I love waterfalls. I once detoured across half of South America to get from La Paz in Bolivia to the absolutely incredible Iguazu falls, which are on the border between Brazil and Argentina.
Meanwhile, the Niagara falls on the American/Canadian border are maybe the most visited in the world. I’ve been there too, and it’s quite nice, that little boat ride on the ‘Maid of the Mist’.
I tell you what though, you can’t do a boat ride at Iguazu.
Certainly not when I was there in wet season. An unbelievable torrent of chocolate brown water was shooting from the jungle. One of the most amazing places I have ever been and well worth the ride on the ‘Train of Death’ to get there.
Closer to home, the waterfalls in Phuket seem to be mentioned in just about every guidebook, website and blog.
If you like nature and want to get away from the majority of tourists who prefer to stay at the beach, then the island’s waterfalls – all of them jungly and quiet – are worth a visit.
That said, unless you live in Saudi Arabia or some other desert country and have never seen a waterfall or jungle, I wouldn’t suggest you devote a day to a ‘Phuket Waterfall Tour’.
While we don’t have anything like Iguazu, you can still enjoy a pleasant little jungle walk and take a swim in the fresh water running off the hills, some of which rise up to over 1,700 feet above sea level.
Only a few kilometres from where we live is the highest point in Phuket, over 540 metres above sea level.
Near this hill you have Kathu waterfall, only a short drive from Patong beach.
You park at the end of the hill road, cross a bridge and start walking up some steps ... and up... and up.
There are several wonderful cascades as you climb, in which locals are always playing and swimming.
TON SAI WATERFALL:
In the northeast of Phuket island is a large green area, which is designated national park. It’s called Khao Phra Thaew, and on each side of the 1,000 foot jungle covered hill in the middle are two waterfalls: Ton Sai on the west and Bang Pae on the east.
In between is pretty wild country – I have read that you can hike between the two, but a friend of mine (who is a really fit runner and hiker) has done it and tells me it’s very tough going.
He was even once attacked by a wild gibbon up there. Ton Sai is easy to find: turn right at the traffic lights at Thalang town (right if you are heading north). Follow the small road. I believe entry is free after 3pm (though subject to change), otherwise it’s B200. There is a nature trail and several small falls up the jungle path.
And on the way there you are in the heart of rural Phuket, so close to the main tourist beaches but in a different place entirely.
BANG PAE WATERFALL:
As mentioned, on the other side of the hill from Ton Sai is Bang Pae waterfall, and also the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project.
The Bang Pae area is probably one of our favourite places in Phuket.
There are many small back roads, some great rural scenery, vast rubber plantations, pineapple fields, and a few restaurants that we like to visit, such as Bang Pae Seafood and Peang Prai, which is at the entrance to Bang Pae – again, there is an entry fee here of B200 per person.
Note that the entry fee does not go to the Gibbon project, which you can visit for free, although a small donation is always appreciated.
If you’re planning to visit, be aware that Bang Pae is very popular with locals at the weekend.
There are several small restaurants just inside the entrance.
Earlier this year, we were driving back to Phuket from Khao Sok National Park and decided to look for Sri Phang Nga national park.
A friend had posted some photos on Facebook, it looked good and seemed to be not far off our route (but far enough to call said friend and ask him, “Where is it?”!).
Sri Phang Nga is not actually in Phuket, it’s in Phang Nga province. You have to drive from Phuket via Khao Lak to Takua Pa and then on northward towards Kuraburi.
About 30 kilometres from Takua Pa is the turn-off and then you have about another 10 kilometres on a narrow road, becoming a dirt road... no wonder it’s not well known.
And here we found a really superb waterfall called Tamnang, with a cool fresh swimming pool beneath it filled with fish which swim all around you.
Read more of Jamie’s posts atJamie's Phuket Blog
Jamie works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers in Karon. More info: 084 626 4646, firstname.lastname@example.org; sunrise-divers.com.