Latest schedule and price update on April 25, 2017
It's a tiny island with two names. Koh Ngai - sometimes called Koh Hai - measures 4 kilometers long, and just 2 kilometers wide. And although many people could easily run from one end of the island to the other, there are no roads. There is a footpath through the jungle from the east-coast main beach and its camping and hotels, to the south side beach and resort, but boat travel is the only other way around.
To the west and north, Koh Ngai is mountainous and heavily forested, and the natural environment offers excellent bird-watching opportunities. The monitor lizards have been known to walk right up to the cottage porches, and monkeys play along the beaches too. The island is officially part of Koh Lanta National Park and is home to a park headquarters, with sweeping views from atop the hill. Even the accommodations are built into the environment, whether that's the beachfront CoCo Cottages or the spectacular Cliff Beach Resort that's terraced into the eastern cliffside. And then there's the Light My Fire Society operated by owner Jaran, also known as Don.
His directions are simple: Walk as far north as you can, until you see the driftwood sign. The camping facilities check-in: Anytime. If you're staying elsewhere, you're still welcome to come for a drink too. But this is the place for sitting around campfires and discussing authors and literature, philosophy and politics. This is the place for sharing the cost of communal meals, and making music together or alone. It's a rare find in today's travel world, and perhaps no surprise that Koh Ngai is where it makes its home.
"We are artists, amateurs, fishermen, gardeners, campers, travelers, visitors, musicians, listeners, storytellers, dreamers and much more," say the society faithful, whose projects include beach cleanups, building huts and fishing for the evening dinner. "We dream together about shared evenings of campfire, where everyone contributes with a story, a melody or their mere presence."
Sure, there are laundry facilities and fine-dining venues on Koh Ngai, but there are no ATMs and apart from the few hotels and resorts, there are no retail or commercial businesses. Even the well-regarded Thapwarin Resort may limit 24-hour electricity to the peak season, but most hotels do have WiFi. There are no medical facilities, and there are no police officers - although there usually is a park ranger. So it's important to remember that there are trade-offs for the peace and pristine nature of a stay on Koh Ngai.
The island is also on the snorkeling circuit, with reefs and tropical fish of its own, as well as the day-trip options of the nearby Emerald Cave on Koh Mook and beaches of Krabi and Koh Lanta. Kayaking, especially on the more protected eastern sea, is a beautiful way to see the island from offshore. A walk to collect seashells on the quiet Paradise Beach is an option at the south-facing end of the island's hiking trail.