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Are pristine tropical islands over-rated?

Unspoilt Koh Rok Island in Thailand’s Trang Province – fantastic for a day trip but you wouldn’t want to live there!!!
Unspoilt Koh Rok Island in Thailand’s Trang Province – fantastic for a day trip but you wouldn’t want to live there!!!

Unspoilt tropical paradises are great! ‘Aren’t unspoilt tropical islands fantastic!?’ Well is it true or, are they, like ‘cheesy peas’, better than they sound?

Well, being really pedantic if it was really unspoilt you wouldn’t be there or it wouldn’t be unspoilt anymore. You’d throw your cigarette butts on the beach, piss on the plants, damage the coral with sun cream, harm the fragile eco system with DEET and other powerful insecticides and there wouldn’t be any convenient buoys for the boatman who took you there to tie up to. But ok – nice unspoilt island in the Andaman Sea or Gulf of Thailand – crystal clear turquoise waters, teaming with myriad colourful fish weaving their way amongst myriad incredible corals, footprint free, virgin beach, not a soul in sight except for the lone sea-eagle riding the updraughts along the pristine jungle-clad limestone cliffs – yeh got the picture. Ok for a couple of hours but then it would be: – ‘ah sugar, run out of ciggies – anyone bring a spare pack?’, “is there a café around here I could murder a cold beer?”, “my I-phone battery’s running out – anyone bring a solar charger?”, “can’t get a signal out here and Bolton Wanderers are in the semis tonight”.

All Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese islands were pristine paradises before visitors went there – (well except for Koh Tao which was a prison) – but why didn’t people go there before….well, before people went there? Because there was nothing to do there! Nothing to eat, unless you’re Survivorman, nowhere to stay, no telly, no sound system, nowhere to plug in your; mobile, Blackberry, digital camera, I-pod whatever,  no toilets, no showers, no banana pancakes and certainly NO cold beer! Look at The Beach! What did they do – found a paradise island then spent all their time arguing over washing up rotas, playing Gameboy, (presumably with a big supply of batteries), fishing for dangerous and/or endangered aquatic creatures and arguing over who was boss! Boring!

Ok – it sounds good on tour itineraries – visit the unspoilt tropical island of …. but, we actually mean relatively undeveloped – not too spoilt! Koh Mak as opposed to Koh Phi Phi! The real ones are great for a couple of hours’ boat trip – don’t touch the coral, don’t leave litter, leave it as we found it then get back to our resort in time for happy hour!

Another problem is that ironically the less tourists there are on a beach the more litter there is. Much of the inevitable refuse found washed up on Southeast beaches is just that – washed up; from coastal villages or off-shore fishing boats. (Take a look at it – tourists don’t throw bottles of washing up liquid or shampoo away.) Where there are resorts staff tend to take care of the beach and collect garbage so, as we said, the more built up the cleaner it will be.

Paradise really requires a few cold ones, some magic-fingered Thai maiden doing massages under the coconut palm, a great restaurant, somewhere to charge your digital camera up and hi speed internet so you can check mum’s feeding the cats ok! Totally unspoilt – boring! Totally spoilt – nah! Little bit spoilt – yes please!!!

Koh Rok, (top photo), is one of the possible snorkelling  destinations on our Jungles and Islands tour – see here for full itinerary, whilst Koh Laoliang, (photo below), is one of a range of possible islands on our Reefs and Rainforest Marine park boat tour.

Koh Laoliang, (Laoliang Island), Trang Province
Koh Laoliang, (Laoliang Island), Trang Province

Also not bad is the only slightly spoilt, (they’ve built a resort on it), Koh Thalu seen below and visited on the rainy season version of our Reefs and Rainforests trip.

Kayak on beach, Koh Thalu
Kayak on beach, Koh Thalu

Cheers!