Thavorn Beach Village & Spa, with its private beach, extensive swimming pools and secluded environment, is located on one of Phuket’s last remaining unspoiled private beaches. Nakalay Beach, which can only be accessed through the hotel or the privately owned pier, offers 600 metres of sandy beach and the calm waters of Andaman Sea.
The beach slopes gently into the sea and remains shallow for quite a distance. When the tide is high, it makes for a family-friendly seafront, however, this also means that when the tide goes out, it goes out a long way. This exposes a rocky intertidal zone that is home to a vast number of marine species, from starfish and corals to shrimp, squid, and sea urchins.
Relaxing on a sun lounger I watch a young couple emerge in the distance, snorkel, and mask in hand, and make their way closer to the shore, ever watchful of where they step. With swimming in the ocean currently not an option, a dip in one of the largest free-form swimming pools (4,000 sq.m) in South East Asia was called for. The lagoon-style pool is a feast for the eyes, and feels completely natural, surrounded by tropical greenery, water features and hidden nooks as well as poolside dining and a swim-up bar.
To my delight we had a pool access suite – I could step from our terrace directly into a secluded section of the lagoon pool. What bliss! Even with a massive king-sized bed the suite still felt spacious and I loved the traditional Thai styled furnishings and the abundance of teakwood. The complimentary citronella bug spray came in handy as lush tropical gardens generally mean mosquitos, of which, thankfully, there were only a few.
Luxury and poolside living aside, we were here to chat to John Thavornwongwongse, Director, Thavorn Hotels to learn about their commitment to sustainability and conservation.
John tells us that they, as the Thavorn Palm Beach Resort and the Thavorn Beach Village Resort & Spa, have implemented a range of eco-friendly initiatives and conservation projects, including a joint coral conservation project by Thavorn Hotels and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) – which as a scuba diver and photographer he is extremely proud of.
“This is the first government approved project to save, grow, and nourish corals on natural reefs in Phuket. We also created Phuket’s first coral nursery and learning centre. By working closely with Thailand’s DMCR, we ensure that our efforts are according to regulations and are of international standards. Our goal is to become a successful case study for Phuket’s travel industry in coral reef conservation and hopefully inspire other businesses to do the same.”
As we stroll through the extensive grounds to the coral research centre John tells us that in the past, Patong bay was one of the locations in Phuket with the healthiest coral reefs resulting in an abundance of marine life, which in turn attracted tourists and many fishermen. But as time passed, due to the increasing damages sustained by the coral reefs the abundance of marine life declined as did the number of nature-loving tourists.
He explains that there were a number of reasons for this degradation: from increased sea temperatures due to climate change; the overpopulation of the coral reef predator, the crown-of-thorns starfish; environmental effects due to the 2004 tsunami tragedy; increasing construction and development and the accompanying pollution it creates as well as near-shore fishermen trampling the reefs.
This prompted an extensive survey of Patong Bay’s coral reefs to determine the extent of the damage. They ascertained that the reefs could still recover provided certain initiatives were supported and pioneered. Public awareness was raised with both locals and guests and hands-on activities were begun to preserve the reefs. For example, the restoration of coral reef, the repair and reinstallation of the mooring buoys, diving activities to clean the reefs, by supporting the campaign to reduce wastewater and by supporting the participation of different entrepreneurs. This resulted in the establishment of a five-year plan to promote and support coral reef growth and development to restore the reefs.
It was fascinating seeing coral growing in the tanks and John explains the various methods they use to attach coral to a base so that they can grow and be returned to the reef. The natural rocks found on their private beach are used as a base and broken and fragmented corals are attached by cable ties and nails so that they do not get washed away.
In areas that lack a coral base, they attach the coral to metal frames, which John says, has extended their conservation capabilities beyond the natural rocks. “There is evidence that the corals have attached well to the 10 frames we launched in a previous dive and that the coral are slowly covering the frames, cable ties and nails”.
A more recent development is the use of donated electrical plates from the DMCR and Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand as the smooth surface base, to which broken corals are easily attached with epoxy glue. This is a much easier process than the metal frames enabling up to 40 such plates being launched during a dive. The restoration dives are done by enthusiasts and conservationists and Thavorn Hotels covers the cost of diving gear and oxygen tanks, which comes at a price, as well as free meals and drinks for every event.
We continue our walk past the vegetable gardens where lettuce, mint, morning glory, cucumber, holy basil, and eggplant are grown. Additionally, their dining outlets operate with a farm-to fork ethos and source local produce where possible.
Environmentally, Thavorn Hotels have committed to recycling where possible, use greywater for the gardens, have changed to LED energy efficient lighting, and keep the usage of plastic to a minimum. John explains that this continues to be a challenge in the guest bathrooms as the lack of reliability of refillable dispensers as well as guest expectations tend to determine their decisions. He does assure me that sustainability has been at the core of their ethos since the inception of the brand so finding a satisfactory solution is what he is committed to.
Walking into the orchid garden with its magnificent display of exotic colour, traditional and sometimes quirky sculptures, and Thai sayings, their motto ‘Where Thai Tradition Meets Nature’ becomes very evident.
With most of the resort grounds are dedicated to natural areas, as opposed to buildings, garden enthusiasts and horticulturists alike may even forgo beach time to spend more time exploring the treasures of the splendid 10 plus acre of gardens. Discover a wealth of diversity, from the sounds of nature, 17th century Bonsai, and the fragrant scents from many exotic flowers such as orchids, bougainvillea, frangipani (Plumeria), roses, and more – there is even a baobab tree!
The gardens have taken years of passion and dedication as well as trial and error, considering the salty sea breeze that is generally an unsuitable environment for flowering plants. Keep a look out for the resident wildlife as well as guinea fowl, and the rooster and his family that roost in one of the large frangipani trees.
And if you are walking in the evenings, do listen up and look for tree frogs and toads that frequent the ponds near the main restaurant – which offers a great menu selection, from traditional Thai cuisine to more mainstream options.
John suggested that we take the hillside cable car to experience some of the best views in Phuket of the Andaman Sea. We enjoy the expansive views over the resort and the great perspective that it gives of the extent of the gardens. The funicular cable car was the very first on Phuket and is an easy option for accessing the Hillside rooms and suites. The walk back down through the forest offers some great birding opportunities too.
So, what did I love most about Thavorn Beach Village Resort & Spa?
- Its secluded beach and the tropical gardens.
- The coral conservation project and the fact that guests are educated about it through a display in the reception area.
- The fact that I could walk off our terrace straight into the lagoon pool – be sure to request a pool access suite for this.
- The continuing commitment to finding financially viable and environmentally sound solutions to single use plastic.
- That there are fabulous dining options in a variety of locations, we unfortunately were not there long enough to try them all, but I did love the scrumptious and diverse range at the breakfast buffet.
Read about our stay at Thavorn Palm Beach Resort HERE
Huge thanks to the to John Thavornwongwongse and the Thavorn Hotels team for hosting us for a night at each of these fabulous properties.