Limestone is part of the core foundation on which most of the islands and coastal inlands of Southern Thailand are based, and this base provides the unique “look and feel” of the area. In addition to towering natural sculptures that are beloved by rock climbers, these same limestone formations also provide another type of outdoor adventure: caves exploration!
For those that love the sublime and subterranean atmosphere of caves, Krabi offers many opportunities to explore the underside of mother earth in dozens of locations, approached from both the shore on kayak or canoe, or by short inland treks.
Within many of the limestone caves found near Krabi, you can also find collapsed caverns called “hongs.” These hongs offer an excellent advantage point to see the miracles of nature and age, as these timeless spaces were carved by wind and sea over the ages, and many of these tunnels and caverns contain both natural beauty as well as the mark of man. For example, prehistoric humans painted many of these limestone portals, and here they have left their mark in pictograms, shards of pottery and ancient stone tools.
Excavation of many of these mysterious limestone sites is ongoing, and a museum has been established just southeast of Krabi Town that contains exhibits full of ceramics and bronze tools from an era now gone by. Even today, these caves hold a place in contemporary Thai culture, as many locals believe that certain caves hold the spirits of gods and goddesses, and even in this modern age, they are worshipped with all the respect they were given hundreds or thousands of years ago.
To get started in your own explorations, here is some information about the most popular of caves in the area, and some tips on making your cave adventures memorable ones:
Khao Khanab Nam
These two limestone hills mark the province in which Krabi Town is located, and can be seen from most vantage points in town. These two 100-meter towers also mark the Maenam River that flows between them. The right-side tower entombs a cave worth visiting, and there are two entrances: one with an extremely steep walkway and the other suitable for children and the elderly to use. Here you will find well-made steps, and within 10 minutes or so these steps will lead you to the cave entrance. The best way to get to the site is to take a longboat from the town pier, and within 15 minutes you will be there.
This cave can be found by traveling just 7 kms from Krabi Town along Highway 4034, and is located in Ban Nong Kok, Tambon Sai Thai. The significance of this cave is in the fact it has earned the royal title of “Sadet,” indicating the site has been bestowed by royalty. In 1901, the then prince (King Rama VI) visited the cave to give it this title. The cave interior is very beautiful, and filled with many interesting stalactites and stalagmites.
Wat Tham Sua (The Tiger Cave)
This is probably the most famous of caves in the area and can be found just 9 kms from Krabi Town. The cave is actually attached to a “working” temple where monks use the cave during their daily ritual ceremonies. The cave gets its name from what looks like fossilized tiger prints found along parts of the stone floor. In addition to the cave filled with golden Buddha‘s and other statues, there is a steep climb to be made to see the “footprint of the Buddha” – after ascending 1,272 steps to the top of the limestone tower. Once at the summit, you will be rewarded with an unobstructed view of the Andaman Sea and the surrounding countryside.
Tham Phi Hua To
This large cave is known as the “Big-headed Ghost Cave,” and was used as a ceremonial burial site some 3,000 years ago. You can still see some of the prehistoric paintings on the cave ceiling, and from the outside, the cave is indeed a bit scary, as it’s mouth does resemble a large face. Inside the cave, there are more likenesses in the form of rocks shaped like a dragon and crocodile head. Tham Phi Hua To is located in the Ao Luk District, and can be reached by long tail boat or canoe from the Bor Thor Jetty.
OTHER SPECTACULAR CAVES OF NORTHERN KRABI PROVINCE
THAM PHRA: This is the site of the Kao Phra Suhn Yah Tah Rham Meditation Center. It is about 2 kilometers from the district offices of Ao Luk. Inside the cave is a Buddhist effigy of great antiquity. This has two other statues of equal size flanking it placed at a later date, and the base is surrounded with smaller wooden figures.
THAM PHET: Located 3 kilometers from the intersection at Ao Luk Nua market. The cave’s front has Buddhist statues and the cave walls are of a stone that reflects light with the same dazzling beauty as diamond, hence the name; Pet is Thai for diamond. To visit the cave, procure a guide from the Tarnboke Korani National Park and be sure to bring a flashlight or torch.
THAM LOD NUA – THAM LOD TAI: This lies 2 kilometers distant from the district offices on the Ao Luk–Laem Sak road near the watercourse of Klong Ta Prahng. There are two caves:
* Tham Lod Nua: This beautiful cave winds back on itself like an elbow.
* Tham Lod Tai: This is a limestone tunnel longer and narrower than one of the same name in Phang-nga Bay. The cave mouth has stalactites and stalagmites and a boulder shaped like the quarter moon lying on its side. Visit this cave when the water is low by boarding a longtail boat at Bor Tor Pier; the journey takes only 10 minutes.
THAM CHAO LEY: This is west of Laem Sak Cape in a beautiful bay surrounding with limestone mountains. Inside are stalactites and stalagmites, as well as well as prehistoric paintings of people, animals, and geometric designs. These paintings are thought to be somewhat more recent than those found in Tham Pi Hua Toh cave. To Visit the cave, take a regularly scheduled boat from the Sapan Pla of Fishing Pier at Laem Sak Cape: travel time is about 15 minutes.
THAM SONG PI NONG or THAM POON NEUA TAI: lies west of Tham Pi Hua Toh Cave. Inside were found human skeletal remains, pottery, earrings, and bronze bracelets.
THAM HUA GALOHK NAI or THAM BUHN MAHK: This is only one hundred meters from Tham Pi Hua Toh cave. It was discovered by a local villager named Bang Mahk. It is a large, dark cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites. A large number of prehistoric pottery shards were found in layers on the cave wall outcropping near the entrance. These have distinctive line designs, are thicker and coarser than those found elsewhere.
THAM TOH LUANG: Located in Ban Hohp, Tambon Klong Hin. This cave has three levels, each of which abounds in stalactites and stalagmites. Some resemble Buddhist monks, others look like legendary multi headed serpents. Here stayed Jao Por Toh Luang, after whom the cave took its name.
THAM SEUA NOI: This cave is 2 kilometers distant from Hua Galohk cave in Ban Bor Thor and is the site of a monastery and meditation centre; the front is formed by a broad outcropping in the hill. The area outside is peaceful and quiet; inside, the cave is beautiful. Many old pottery remains have been found here.
THAM SEUA NOK or THAM TEHP NIMIT: This cave houses the Nimit Monastery; a tunnel below the cave lets sea water enter so the walls are thick large, dark cave, and o to the side of that another fifty meters is Orahan Cave, which has more strangely shaped stalactites and stalagmites than anywhere else. They shine like lights and are stunning.
Located in Huay Namkaew village in Khao Panom, Tham Wimarnmek in Krabi is a newly discovered cave that the local government is preparing to open as an eco- tourism site to generate revenue for residents. The cave houses rooms of 1km wide and 60mt high that can easily accommodate 800 people. Significant is the presence of amazing stalactites and stalagmites, as well as rock formation shaped like hearts, lions and elephants. Other caves comprised in the same mountain are Tham Petch and Tham Hanumarn. The new discovery follows the local Thai government and villagers’ survey for an eco-tourism site in this mountain side village.