Study Focus: fresh water wetlands, waterfowl and waterfall micro climes
(NOTE: This trip can both begin and end at Krabi International Airport, but it saves a lot of driving time to start in Pathlalung Train Station and end in Krabi)
- Following our group pick up we head straight for Thale Noi, a fresh water wetland that drains into the huge lagoons on the Gulf of Thailand. This is a RAMSAR Site, one of the world’s most important wetlands for waterfowl species. Thale Noi also boasts the largest display of water lilies and lotus flowers in Asia.
- As we glide through the blossoms, reeds and rushes in small long tail boats, we will marvel at the abundance of birds – thousands of ducks, pygmy geese, herons, egrets, bitterns, purple swamp hens, jacanas, water hens, swiftlets, Bhraminy kites and many other species, It’s an amazing experience!
- From Thale Noi we drive across the Thai Peninsula to the Andaman Sea side, stopping high in the mountains to picnic at a majestic waterfall. The short hike through the rainforest to Tone Tok Waterfall will provide students with lessons in forest ecology, but the real thrill is in reaching the falls.
- Plunging hundreds of feet down a sheer granite slope, Tone Tok is both stunning to behold and a great place to get us into the true spirit of our “wet, wild and wonderful weekend”. Students can slide down slick rock into a large pool at the base of the falls and marvel at the mosses, ferns and camouflaged frogs that thrive in this micro clime of perpetual mist.
- Time permitting; we’ll explore the invertebrate life of the creek below the waterfall. The forest the river issues from is a wildlife sanctuary and home to Thailand’s last forest dwellers, the Mani – a people whose lives have changed little since the Stone Age.
- From Tone Tok we descend down to the Andaman Sea coast, hopefully arriving at Pak Meng Beach Resort in time to witness a spectacular sunset. Pak Meng is our home for two nights – a lovely complex, backed by mangrove forests and facing the sea. The food here is superb and there are large grounds for group fun activities.
Overnight: Pak Meng Beach Resort
Study Focus: island geology, coral reef ecology and inter tidal zones
- Everyone’s up for a big breakfast as we set out for a full day at sea. Boarding our charter boat, we head out to explore three islands, each with its own distinct geological features and different dive sites.
- Snorkeling over living coral reefs, along cliff faces and into caves and caverns offers students fresh insights into the types of marine creatures that inhabit each niche.
- On Koh Kradan we can snorkel over extensive coral reefs and enjoy a picnic on a beautiful white sand beach, On Koh Muk we have the thrill of swimming into the Emerald Cave and navigating a long tunnel in total darkness that suddenly opens up to a beautiful lagoon and forest backed beach in the middle of an island. It’s an awesome, Indiana Jones-style adventure!
- Returning to the mainland in the late afternoon, there is time to explore the fascinating tidal flats that stretch along this section of the Trang coast.
- Our last night together is marked by a great feast of seafood and a ceremony befitting the occasion
Overnight: Pak Meng Beach Resort
Study Focus: Mangrove ecology, geothermal springs
- In the early morning, we set off by long tail boat through the mangrove channels behind our bungalow complex. It’s a fascinating realm where mudskipper fish can be seen climbing trees and fiddler crabs defend their burrows by waving absurdly large red claws at their rivals. Several species of brilliant colored kingfishers, water monitor lizards, macaque monkeys and langurs may also be seen in this dense swamp forest.
- After a hearty breakfast, we set off for Krabi Province and Klong Thom Hot Springs, a beautiful geothermal spring that flows through a lowland forest and cascades into a river over lovely limestone-rimmed pools.
- Following a good, soothing soak, we enjoy lunch before driving to Krabi International Airport for the return flight home.
Study Focus: North Sulawesi peoples & their environment
- We’re up early again this morning and heading to the beach to secure our breakfast, just like the locals. All able bodied men gather on the volcanic black sand beach of Batu Putu village at first light to help haul in the fishing boats. For their service, each boy and man is given two small fish for their breakfast.
- As today is a day of immersion into the lifestyle of local peoples, we too will lend a hand hauling the catamaran fishing boats up the steep sand beach before returning to our lodge for a hearty breakfast – hopefully with some fish.
- Next on the days agenda is processing copra from coconuts. Students can help pass coconuts to local youth that split them open with a dagger to release the juice, and then help toss them up onto the drying platform. North Sulawesi is a huge copra producing region where the landscape is often described as a “wave of palms”
- We next visit a sugar making factory and a whiskey still where two different products are produced from the sap of the same native palm tree. Students can help stoke the fires and clean out coconut half shells for brown sugar containers, but they won’t be sampling the whiskey.
- We now have a 1.5-hour drive to beautiful Tonando Lake, a huge crater lake set in the caldera of an ancient volcano. Here we’ll join the local fish farmers in feeding their stock before sitting down to a delicious lunch of lake fish and lake prawns.
- Next on the agenda is rice planting or rice harvesting, depending on the season. Students will either get wet and muddy planting young rice shoots, or a bit dusty cutting rice and hauling it to the threshing site. Either way, the experience will not be soon forgotten.
- Having put in a full days work, we’ll head for home like the locals to enjoy a dinner of traditional delicacies at our wonderful lodge for the night. Set at 700 meters above sea level in the delightful cool climate of the Minahasa Highlands, Onong’s Palace is a boutique hotel that will surely charm us.
- Ten private cottages, nestled along a ravine with flowing water and giant tree ferns, have panoramic views of Mt. Lokon – an active volcano that towers above Tomohon City. The open-air verandah restaurant will be the perfect place to gather after dinner to brief students on the big adventure coming up.
Overnight: Onong’s Palace Resort, Minahasa Highlands, Tomohon
Study Focus: high elevation birds / river hydrology and ecology
- Everyone is likely to be woken up this morning by birdcalls as our lodge sits at an elevation preferred by montane bird species. We’ll all have a chance to try identifying some of the species we see before and during our breakfast.
- We now set off for a two-hour drive by mini vans to the Randoyapo River to start our two-day, 36 km rafting trip to the sea.
- Karapi Rafting Company boasts 15-years experience in running North Sulawesi’s rivers and their staff team are Indonesia’s National Rafting Champions. They even competed in the World Rafting Championships, running grade 5+ rapids in West Virginia. While we won’t be doing anything quite as extreme as that, we will have the thrill of 3+ rapids in places with quiet pools below them.
- Following a sack lunch, a safety briefing and an equipment check, we will join the flow of the river for our initial 3 to 4-hour run. Along the quieter stretches of the Randoyapo River there will be time for lessons in river ecology.
- By late afternoon we will pull ashore to make camp for the night. Everyone pitches in setting up tents, gathering firewood and preparing our wilderness dinner before sitting around a campfire telling stories and singing songs.
- With the stars shining bright overhead and the song of the river to lull us to sleep, everyone should have a night to long remember.
Overnight: Randoyapo River camping
Study Focus: volcano geology / crater lakes
- Sunrise over our river camp should be a magical experience as we wash up in the river, enjoy breakfast and break camp to resume our journey.
- We still have another few hours of thrilling white water rafting ahead of us. By now every student should have a firm understanding of the powerful hydraulics of a mountain river, be able to respond instinctively to the commands of their raft captain, and be familiar with river features like back eddies, chutes, hay stacks and sweepers.
- By mid day we will reach the sea, the end of the river and the end of our rafting. It’s a two-hour drive from here back to our lodge, but we will break up the trip with a short climb to the summit crater of Mt. Mahawu, a dormant volcano that rises above Tomohon.
- Here students can survey the incredible vegetable gardens that grow in the rich volcanic soil on the flanks of the mountain and encounter many high elevation birds as they near the forested summit.
- Each student will have an opportunity to plant a native tree near the summit as part of a reforestation program before heading back down the mountain to our lodge.
- A special feast will be served tonight to mark our final night together, followed by a closing ceremony where each student will be awarded a program t-shirt and certificate to acknowledge their accomplishments.
Overnight: Onong’s Palace Resort, Tomohon
- It may be hard for students to believe it’s all over as they eat an early breakfast and set off by mini vans for the 1.5-hour drive to the Manado Airport for their return flight home.
- As the plane banks out over Manado Bay, students can look down on Bunaken Island and see Mount Mahawu and the Randoyapo River flowing to the sea. It will seem surreal that so much adventure and lifelong memories were contained in such a small area.