Koh Mak, where going green is natural

Photo by ©Benny Lagerhult

There is something magical about waking up to chirping birdsong and the sun’s rays peeking through the curtains of a bungalow. One lives in the middle of and in perfect harmony with nature when on Koh Mak.

Koh Mak is the small island between Koh Chang and Koh Kood in Trat province of Thailand. 

This small island has an area of 16 square kilometers and an encircling coastline of 27 kilometers. In 2006, the British Sunday Times ranked the beaches of Koh Mak among the 10 best worldwide. The island has been continuously inhabited since the end of the 19th century. Tourist first discovered this bit of paradise in 1974.

How does one get to Koh Mak? From Bangkok it is easy to take a flight with Bangkok Airways to Trat on the mainland. Upon arriving in Trat, taxis to the pier are available for 500 Baht while a seat in a songthaew to the pier costs 80 Baht. Depending on the season, there are between 6 to 8 boats running daily from the pier to Koh Mak. Please note that the latest one departs at 16:00! The boat to the island costs 550 Baht; for convenience, reservations for the boat can be arranged by your chosen accommodation on Koh Mak. Local taxis, i.e. regular songthaews, await travelers upon arrival and visitors are quickly directed to the correct vehicle for the chosen accommodation.  Standard price is 100 Baht. This also is the standard price for taxis / songthaews anywhere on the island.

Another transport option from Bangkok to Koh Mak is to take a bus from Ekkamai Bus Station to the port of Laem Ngop followed by the boat to Koh Mak. The bus runs once a day and please note that it is not the same pier from which the ferry to Koh Chang departs. These can be easily confused, so be careful to choose the correct bus.

Departing the pier and driving through fields, small plantations and forest areas that are occasional broken up by small clusters of Thai houses and shops, one is quickly struck by how calm and peaceful it is on Koh Mak, the shops are small and locally owned and run. This is no coincidence as chains such as Starbucks, 7-Eleven and McDonald’s are not allowed to establish themselves on the island, the community having decided to keep all business local and small scale.

That doesn’t mean that finding a pizza, a hamburger or a good cup of coffee is impossible. It’s all available, but local instead of globally recognized brands.

The beaches on Koh Mak are scattered around the island and have the advantage of never feeling crowded. The island is so small that it is not at all a difficulty to visit a few different beaches on any given day.

Climate change awareness and responsible environmental commitment on the island are strong. One example of this eco-friendly policy is the Saturday 10AM beach / area clean-up, including retrieving trash from the sea, sponsored by Koh Mak Divers. Everyone can take part in this: residents, divers and tourists who are then dubbed “Koh Mak Trash Heroes” for their efforts.

At the Coral Koh Mak Campus, marine conservation and coral protection practices are taught to local fishermen and residents. This encompasses a range of best practices so as not to destroy or harm the delicate underwater life.

Source sorting is widespread around the island.  Garbage collection takes place daily on the island and is sorted for recycling and repurposing. Rather than importing from the mainland, local residents have increased the amount and variety of vegetables and fruit grown on the island for local consumption. Of course, mostly organic methods are used.

There are no rental cars on Koh Mak, but electric golf carts are available for those who want to explore on their own. Mopeds are available for hire and taxis – songthaews – can be called rather than hailed. The island has the ambitious goal that by 2028 all traffic on the island must be powered by fossil-free fuels and more and more such vehicles are beginning to appear.

Koh Mak is the holiday destination for those looking for a calm and quiet eco-friendly oasis without sacrificing comfort and convenience. But for those looking for 24/7 action, loud bars and loads of entertainment venues, Koh Mak is the wrong island. Thankfully, the beaches are not overrun with vendors trying to sell everything no one needs.

Everything one does need is here in smaller, locally produced and environmentally friendly packaging. Why wait?

Text and Photo: Stefan Christensen/ Destination Asien