Koh Lanta has easily been my favorite island in Thailand. It’s less crowded and has more of an intimate feeling towards it. It was a relief after the overcrowded mayhem of Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. With not a clue what there was to do on the island, we rented a motorbike and looked at the map trying to guess what we thought was worth a visit. Dotted near the middle, there’s a mark for Khao Mai Kaew Cave, our guidebook doesn’t say much besides that is it one of the best caves you can visit in Thailand.
We arrived at a small shack with a single lady and her tiny desk. Her voice is low and nonchalant making it difficult to hear. With her calm voice, she says its 300baht, nearly the price of the Grand Palace entrance in Bangkok. The price includes the tour because we’re told it is impossible to walk through it on our own because we’ll get lost. Just in case, I decided to buy a bottle of water from the vendor as well.
It’s warm outside, about 80F/27C degrees. I’m wearing my swimming trunks and flip-flops because I expected to be going to a beach at some point. The cave journey begins walking through the forest and rubber plantations. The first five minutes of our walk were pleasant. A simple path and around us were lush green forest of trees. The fresh scent in the air feels great. Suddenly though, we had to start climbing. Let me remind you, we are in our flip-flops and had no warning of the type of hike we were about to do. There were ropes to hang onto, tree branches to step on, and rocks to jump onto. It took us about twenty minutes to get to the entrance of the cave. We took a ten minute break thinking perhaps the worst of the hike was over but looking through the tiny hole we had to step in for the cave, we were so wrong.
With our headlamps on, we step into the tiny opening of the cave. What we thought was an intense hike up to the cave was really a joke compared to the hike IN the cave. For the next two hours, we had to climb ladders, into small openings, walk down steep slippery rocks, and go across half broken bamboo bridges. The absolute best part and highest adrenaline rush part of the cave was the very last bit which required us to literary crawl on the floor to get through.
The cave itself has spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. Some parts of the cave have you going through small holes and into large church hall rooms. Perhaps if you’re lucky enough, you’ll see a few bats ‘hanging’ out.
Because we had flip-flops on, most of the hike was a bit more difficult than what we felt comfortable with but we made it out just fine. We had a few slippery moments but nothing too freighting either. If you plan on going, please do us a favor and go prepared. Safety concerns are obviously nonexistent for the family who organizes it so take your own precautions.
Thank goodness I bought that bottle of water.
Tip: Take a backpack and bring an extra pair of footwear just in case you have these types of unexpected adventurous.