Koh Chang, The Wild Island
I had rarely sweated that much. Yet, after all, all I was doing is having a walk in the forest. It didn’t rain at all on that day, but believe it or not, my body and clothes were as drenched as if I had spent 10 minutes under a thunderstorm downpour.
I was experiencing the hostility of the jungle, the real face of these tropical islands millions of holidaymakers rush to every year. I was inside the wild landscape most people choose to enjoy from their beach resort.
But just before the border with Cambodia, in the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, a group of islands has miraculously survived the tourism fever. The largest of these islands is Koh Chang.
Indeed, it may sound surprising considering its size – the third largest in Thailand, but Koh Chang has remained largely under the radar of most tourists until very recently.
Even though tourism is now developing fast, encouraged by the Thai government, the island is still very far from having reached the level of development you can see in Koh Samui or Phuket.
Therefore, if you tend to avoid islands turned into a giant concrete slab and mass-tourism paradise like the plague, chances are that you will find in Koh Chang what you are looking for!
Already from the ferry taking me to the island, I was awed by how wild, mountainous, hostile-looking Koh Chang is from the sea. This impression is later confirmed when you arrive and see how snaky the main road is! And from the road, the jungle does look totally impenetrable.
In fact, about 70% of Koh Chang is still covered with a lush and mysterious rainforest covering the mountains, protected by the Mu Koh Chang National Park. This is an exceptional opportunity to see such a large island in such a state of preservation, which has long been a distant memory on other major islands.
GPS (start of the trek): 12°3’38.59″N, 102°18’25.98″E
How to go: Book through Jungle Fever Trekking (I am not affiliated with them and paid for my trek).
Price: 1200 Bahts (About 37 USD)
Duration of the trek: 8 hours
Trek distance: 14 km. More details here.
Best season: November to February for cooler temperatures. I did it in October.
Hotel recommendation: Coconut Beach Resort, Chai Chet Beach.
Koh Chang Jungle Trek – Contents
A Strenuous Jungle Trek
With all this wilderness awaiting, those who know me well will not be surprised to hear that this trek is the first thing I did after arriving in Koh Chang!
The simple idea of crossing this island on foot, coast to coast, through totally wild and untouched rainforest, was a challenge I couldn’t resist taking on.
And a challenge it was! 14 km doesn’t sound that bad when you are walking along the road, but when you are in the jungle the difficulty is on a whole other level. It is commonly admitted that the average walking speed is around 6 km per hour. In a jungle environment, this average plummets to only about 2 km per hour.
Blame the extreme humidity that quickly makes you totally drenched in your own sweat, the hostile wildlife, and the mountainous terrain. This trek goes up and down no less than 3 mountains.
VIRTUAL TOUR – Trekking across Koh Chang
Get deep into the jungle and cross Koh Chang island, discovering giant trees, rivers, a bamboo forest, and a hidden waterfall along the way. Reach the east coast just for sunset! (18 panoramas).
Copy the following code and paste it on your website:
You can modify the display size of the virtual tour by changing the “width” and “height” values in red (in pixels or percentage).
Embedding the virtual tour is completely free, you are just required to keep the attribution as provided in the code.
Here is the Virtual Tour URL:
The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.
I had some physically challenging jungle hikes on my own before, such as the one in Penang National Park in Malaysia, but for this one, you definitely need a guide. The path is not always visible, sometimes you have to follow the river for a while… without a guide, it is simply impossible to know where to go.
You could risk it with a good GPS but really, the environment is hostile and the distance to hike is long. As adventurous as I can be, it is not something I would risk. One can be adventurous without being silly. 🙂
Another important point to note is that this trek does not really offer any view of the landscape, it is pure jungle trekking. The reason why you would want to do it really is the physical challenge, and the pride to be able to say “Hey! I have crossed this whole huge island on foot, can you believe that?!”.
Of course, it is also a unique occasion to be totally immersed in this fascinating environment that is the tropical rainforest. Armed with my hiking boots, my courage, and my passion for nature and the wilderness, I was ready for a memorable adventure!
Koh Chang Jungle Trekking Video
My trek across Koh Chang in 3 minutes!
Because of the high humidity, the DSLR camera that I usually use to film was having problems. Most of this video was made with my smartphone – a bit more shaky than usual, sorry about that!
The Trek Across Koh Chang
So here I was, in Klong Prao (one of these developed areas along the west coast of Koh Chang) with the guide and a friendly young couple from Ukraine whom I shared this adventure with.
Since the development on the island is still limited, it didn’t take long to leave civilization behind and enter a true vegetal cathedral.
The trek starts not far from the Khlong Phlu Waterfall, one of the most popular waterfalls of Koh Chang… that I have, a little ashamedly, failed to visit. But that’s okay, the trek gave me access to a much more exclusive swim at a waterfall in the heart of the jungle instead.
Once you have crossed the Khlong Phlu stream, the path keeps climbing heading northeast, until you reach the top of the first mountain of the trek. When I got there it felt like an awesome achievement, but I soon realized that it was only the beginning of a much longer, challenging hike.
A little further along the ridge, there is a hole in the forest cover with bare rocks on the ground, a wonderful viewpoint of the nearby forest-covered mountains. It was really like a sneak peek at all this intimidating, not human-friendly wilderness that was left to cross.
You suddenly realize how isolated you are, a tiny human being in this immensity of trees, it kind of hits you in the face.
In any case, if you go for this trek, know that this viewpoint is the only one you will get along the way, so enjoy it well! In the 99 remaining percent of the trek, you just follow a more or less visible trail in the forest, crawl under fallen trees, worm your way in the bushes and walk in jungle streams.
In the late morning, the usual straight tree trunks reaching for the sky suddenly make way for a surprising bamboo forest. The clumping bamboos are huge and cover a large area.
Soon after, you are reaching the beginning of the Than Mayom stream, the origin of the Than Mayom waterfall. Yes, that’s another famous waterfall I haven’t visited. It is on a large rocky part of the river that we had a well-deserved lunch break.
Then there is something I haven’t talked about yet. The leeches. Thousands of leeches. There are more present in some areas than others, but you simply can’t escape them. These are probably the trickiest little pieces of wildlife you will find in these forests.
Everything always seems fine, until you take off your shoes to find out your legs and feet have been bleeding like crazy. When you stop walking and take a closer look, you can see them getting closer, crawling on your shoes, irresistibly attracted by the prospect of a delicious blood meal.
Yummy French blood in a Thai forest must be amazing for them. If I remember well, I had around 30 leech bites. And since the leeches inject an anticoagulant so the blood keeps flowing, well, it kept flowing. For an hour. I basically spent my lunch break looking at the blood flowing out of my feet.
But don’t let that deter you from going for the trek! I was bitten to that extent because I was too lazy to check my feet (and remove them immediately) and even if all this blood may look like a huge mess, it doesn’t even hurt at all or anything.
In the afternoon, we simply went on with our walk, paying closer attention to the leeches, and seeing a few little animals like an earth crab or an elusive snake I saw for about a second.
We had to walk along jungle streams, sometimes in the stream itself, which was fun. The stop at the waterfall I mentioned earlier was really wonderful. At first, it felt really too cold for me, but “once you’re in, it’s fine”, as they say. And trust me, in these conditions, washing off all your sweat in cool water feels delightful. Don’t miss it.
At the sun was slowly disappearing behind the horizon and casting its warm colors on the clouds, orchards and plantations had replaced the jungle – a sign we were getting close to the coastal road. And there it was! The coast! It was almost unreal, after all this jungle.
It is totally drained but happy with our performance that we sat at the back of the pickup bringing us back to civilization. I had a well-deserved dinner on the beach of my hotel, with my bleeding feet.
No, Mr. waiter, I suspect you didn’t believe me but I promise, that was not a motorbike accident.
TRAVEL MAP – Koh Chang Jungle Trek
Visualize on the map the precise locations of panoramas in the virtual tour and places of interest to help you prepare for your jungle trek in Koh Chang.
The map opens in a lightbox. Zoom in to explore!
Like it? Pin it!
Wow!! What a read!! I went on a 2 day hike in Hawaii and I thought that was hard!! I feel like I would enjoy this though. I could do without the leeches btw, the video wasn’t working for me. Could have been my device but just wanted to let you know!
Thank you Allyson!! Glad you enjoyed it. And thank you for pointing out the issue with my video, seems to work now!
Wow! I have never been to a jungle like That, but I would totally love to. Amazing pictures, this is what I was imagining when I read Rudyard Kipling’s “The book of the jungle”.
Thank you very much Nicoleta, the jungle is an amazing experience!
Uh wow, that sounds like one hell of an adventure. I had not heard about that Island before and since I am alway up for exploring fresh destinations I am happy I have now. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Eva, but you should go quickly before tourism develops too much!
Encore un superbe reportage…mais tu prends des risques avec ta santé ! Merci pour le partage quand-même 🙂
Haha merci mais ne t’inquiète pas, c’est juste quelques sangsues et un peu de transpiration, l’appel de l’aventure est le plus fort!
What a fantastic adventure. Absolutely loved the video — even handheld with the smartphone was just fine. Shoot handheld smartphone video quite a bit using FiLMIC Pro app on an iPhone ourselves. Has a super stabilization feature. And the leeches with the photos you took (combined with the sense of humor) added to the story! 😉
Thanks a lot Michael, glad you enjoyed the video. I don’t have iPhone but it’s true I should check out if they have some app for stabilized filming – thanks for the tip!
Whoa this was quite a journey and a cool adventure. It takes a lot of courage to do something like this. I loved the video too
Thanks Danie, not an easy hike but well worth it
Well that sounds like such an awesome adventure! Really enjoyed reading your post – it was great to learn more about a place I was not familiar with. Would be such a fantastic experience, although I could definitely do without the leeches :S
Thank you very much Meaghan, the leeches are not always fun but luckily not dangerous!
Ooh! I love Thailand, and Koh Chang looks like a hidden paradise. The hike looked very adventurous. Enjoyed your post!
Thank you Taryn, glad you enjoyed it!
Wow, you were really in the wilderness! I can see why you’d have to slow down your pace with all those tree trunks to step over.
Thanks for the comment Marissa! It was pure wilderness and the path was not always clear!
You are right…14 km doesn’t sound that much, but clearly walking in a jungle is a completely different experience. Your pictures are stunning and showcase the forest and it’s perils so beautifully…especially your bloodied legs. I do hope Koh Chang manages to retain it’s beauty and exclusivity for a few more years…
Thank you Siddharta, I really hope so too, but it should be OK as it is protected by law with a national park.
I had a similar sweaty walk experience on Redang Island in Malaysia. It was not such a long walk but the small stretch also left me exhausted. Looks like you had a bad time with leeches – it can be painful to have them on your legs all the time. Hope your carried some salt or tobacco to keep them away.
So lucky to have visited Pulau Redang! The leeches were not painful but it really bled a lot, thank you for the tip about salt and tobacco!
Wow, what an adventure! This is a little TOO adventurous for me. I love hiking…but it would be so hot and the leeches totally freak me out! That would hurt so much. Yikes! I’m glad you were able to do it though, I’m impressed!!
Haha thank you Lauren! It’s true that it was a little adventurous but the leeches don’t hurt at all, you don’t feel them. That’s why it was such a surprise to see my bloody socks when I took off my shoes!
This looks incredible. The first time I heard of Koh Chang was a few years ago when we were travelling around Asia but we did not have time to get there. It is hard to believe it is as wild as it is when it is so conveniently located. Definitely going on my bucket list
Thanks Anne! You should definitely go soon while it is not so developed!
It looks like a great adventure. Never could imagine that some place like Koh Chang still exists in Thailand. I thought everything there was to commericalize has been done! Uggghhh.. leeches… I guess I would wear anti-leech apparel or something like that before attempting this hike. 🙂 Happy New Year!
Happy new year to you too Nisha! I also find amazing that Thailand still has such wilderness when you know it’s a mass tourism heaven! Leeches are not pretty but well, at least they don’t hurt!
The jungle looks so lush! I can’t imagine all those leeches though. Hopefully there will be a good way to prevent them on this hike…
Hey cat, it’s true the leeches are not great but it is difficult to escape them! You just need to often check your legs and avoid staying still for too long as they would crawl to you
Sandy N Vyjay
The Koh-Chang jungle trek looks really challenging. It is really commendable that you completed it in spite of the challenges. I can see the leeches made merry with your legs.I was reminded of one of the treks I did in Africa where safari ants made merry. It is really heartening to see that Koh-Chang remains really pristine and maintains its natural environs.
Thanks for the comment Sandy! It is indeed really great to still be able to see such wilderness nowadays. I think ants must be even more annoying, with leeches you bleed but at least you don’t feel anything!
I was loving all your pictures of the jungle, even though the trek sounded so strenuous and tough, I was thinking it might be worth going with a guide. Then I read about the leeches and I’ve changed my mind! I recently went on a jungle trek in Sri Lanka and there were thousands of leeches and somehow, a few got inside me in places I could never imagine and in ways I still don’t know. Long story short, I was all bloody inside my clothes and with so many leech bites, it wasn’t funny! Don’t think I want that ever again.
Haha I understand Medha! I also had them all over, under my t-shirt and all. But well, they are part of nature and at least it doesn’t hurt when they bite you. But I can understand your disgust!
Sawadee Koh Chang
Very nice review and great video!
That’s very nice that you came to Koh Chang and enjoyed your trip.
Thank you! I did enjoy Koh Chang very much, I would definitely love to go again 🙂
Yeah, this ko Chang jungle is a sparkling jungle and where any traveler found more adventure. Because there have superfine sand, some have pebbles.