Camping at Nai Yang Beach
Purely in the interests of research to keep our avid readership entertained, the Know Phuket gang headed up to Nai Yang Beach last weekend for a night camping in the national park. This was a popular activity before the tsunami struck in Dec 2004. After that, the damage done to the park and visitor's confidence meant campers were a rare site. Three years on and the park is restored while tsunami memories are fading.
So we loaded up two cars, 8 adults, 5 children and all the essentials we could think of for a night and day by the beach. We arrived at the park gate at 4:30pm and the gate attendants had already gone for the day so entrance was free. The entrance fee is low at the moment anyway. On a recent trip, they charged us 20 baht for a car with two adults and two children. Of course, my wife and children are Thai so I am not sure what they are charging foreigners on their own.
We went straight to the Park Visitors Center to rent some tents. We wanted to pitch the tents under the trees by the beach but the park insists that if you rent tents from them then you must pitch them in the designated camping site. If you know the park then there is a road that winds through it. The camping site is on the opposite side of the road from the beach. If you want to pitch tents by the beach then you must bring your own tent.
The deal is 225 baht for a 3-man tent, 300 baht for a 4-man tent and 30 baht to pitch your own tent. You can also rent mats, bedding, etc but we had bought our own.
The campsite is lit and has toilets and showers that although not luxurious, are functional. If you rent tents then the park attendants come to put them up. That night we were the only people staying in the campsite. We had time for the beach before sunset. The beach is looking fantastic and the water clear.
As the sun went down it was time to set up the barbecue. The park allows controlled barbecues in a proper barbecue grill. They do not allow you to light open fires to cook your food or even just for the cosy campfire feel.
The beers were on ice, the food was coming, the mosquito coils were set and the kids had their toys. We were set for a perfect evening under the stars. Even the occasional rumbling roar of a passenger jet landing at the nearby airport does not spoil the pleasure of relaxing in the open and feeling close to nature. We had come prepared with insect repellant and we sprayed the area around our tents to keep the local biting ant population at bay. Close to nature indeed, it was a very comfortable stay.
When our appetites were finally sated, we let the barbecue fade out. The fluorescent lighting around the campsite was useful while we were eating but now it felt a little intrusive. We disconnected the light immediately in front of us and it was amazing how much difference it made. Suddenly the stars were so much brighter. We sank into our beers until everyone slowly drifted away to their tents.
Everyone slept with varying degrees of success. Those who had forgotten to zip up their tents during the evening had a mosquito battle to face when they entered their tents. Some people only managed a couple of hours sleep but I slept like a log. I couldn't really do camping for a long holiday as after a day or two I just start to feel too grungy but a one-night trip now and then is great.
The next morning the camp slowly awoke. When we were ready, we moved the barbecue, icebox and other essentials to the beach. My wife had woken early to catch the fishermen as they brought in their nights catch. She bought a good supply of freshly caught fish.
We had a day of slowly eating barbecued fresh fish, sipping chilled beer and dipping into the turquoise sea. The kids loved it and just never stopped playing. The adults were a little less energetic but lazing in the warm Andaman Sea with beer in hand was pretty good.
I have to say snorkeling over the reef at Nai Yang was disappointing. There were very few fish around but then there were very few fish last time I looked two years ago. The area is over-fished and the tsunami destroyed most of the coral.
Nai Yang Beach really is looking good. On a clear day, the view along the long stretch of Mai Khao Beach to the north is glorious. There were plenty of visitors picnicking under the trees but the area still does not feel crowded. I don't know how long it will stay that way. There are two big developments near the entrance to the park that look like they will be new hotels. The crowds could be coming to Nai Yang soon. Oh well.
Overall, we judged our camping trip to Nai Yang to be a great success. Our children certainly thought so; they did not want to go home. We will do it again, not on a regular basis but every now and then it makes a great day out. There was only one thing we all agreed would have made the trip better. I don't like to sound like we are getting old but next time we will bring some deckchairs.
Nai Yang Beach - A description of Nai Yang beach with photos.