Like many islands in the tropical waters off the coast of Thailand, Koh Mak is a small slice of paradise, with beautiful, soft-sand beaches and friendly, laid-back locals. Just sixteen square kilometres in size, it has a population of around 500 people. The island offers accommodation in around 40 resorts and guesthouses, and refreshment in about 20 restaurants and bars.
Yet Koh Mak differs from other Thai islands in many respects. In contrast to nearby Koh Chang and Koh Kood, which are both quite mountainous, Koh Mak is almost completely flat, and the interior is covered with rubber and coconut plantations. Also, the island is owned by a handful of families, who have banded together to make it a sustainable, eco-friendly destination.
This means that there are no high-rise hotels, no shopping malls or 7-11 convenience stores, no hostess bars, no jet skis or parasailing on the beaches, and almost no traffic on the island’s few roads. While party animals would not enjoy the place since most people are tucked up in bed by 10pm, anyone looking for a relaxing, healthy and hospitable spot for a holiday would recognize instantly that Koh Mak is a gem.
The owners of the resorts, guesthouses and restaurants, which cater to all types of travellers from luxury to bedget, have pledged jointly to make the island a low-carbon destination, and they have gone about this in a systematic way. Most resorts use solar power to heat their water and to illuminate pathways at night. Where possible the restaurants on the island use locally grown food, and some resorts even have their own organic gardens.
All solid waste is separated into glass, cans, paper and plastic, which is then transported to the mainland for resale. As for organic waste, the 30 tons of waste produced monthly on the island is taken to a waste management facility called Energy Park, where it is turned into fertiliser for growing plants and biogas for boiling water.
Visitors to the island can also feel that they are doing their bit to reduce carbon emissions, as all activities are eco-friendly, such as kayaking and cycling, which are easily the best way to explore the island’s coastline and interior.
Koh Mak will never be a destination for mass tourism, but that is good news for green travellers. It means they can keep coming back to this precious island without worrying that it may have been spoiled since they were last here.