An eco-friendly trip in Phuket

What makes visiting Phuket an experience of a lifetime is a vacation that contributes to marine life conservation.


A tourist feeds elephants at a sanctuary in Phuket, Thailand, in April. Some sanctuaries in Phuket offer intimate, safe interactions with elephants. [PHOTO BY YANG WANLI/CHINA DAILY]

June 26, 2023

BEIJINGJoint project by government, NGOs helps to conserve wildlife, replenish nature

From island hopping to jungle exploration, Phuket is one of the most attractive places to visit in Thailand. There are plenty of water activities to do in Phuket, such as kayaking, snorkeling and swimming. But what can make it an experience of a lifetime is a vacation that contributes to marine life conservation.

Phuket is known as the “Pearl of the Andaman” and is the largest island in Thailand. The beaches and crystal-clear waters make it a top destination for a tropical beach getaway. Furthermore, Phuket is known for its conservation and educational centers.

In the Andaman Sea, there are mainly four distinct turtle species living along the western coast of Phuket, namely hawksbill turtles, green turtles, leatherback and olive ridley turtles. The first two are the most abundant while the latter are less frequently spotted in Phuket.

A traditional Thai statue inside a hotel in Phuket, Thailand, in April. Such Buddhist guardians in the country are believed to be protectors against evil spirits. [PHOTO BY YANG WANLI/CHINA DAILY]

For tourists who want to engage in marine life protection, especially the conservation of the majestic turtles of the Andaman Sea, the Thai Muang Turtle Sanctuary is a great option for an enriching and informative experience.

Travelers can visit this sanctuary which is open on a daily basis. Admission is free. If you want to get a close look at intriguing turtle hatchlings, they are on display inside of massive saltwater tanks. The sanctuary has numerous designated rehabilitation tanks to help injured or sick turtles.

Hatchlings live inside the sanctuary until they are eight months old. Once they reach that point, they can be released into the ocean.

Moreover, visitors who offer donations to the research organization behind the sanctuary will be allowed to release the young turtles into the ocean during the reproduction season.

Turtle populations in the Andaman Sea are dropping rapidly because of factors such as climate change, excessive fishing, egg poaching and marine pollution, the Phuket Marine Biological Center said.

However, recent data from the center indicated that turtle nests were being witnessed more in Phuket than those before the pandemic. Also, a variety of sea turtle species have been spotted nesting and laying hundreds of eggs around the island throughout 2021.

Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, director of the center, said sea turtles’ nesting has improved in the past two years in Phuket, while pollution from human activities has also been reduced. In addition, the number of turtle nests also grew the most in the past 20 years, he said.

Visitors walk inside an eco-friendly hotel in Phuket, Thailand, in April. [PHOTO BY YANG WANLI/CHINA DAILY]

For travelers looking for a beach holiday with the chance to learn more about marine life in Phuket, some boutique hotels with marine conservation programs are options that cannot be missed.

In 2015, the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation and the Phuket Marine Biological Center jointly established the Turtle Shelter &Education Center, a cutting-edge project involving the government, NGOs and local private partners, including five-star hotels.

The Royal Thai Navy protects the eggs and ensures they reach the hatchery safely, while private partners, including Marriott International, Marriott Vacation World and Anantara Hotels & Resorts, help fund the operations.

The shelter is a great place for turtle lovers and children to learn about turtle biology and conservation. It is open to the public on weekdays upon appointment only. Turtle feeding is at 11 am.

The foundation has a key education component for children and adults as it hosts classes every week at the shelter to teach and inspire participants to protect and conserve nature and marine lives, especially turtles.

Children who complete the education will be certificated “Turtle Warriors” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, who are then able to educate their friends and parents about this endangered species.

Visitors who stay in the shelter’s cooperative hotels will have a chance to take part in the annual Mai Khao Marine Turtles Release Ceremony that usually takes place in April.

Khun Chalee, manager of the foundation, said there are usually two top seasons to see turtles in Phuket. In March and April, green turtles will visit the Similan islands during the reproduction season. In November or December, leatherback turtles will swim to the Mai Khao Beach or Phang Nga Bay.

“Basically, turtles come to the shore at night,” he said. “But we are not sure when and whether they will appear. For example, we didn’t see any leatherback turtles in 2020 and 2021, but they came back last year. You can only leave it to chance.”

For those seeking to keep abreast of green trends with a concern on how their actions affect the environment, it is refreshing to find a luxury beach resort that not only provides comfort but ensures the safety of the natural wildlife and protection of the environment in Phuket.

Located on the sunset side of the Andaman Sea and the pristine Natai Beach, the five-star boutique Aleenta Resort & Spa is an eco-friendly luxury resort that cares about your stay and desires to help the planet.

People take part in the annual Mai Khao Marine Turtles Release Ceremony, in Phuket, Thailand, in April. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Rehabilitation and care

It provides funding and care for the Thai Muang Turtle Sanctuary. Travelers who visit the sanctuary will see how injured turtles are rehabilitated and cared for. Aleenta also seeks to give back to the environment, which includes helping baby turtles reach the ocean to conserving water and other natural resources.

Apart from turtle protection, Phuket has many options for elephant lovers. Some sanctuaries provide experiences such as observation and elephants’ food preparation, while others offer intimate but safe interactions such as mud showers with elephants.

An elephant sculpture inside an eco-friendly hotel in Phuket, Thailand, in April. Elephants, as the national animal of Thailand, is a royal symbol in the country. [PHOTO BY YANG WANLI/CHINA DAILY]

Phuket also houses the Phuket Butterfly Garden & Insect World, one of the last butterfly gardens in Thailand. In addition, the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Center, a wildlife park and research center for plants and animals native to the region, is an interesting site to visit for wildlife fans.

As conservation takes hold as a reason to visit this beautiful island in Thailand, it is hoped that more opportunities to help the area conserve its beauty will come to light.

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