It’s the stuff of myth and legend.
Several miles off the southern Thai coast lies a small beautiful island. On the western edge of that island, facing towards the sea, a sheer rock wall rises from the water. In its base is a low entrance to a sea cave accessible only by boat. Swim for 80 metres through that cave, sometimes in complete darkness, and emerge to discover a towering hidden glade complete with sandy beach. Accessible only via the sea cave, in times past it was used as a hidden treasure cave by pirates. When the sun hits the water it glows a brilliant green, suffusing the whole glade with magical light. This is Morakot – The Emerald Cave.
Justifiably one of the highlights of Southern Thailand, we always wanted to visit this cave. As do many others, and hundreds of people a day arrive on a multitude of boats to do so. Given its small size the little glade can feel crowded with just a dozen people, so we heeded the advice of the guidebook and organised a private longtail to take us there early in the morning. As we were staying on Koh Kradan, just 20 minutes boat ride away, we could get there early enough to avoid the crowds but still have enough light to enjoy the experience to the full.
The gods were certainly smiling on us that day. The sun was shining and the water smooth like oiled glass. As we pulled up to the mooring point another couple were exiting – clearly they had the same idea to visit early as we did! We donned lifejackets and follow our guide into the cave, which was a little daunting at first as the entrance is very low. But it quickly opens up enough to be comfortable, and we paddle through the silence and blackness as our guide shines a torch weakly at the ceiling to illuminate some bats. Soon we spy the light of the end of the tunnel ahead to the right, and we paddle into the magnificent glade to discover no one else is there…
For the next ten minutes we scamper about like children, exploring the forest, the beach, the rocks, the water, all to the hum of insects chirping softly above. I take still photos while Kristen records some video footage, and we marvel at the wonder of it all and the fact that for these brief, surreal moments we have the entire cave to ourselves. Just as we finish our photos and videos we hear the sounds of a group coming through the cave, and soon a conga-line of smiling Chinese emerge from the cave singing cheerfully. For the next hour a handful of groups come and go, and we lay in the water watching it all and soaking up the beauty. Because we’re on a private charter we have about an hour there, whereas the other explorers were gone in as little as ten minutes and never stayed longer than thirty.
Eventually we get up to leave, and as we paddle again through the cave yet more groups are heading the other way. It’s only 10 o’clock in the morning and the larger daytrip groups have not yet arrived, suggesting that by midday the cave and glade must get pretty crowded indeed. We climb back onto our boat for the trip back home, utterly content that for a short, sweet time we experienced Morakot as it was intended. In solitude: quiet, serene, magical.