John Gray's Seacanoe November 2015 Newletter

John Gray's Seacanoe

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Trang Cave

Trang Cave

Seventeen percent of Mother Earth’s surface is limestone. South-East Asia, especially Thailand, is peppered with limestone.  Drive to Krabi, and classic limestone surrounds you.

Thanks to plate movement, limestone is often uplifted, forming dramatic mountains and canyons painted with dramatic red, orange and yellow colors that make great eye candy. Complicating the colors, limestone is brittle – and all things brittle eventually crack – sculpting magnificent formations that reveal even more colors.

Thailand’s limestone not only provides uniquely beautiful mountains, but when brittle rock cracks and rainwater attacks, the elements eventually create cavities we call - - - “caves”.  

Over the eons, water passes through these caves, enlarging them along cracks called Fault lines.  When water works with iron, the caves become stained in a spectacular symphony of color.  The combination of rain water percolating through iron stained rock and the pH differential (acid-alkaline) eats away the limestone. Eventually, some “wet” caves grow large enough to allow human passage - including traverse by kayaks.  

With a ceiling up to ten meters, the eight kilometer Palawan Underground River is the King of Limestone sea caves. However, even the Underground River was created by fresh water percolation after seas retreated.

The Underground River is spectacular but a recent discovery in Trang Province now rivals that World Heritage site - not in length but in “decorations” - the stalactites, stalagmites, fossils and flowstone populating limestone caves.

In Trang’s Tung Wa village the locals have known “Ste Go Bon” for eons.  It’s not Rocket Science.  The large cave entrance is obvious as it accepts the streams flowing from those dramatic amphitheater valleys.  

Inspired by John Gray’s Sea Canoe’s success in Phuket the Trang Poo Yai Baan purchased 25 Sit-On-Top kayaks for the village.  However, the villagers had no training - essential when commercializing a totally dark four kilometer wet cave.  

JGSC lead guide Tee Ra Yout C was contacted and along with paddle guides Tee Ra Yout K and ______, off we went to Trang – with no idea of the treasure we were about to discover.  

Ste Go Bon cave is four kilometers long, fairly flat, and shallow -making the extremely colorful cavern unusually safe for fresh water caves.  

The stream runs through the village, so my first concern was the source.  We drove dirt tracks into the jungle, eventually hiked, and found a spectacular limestone amphitheater valley sculpted by numerous high waterfalls.

The valley is so spectacular I was in Shangri-la but training was more important than valley sightseeing so we returned to the village.  Since my Thai is horrible, Tee delivered the Thai language training – kayak skills and safety.  

With Tee translating I presented Cave safety and conservation.  

Tee emphasized my points. Land or sea –caves must be respected.  Taking caves lightly is a very dangerous proposition – and cave protection amplifies the need for paddling skills.

Tee and Sak stressed essential concepts

Never take off your life jacket

- Always use your flash light
- Never touch flowstone or decorations
- Stay in a close group
- Next time you buy kayaks, consult us first.

Land or sea, limestone caves are incredibly delicate.  Cave conservation is as important as human safety. No responsible person wants to harm cave decorations formed over thousands of years.  

After training, the entire village joined in.  There were a couple of tight squeezes but all went well. Village guides understood, and helped neophytes negotiate the rocks.  No problems there.

After an uneventful first 30 meters leading to a tight squeeze, Ste Go Bon becomes four kilometers of non-stop eye candy.  Fortunately most decorations are too high to reach, so they should remain intact for decades to come.

The channel is wide, shallow and slow –getting into trouble requires hard work.  My other concern was those spectacular decorations - high, beyond reach, and thick.  Only a true idiot would dismount their kayak and pull themselves up a slippery slope to do damage.  

And everybody applied the Golden Rule of Kayaking – all kayaks stayed together in the shallow waters.

Way to soon there was light at the end of the tunnel, spelling the finish of a spectacular trip.  The cave decorations were varied and spectacular, the village kayakers well trained, helpful and professional, and at trips end we ended in mangroves of Satun Province – salt water.  We paddled to a pier where trucks awaited to take the dazzled kayakers back to the village.

The two province Ste Go Bon cave deserves your “Bucket List” category.  Get it while you can!

LAND ARRANGEMENTS:  If you are the 5-Star crowd try the Anantara Si Kow.  It’s spectacular, well planned, on the beach, luxurious and the Italian chef is crazy enough to keep you laughing in tears.

If you are on a budget try the Pak Maeng Resort next door.  Cable TV and air con.  

DO NOT visit the Rocha Mong Kon Zoo and Aquarium at the far end of the beach.  I’m a grown man and I cried.  First time ever I’ve seen aquarium tanks so small even the fish were psychotic – and the Zoo Prison next door is worse.  

This raptor rehabber was in tears over the White Belly Sea Eagle – one of the most majestic specimens I’ve ever seen.  It’s never been out of the cage and the staff are so bonehead they don’t understand the Eagle would return home every night if they treated it right and left the door open.  My guess is sticky fingers got into the “Zoo” budget before the animals did.  After all, “T.I.T.” – This Is Thailand!

Hong by Starlight

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