Looking for ways to reduce your pollution footprint on your travels? From ditching plastics and exploring by foot, to volunteer beach cleans and staying in eco-lodges, follow these simple but effective steps to become a responsible traveller through Thailand...
Explore the islands by kayak (Rosie Fitzgerald)
You won’t be able to completely avoid the fisherman boats as they’re your only way onto the island. Ferries and speedboats aren’t allowed on the shoreline for fear they will damage the coral reef surrounding the island. Instead, you’ll be dropped at a jetty far from the shore and a fisherman boat will take you the rest of the way.
Once on the island, try to avoid the fisherman boats. Although better than the big boats, these taxis still damage the marine life.
Instead hire a kayak, available at most businesses on the beachfront. It’s easy to paddle out without damaging the coral and you’ll quickly reach small, uninhabited islands to explore. The waters off these islands are deeper, making them great spots for snorkelling.
Prices on Koh Lipe are higher than most Thai islands, especially bottled water. Imported goods are expensive to transport as they have to be loaded from a big boat at the jetty onto a fishermen boat in multiple trips, then motorbiked across the island, coming at an environmental cost as well as an economic one.
Save money, reduce plastic and protect the environment by not buying water. Get yourself a ‘Love Lipe’ flask and fill it up for free at refill stations in restaurants and resorts around the island.
The scheme, set up by Trash Heroes wants to reduce plastic use on the island. You’re not allowed to fill a plastic bottle at the refill points; you have to use the metal flasks, which you can loan from participating resorts, such as Gecko Lipe.
Sunrise Beach (Rosie Fitzgerald)
Koh Lipe has only had vehicles since 2013 and most of these are taxi-motorbikes for tourists. While they provide a safer means of transport at night and are a convenient way to get around, travellers would be missing out on a circular trip around the island in just 20 minutes by foot.
The trail around Koh Lipe is well sign posted, so there’s little chance you will end up lost. Not only that, but it is generally busy and considered safe to walk around at night.
Hear Buddhist monks chanting at Hantalay Temple, before continuing through the jungle to Sunset Beach where you can enjoy pink skies on the most peaceful side of the island. Wander down Walking Street in the evening to the sound of market vendors singing, nose around the shops and find plenty of authentic Thai eateries.
Make a real difference to the environment by becoming a Trash Hero. Trash heroes meet every Monday at 10am on Pattaya Beach. You’ll be given a yellow T-shirt and set to work filling a bag with rubbish.
Koh Lipe is so small you can walk from one end to the other around 10 minutes, making it very easy to clean, so the beaches are kept in pristine condition.
As it is the only island out of a small cluster of 10 that’s inhabited, Trash Heroes also clean the shorelines of the surrounding islands.
Rainforest Café (Rosie Fitzgerald)
Listen out for a gong when the sun is setting. This signals dinner time for the stray dogs, when local restaurants give their leftovers to the hungry inhabitants.
Get a closer look at the Rainforest Café. This artistic restaurant has adopted many stray cats and dogs. The walls are covered with the portraits and names of the pets, so you can easily identify the pooch relaxing under your table.
Animal Care Lipe was set up in 2005 to provide medication, food and vet services to strays on the island. Although based on Koh Lanta, Lanta Animal Welfare also helps strays on Koh Lipe, providing free vet services. Visit their centre in Lanta to help walk and groom the dogs. The organisation also offers longer volunteering opportunities if you want to help on a more permanent basis.
Koh Lipe is named after its first inhabitants – the Urak Lawoi, or ‘Sea People’. Travellers to this region contribute to the incomes of families who live and work on the island. However, this does not compensate damage to the environment and the altered way of life that the community have adopted to allow tourism to grow.
Help support the Urak Lawoi and learn more about their way of life by talking to them. Go to their restaurants and bars, watch their fantastic fire shows, and remember to be respectful towards their culture.
Snorkel around the coral reefs (Shutterstock)
Remember it’s not just the bottom of boats that can damage the coral reef, but also the bottom of your feet. At low tide, the water is so shallow the tops of the reef poke out of the sea, making them impossible to swim over.
During low-tide the sea is so crystal clear and the reef so full of life that, even from the water’s edge, you’re likely to see whole families of clown fish just metres from where you’re standing. This means there’s no real need to go in far. Instead, save the dip for high tide.
Damage to the reef is taken very seriously. If you see other tourists walking on the coral, report them to the national park officials on Pattaya Beach.
Due to the growth in tourism, Koh Lipe is being developed at a worrying pace, with the rate of new buildings on the rise. Not to mention, materials being brought to shore by large shipping boats isn’t good news for the coral reef either.
However, there are many eco-resorts around the island that strive to protect the environment. Gecko Lipe is situated in a forest at the centre of the island. They haven’t cut down a single tree to fit in the bungalows, fully support the ‘Love Lipe’ scheme and take in stray dogs.
Equally eco-friendly is Castaway Resort who support Trash Hero clean-ups and are involved with Lanta Animal Welfare. Luxurious Serendipity is also a well-respected eco-lodge.
In most restaurants on Koh Lipe, you’ll find a sign on the door pleading you to go easy on the toilet roll. Some places won’t provide any at all.
This is because, like bottled water, toilet roll is expensive to transport and poses a threat to the marine life. When tourists flush toilet tissue down the loo, it causes huge problems such as flooding for businesses, as the island’s sewage system isn’t developed enough to deal with it.
The locals buy toilet roll out of courtesy for tourists, but travellers should stay open-minded to hosing down instead. Not only is it less damaging to the environment, but it is also a much more hygienic method for you.
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Nominations are open!
Have you encountered a wonderful Thailand charity group, eco-lodge/hotel or volunteering experience? Nominate them in the Responsible Thailand Awardsmake a difference