A Guide to Koh Mak
Koh Mak island is an ideal place to relax, explore, calm your mind and soothe your senses and has so far has been relatively unscathed by the effects of tourism despite being within easy reach of Bangkok. But for some it might be a little too quiet and undeveloped still. So here’s a quick run down of what to expect on the island.
Most of the resorts on the island line the long, southwest facing beach known as ‘Ao Kao’ which is home to over a dozen small resorts and a number of small roadside restaurants, cafes and shops. A 15 minute walk away, on the opposite, northwest, shore, an equally long curving swathe of sand , Ao Suan Yai, is home to the ever expanding Koh Mak Resort, the excellet upmarket Seavana Resort and the budget Suchanaree Bungalows. Elsewhere you’ll find resorts scattered around the fringes of the island, some rather remote and not within walking distance of any shops or restaurants. So location is worth double checking when you make a booking.
Whilst most visitors arrive at either the Koh Mak Resort pier or Makathanee Resort pier on Ao Kao, the island’s largest pier is in Ao Nid Bay on the southeast of the island. This was the main settlement on the island and is where the larger Boonsiri Catamaran ferry fishing boats and larger supply ships dock. Overlooking the bay is Koh Mak temple.
Driving or cycling round Koh Mak you are bound to pass Koh Mak junction in the centre of the island, here you’ll find makeshift gas stations, minimarts, cheap restaurants, a snooker hall, laundry, the school and local clinic. See the Koh Mak Map for more details.
Banks / ATMs / Currency Exchange
There aren’t any, so you may have to choose between paying for your resort in advance or carrying cash with you to the island. The larger resorts all take credit cards and in an emergency you can get a cash advance at larger resorts on your credit card but you will be charged a fee for doing this.
The island has it’s own kindergarten and primary school which are located in the centre of the island. The kindergarten is privately funded, mainly by donations from resort owners and expat home owners on the island.
Electricity on Koh Mak is 24 hours / day and provided by the island’s own power station – or more accurately four generator trucks which are located in the centre of the island near the local government office. Resorts also have their own back up generators.
An undersea cable is currently being laid to Koh Mak. So within 12 months the island should have electricity from the national power grid.
Medical Insurance is recommended as it isn’t as easy to get to a well equipped hospital or clinic as it would be if you were staying on a larger island such as Koh Chang. There are no pharmacies on the island, so if you need specialised medication bring a supply with you. There is a local clinic in the centre of the island, not far from the school. This is staffed by a team of three nurses and is fine for obvious ailments such as cuts and bites. For more specialised care you would have to go to Koh Chang or Trat. In emergencies a speedboat can be arranged at short notice and, for people with good insurance, a helicopter can be called in severe emergencies. It is a 45 minute journey by speedboat to the mainland where an ambulance would be waiting to take you to Bangkok Trat private hospital.
Internet & Telecommunications
There are several internet cafes on the island and all resorts, large and small also have internet access for guests. Most places offer this free to guests. Most internet connections are via satellite as the few landlines on the island aren’t suitable for high speed ADSL. There is 3G mobile phone coverage across the island and so connection to the internet via mobile phone is possible just about everywhere. The island’s main post office is located at Koh Mak Resort and there is a single postman who delivers mail island wide.
The southern Thai islands have long been home to deadly jellyfish however, it is very rare that they venture this north in the Gulf of Thailand. Since 2007, there have been several documented cases of non-fatal Box Jellyfish attacks & sightings around Koh Mak. There is little that you can do to prevent such attacks and swimming in the sea off any tropical island can be dangerous. However, staff and resort owners on Koh Mak have been trained as to how to identify serious jellyfish burns and negate the effects of the poison. All resorts keep a good supply of vinegar on hand in case of emergencies. Some resorts eg Seavana, Koh mak Resort, Ao Kao Resort and Big Easy now also have nets in the sea to cordon off safe areas for guests to swim worry-free.
There are mosquitoes but there is no malaria on Koh Mak. Local health officials have long since eradicated it from the island.
These 2mm long insects are probably the cause of the most complaints by visitors to the island. They thrive on quiet, undeveloped beaches here there is shade and little wind. Thus Koh Mak is an ideal breeding ground. The females make a beeline for any animal, including humans, in the run up to them laying eggs as they need a supply of fresh blood. Their saliva contains histamine, which means that their bites can be very itchy. However, people react differently to their bites – many come up with small red spots approx 1cm in diameter, others appear to be immune or the bites have little effect. Often two people go to the beach, one develops red spots the other doesn’t. Vitamin B1 can help provide immunity to bites and it is also possible to become immune to sandfly bites if you have been exposed to them regularly over a period of time.
Local wisdom says coconut oil is an effective deterrent as mosquito repellent doesn’t always work.
The larger resorts have small minimarts selling snacks, drinks, sun lotion, basic medical and sanitary items etc and you’ll also find little shops selling basic good dotted around the island. In addition there are a few small souvenir shops but if you also plan to spend time in Bangkok, you’d be better off doing most of your shopping there, or even on Koh Chang.
There isn’t any public transport on the island yet – other than a pick up truck taxi service. This charges a flat rate of 50 Baht/person pretty much anywhere on the island. Otherwise, you will have to walk, rent a mountain bike or a scooter in order to get around. Resorts in quieter areas will provide free transport to the main beaches for guests. Many resorts now also offer free bicycles for guests.
Don;t forget to check out the afamily friendly bike tours offered by Coco Cafe. Daily during High Season at 9am and 4pm. A guided two hour, 8Km easy ride. Only 150 Baht per person
There is a public water supply on the island but this isn’t very wide reaching and so most resorts rely on their own wells and bore holes for year round fresh water.