Local fishing boats bop in bays fringed with limestone mountains surrounded by beaches and national parks. At sunrise, the boats in the bay light up like soft candles in the distance as fishermen begin their day. We are in Prachuap Khiri Khan a pretty fishing town by the sea about 240 kilometres south of Bangkok. However it is not the sea that has lured us here, but a small colony of cute dusky monkeys that inhabit a nearby beach.
We have always wanted to see these monkeys with the bright orange babies which have to be one of Thailand’s cutest primates. The monkeys live at Ao Manao Beach which is famous for its wild population of them.
The dusky monkeys are only found in Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia and considered a threatened species. The dusky monkeys are protected by the Thailand government and for this reason, a preservation area was made for them at Ao Manoa Beach.
After waking up to the view from our room of one of the prettiest sunrises in Thailand we have breakfast and hire a motorbike from our guesthouse. Ao Manao Beach is located inside the Air Force Base which is only about five kilometres out of Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The monkeys live in the sacred mountains but they come down the beach and hang out on a rocky outcrop on the northern end of the beach. The monkeys are wild but habituated and love human company. They approach closely and like to touch, but unlike a lot of other monkeys, they are very gentle.
Black arms of the older monkeys encircle fluffy orange babies tight to their chests until the older ones trust us. Black or grey fur, a long tail, black human-like hands and feet and vivid white circles around dark treacle eyes makes this one adorable monkey! Very affectionate with each other, they hold hands and hug and tell each other off by pointing a furry black finger rather than aggression.
Babies are born bright yellow or orange, and between six and ten months of age, they will start to darken. It is not known why they are born so bright; one theory is they play, wander away, and get lost, and being so bright they are found easily by the adults.
The older monkeys pass around and fight over the babies like little rag dolls and even the males want their turn with these orange babies. Smothered with affection, the babies end up looking a little battered and bruised after the rough and tumble love.
We spend some time here watching these endangered primates. Their behaviour is endearing, and we have them and this little part of paradise mostly to ourselves. As cute and gentle as they are, they are not beyond thieving, so keep an eye on your belongings.
Ao Manao is one of the best places to see a dusky monkey in the wild. A world away from the more popular beaches, Prachuap Khiri Khan is also a nice escape from the touristy crowds and makes a nice stopover while travelling south.
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Palm trees don’t sway over azure sparkly water and white sandy beaches, but it is laid back and a nice place to relax. On the esplanade, a few local restaurants look over the ocean. If you love seafood, you will be in paradise. We eat at a few local restaurants including a cosy pizza place that makes the best and freshest pizzas, including vegetarian. There isn’t a lot of vegetarian options on the menus but most restaurants will happily create something special for vegetarians.
While here we also visit Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park which takes us about 40 minutes to get to on our motorbike. The scenery of limestone cliffs filled with honeycomb caves is stunning and there is a population of cheeky crab-eating macaques and wild dusky monkeys.
How to get to the Dusky Monkeys
Taxi 3000 Baht.
Bus or minibus 500 Baht. Minibuses leave every couple of hours from the Victory Monument.
Trains depart twice a day from Bangkok 200-400 Baht.
From Prachuap Khiri Khan
Ao Manao Beach is about 5 km from the town centre and takes about an hour to walk or you can go by tuk-tuk or hire a bicycle or motorbike. It is straightforward and easy to find with the map that the hotels hand out.
Motorbikes cost about 200 Baht a day.
Bicycles are available for 50 Baht a day.
The entrance is via the Airforce Base, and you need to register when you enter and depart which sometimes requires your passport.
The sheltered water at Ao Manao Beach is clear and remains shallow for a long distance out, which makes it great for families. On the beach, there are cool shady trees, food stalls and umbrellas.
We stay at Sunbeach Guesthouse which is pretty, sparkly clean and in a great location as the restaurants are within a few hundred metres along the esplanade. Our room on the top floor has ocean views and we wake up to gorgeous sunrises fringed by limestone cliffs and fishing boats bobbing in the sea.
An Ocean view room is 1100 Baht for a night.
More of our Thailand Travel Stories
- Khmer Ruins in Thailand
- Wild Elephants in Thailand
- Three Adorable Babies at and Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai
- Our Thailand Travel Photography