden sand being gently kissed by warm tropical seas.  So beautiful are these beaches that they were named in Britain’s Sunday Times’ 10 most beautiful beaches list in 2006.

Koh Mak has only three seasons defining its climate and they are as varied as the four seasons found in less temperate climates.  Between the months of March and May the island is in the throes of its hot season.  Clear blue skies with very little rain and even less wind mean high temperatures and an abundance of slowing down to deal with the heat.  Moving from June to October the south west monsoon blows.  Temperatures remain warm and the winds of the south west monsoon bring some relief from higher temperatures but with intermittent rain showers that can be sudden and dramatic yet rarely last longer than an hour. The final change in climate on Koh Mak comes between November and February, locally known as the cool season, when the north east monsoon blows slightly cooler air with very little rain if any at all. To find out Koh Mak’s weather for the next 5 days click here.

Life on the Island

The local school in Koh MakSome 600 local people make Koh Mak their home and their lifestyle is simple in nature.  The island has its own Buddhist temple and this gives an idea of how life is here. The local community is served with its own school and health center.  One of the major tropical health issues, malaria, is virtually unknown. Koh Mak has been malaria free for fifteen years.

Environmental issues are critical to the future well-being of the Koh Mak.  Driving down the dependence upon diesel for generating electricity by encouraging solar energy will make the island more self-sufficient.  Koh Mak is also responding to environmental issues by ensuring that rubbish, in particular plastic is disposed of correctly.  Remote beaches can often still remain littered with flotsam from the sea but locally created rubbish is recycled effectively.

The landscape has been shaped by its past. Until recently coconut and rubber were the only ways for locals to make a living and some 70% of Koh Mak is given over to their cultivation.  The remaining space is mangrove swamp and this is where the islands rich flora and fauna really abound.  It is good to note that despite the 21st century being only 38km away the mangroves are assured of a future.

The pace of change on Koh Mak is affected by its location at the heart of the newly created Koh Chang National Marine Park.  Covering some 650km2 and home to an archipelago of 52 islands the park is bound by strict regulations concerning fishing and environmental issues. This will have a sobering impact on any change on the island as regulation is very tight and will ensure Koh Mak keeps is air of peace and tranquility for generations to come.

Koh Mak Island restaurantFood and Activities

The food on the island is affordable and delicious. There are plenty of restaurants but we can make a few recommendations. First of all there is Koh Mak Sea Food. This is a restaurant on the near the pier. In fact, the restaurant itself is situated on the water. The seafood is as fresh as it gets. The fish is caught and cooked the same day and sometimes your food will still be alive and kicking before you made your choice. Last time we wanted to eat a crab and they took it out of the water and then cooked it.

Another recommendation we can make is Koh Mak Island Restaurant. Situated on one of the highest hills on the island the view you get while eating is simple amazing.  The food is simply delicious and very affordable. This restaurant is located on the domain of Good Time Resort so you won’t have to walk far to enjoy a good meal. If you want to explore other restaurants there are over 10 resort which have their own restaurant and 15 more independent restaurants or food stands on the island.

There is also plenty to do for the active tourist. You don’t have to be scared of being bored any time soon.

  • There are diving and snorkeling trips that can be booked daily. If you book in advance through the website you will get a 5% discount.
  • You can swim in the sea or at the pool in the resort.
  • Kayaks can be rented to explore the beaches and the nearby islands.
  • Rent a mountain bike for 150 Bath per day to explore the island.
  • Motorbikes can be rented starting at 300 Bath per day.
  • Dive into the Thai cuisine by following a Thai cooking class
  • Go on an island tour where you will be able to explore all the interesting places.
  • Explore the surrounding island by booking an island hopping tour.
  • The sailing school on Koh Chang might pick you up on Koh Mak if you organize in advance

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