One of the main – and little known – attractions in Ao Nam Mao is the Thai government’s Coastal Resource Management Unit in the grounds of the Department of Fisheries. The centre breeds endangered species in large salt water lakes next to the coast, for research and conservation – most fish are eventually released back into the sea in order to boost local populations.
An observation deck, with 720m of walkways, is located towards the rear of the complex, with fenced-off pools containing many different kinds of marine life. Visitors can occasionally see rare creatures such as leopard sharks and black tip reef sharks (both harmless animals), as well as permanent residents such as Hawksbill turtles, different species of angel fish and giant groupers.
The stock is constantly changing according to the season and which species need to be bred, which unfortunately means that the pools are sometimes half-empty. But there are also a small number of display tanks housing moray eels, sea urchins, batfish and starfish, among others. A favourite with children – available year round – are the tanks full of baby ‘Nemos’, or anemone clown fish, as well as the seahorse-breeding unit.
Unfortunately, there is almost no information provided in English about the fish you can see, or about the project’s endeavours. Some sections of the site are also badly maintained. Yet it is still a pleasure just to observe these animals up close in this space, especially for those who have never seen a turtle or a shark. In this sense, the centre offers a glimpse of Krabi’s wonderfully rich marine life that is normally available only to scuba divers – although of course the environs are hardly the same.
The centre is located on the right-hand side of the main road through Ao Nam Mao, approximately 1km before Fossil Shell beach. There is a small, barely distinguishable sign in English outside as well as a large papier-mache Nemo fish statue, but it is the only large, official-looking building complex on this stretch. If you are visiting by taxi or tuk-tuk, the Thai name is โครงการจัดการทรัพยากรชายฝั่ง
Entrance to the centre is free and there is no need to present yourself at the offices at the front of the complex – you can drive or walk directly to the viewing lake at the very end of the road, on the left. The centre is open daily from 9am until 4.30pm.