Sustainable tourism in Krabi

Ensuring the survival of a traditional community in the throes of “development” is no easy task. The sleepy coastal villages and islands of Krabi have experienced something akin to a gold rush over the last 10 – 15 years, with seemingly little planning, regulation or forethought to protect the environment and existing culture.

Ethical tourism attempts to change the usual money-making agenda, by imparting value to local customs, traditions and food; using natural resources in a sustainable way; and empowering local people as the hosts and gatekeepers of their homeland.

And the local culture in Krabi is certainly worth preserving: a rich and fascinating mix of Thai Muslims, Chao-leh (sea gypsies) and Chinese-Thai contribute to the area’s unique character and heritage.

The natural environment is the region’s other – prime – attraction, and it goes without saying that the conservation of marine life, mangrove forests and other vital resources should be high on the sustainability agenda.

Due to language difficulties, however, there are limited opportunities available to foreigners in Krabi to partake in such activities. Thai, or Thai-speaking, visitors are able to participate in a range of homestay and cultural programs, including visiting rubber plantations and rice farms, a batik workshop, boat building co-operative, or fishing village.

Koh Klang, a traditional community on the banks of the Krabi River opposite town, Laem Sak in the north of the province, and Ban Nateen, a craft co-operative around 3km from the beach in Ao Nang, are the main centres for this kind of tourism in Krabi. But these programs are generally not offered to non-Thai speakers.

Foreign visitors can instead turn to a few cultural tours run by other foreigners or “big city”, English-speaking Thais, who act as intermediaries, with guides who can interpret and explain. It is also possible to make “low impact” trips to the islands by going with a kayaking tour, sailing boat, or responsible dive company. You can find a selection of these below.

Possible itinerary

Day 1 – Snorkeling tour (beach clean up?)
Day 2 – Krabi Town backwaters -> weekend market
Day 3 – Kayaking in Bor Thor

On a more basic level, tourists can also contribute to the community by choosing responsibly where they stay, eat and shop, to ensure that their spending money stays within the local area, for its direct benefit. In our hotel listings you can filter the properties that are owned by Krabi families; shops and restaurants are harder to identify, though we have tagged some on our site here: locally-owned. You could also try visiting a market, or going inland for a day away from the beach – there’s lot to see, taste and experience in Krabi Town.

Other ways to give something back to Krabi include joining in with locals in beach clean-ups, animal welfare and other worthy projects. Trash Hero Ao Nang holds weekly beach cleans every Sunday morning, open to all at no cost. If you have an hour or so to spare, this is a very worthwhile cause, due to the growing litter problem in Thailand, and levels of plastic in our seas.

Krabi Animal Welfare is another group that looks after strays and provides free medical attention and sterilisation services; they are always in need of donations in cash, time, or even help transporting animals out of Krabi to new owners.

Related reading

Experience the real Krabi

Below are some examples of tours that offer an insight into life in Krabi – click on the links to see full itinerary. Bookings can be made at your hotel or any local agent.

Posted in Planning, Specific Travel Advice, What To Do In Krabi and tagged , , .