A Day With The Pink Dolphins Of Khanom, Thailand

Photo by Lachlan Dempsey via Unsplash

Pink dolphins and pristine, empty beaches in Thailand… It sounds so outrageous that I might as well throw unicorns in there too. While we’re still on the hunt for unicorns, the rest are a reality. There’s a place in Thailand with immaculate beaches that’s quiet and home to the elusive pink dolphin – Khanom District in southern Thailand!

Getting to know Khanom

Khanom is a small, non-touristy area tucked away in the Nakhon Si Thammarat province on the south-eastern coast of Thailand. It’s quite close to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, but without the crowds. The region has beautiful mountain scenery and many long, white beaches to relax on. While the town has an ‘Ample Moon’ party, it’s more cocktails-and-seafood and less Koh Phangan-style full moon party.

There are several beaches to visit around Khanom. Nai Plao Beach is the most popular while Thong Yee and Feng Phao beaches tend to be quieter. One of Thailand’s longest beaches, Nadan Beach, stretches out over nine kilometres nearby.

Khanom’s also one of the few places in Thailand not yet over-developed and flooded with tourists. The main attraction here is the pink dolphins – there are even statues and paintings of them throughout the town. Locals and volunteers work together to create a safe space for these unique creatures and that can only be sustained with the help of those who come to see them.

Tickled pink

Pink dolphins are actually grey when they’re born and gradually turn pink as they get older. You’ll see pink on their tummies first, and it’ll eventually spread in patched all over the dolphin until they’re mature. So the older the dolphin is, the pinker it’ll be.

It is believed that pink dolphins are a sub-species of the White Chinese Dolphin. They get their unique colour from a network of blood capillaries just under their skin. These capillaries help them regulate their body temperature. Their colour can vary from grey to white and rosy to a deeper pink.

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There are only about 2,000 pink dolphins left in the wild with about 60 of them living around Khanom, according to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation. While there aren’t any official measures for protecting these creatures in place, the local community takes care of them by planting seaweed for marine animals to lay eggs. Some fishermen feed the dolphins to stop them from eating fish caught in the fishing nets and getting trapped. Although it’s done with the intention of protecting them, this isn’t always recommended.

Photo by Chaiyathat via Wikimedia

Local tour boats and fishermen have an agreement to stay at least 50 metres away from the dolphins and to switch off their boat motors when the dolphins are near. If you want to go see the pink dolphins, make sure that you find a company that puts the comfort and safety of these dolphins first.

The best time to see the pink dolphins is in the early morning, between 7:30AM and 9AM, during the months of February to September.

There are a few things to consider when visiting these amazing creatures. While feeding the dolphins will attract them and increase your chances of seeing them, it also changes their feeding habits and thus the ecological environment. Chasing the dolphins causes them to stress and leave the area – doing exactly the opposite of what you want. Dolphins are naturally curious and might swim up to the boat if you sit quietly with the motors off and wait for them.

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Jay is an avid traveller and writer who loves to immerse herself in local cultures and new experiences. She strives to find a new adventure in every day.