Anantara Si Kao, Trang, Thailand
A 90-minute drive from Krabi, 40 minutes from Trang Airport, in a secluded corner of southern Thailand lies Anantara Si Kao Resort. The 140-room-and-suite tropical sanctuary sits on a river estuary and beach, abutting Hat Chao Mai National Park with panoramic views of the Andaman Sea. Not an Asian speakeasy to be seen for miles.
Anantara Si Kao is undergoing rapid refurbishment after monsoonal storms and king tides took 11 metres of beach front and 26 trees in September. Si Kao generally attracts a European crowd through package deal operators Tui and Kappa Club but has been welcoming more Australian families through a generous all-inclusive Luxury Escapes package. There are three restaurants, three pools, one of which is adults-only, a gym, children's club and spa, all set within Bill Bensley-designed gardens. The Si Kao management is devoting money to protecting the dugong. Fewer than 50 live in the surrounding waters. Guests are encouraged to help with the planting of sea grasses, and resident conservationist Mark Isenstadt has opened the on-site Dugong Education and Conservation Centre. This has several species of sea cucumbers, seahorses and sea grasses, a pond for crabs and sea cucumbers and laboratory and research space for scientists.
Some rooms are in line for a makeover but not room 111. On the ground floor of the resort's three-storey wing our gorgeous two-room suite came with its own pool and jaw-dropping views of limestone karst islands. From the king-size bed we watched pinky melon sunrises. On a sofa bed and roll-out in the adjoining dining and lounge room slept the teen and pre-teen. The generously sized bathroom came with a deep bath, two sinks and separate shower. An outdoor shower pool-side shook off sand and salt. A pergola with birdcage lamps hid the pool from upper balconies but noise can travel.
There are three main dining options. Leelawadee provides indoor and outdoor seating with sea views and offers breakfast and casual buffet lunches and dinners. Options include mini chicken burgers, sandwiches and fish 'n' chips for kids, as well as southern Thai cuisine sourced primarily from local traders. At the apex of the resort is The Beach House, decorated Hamptons style with a reading library. Offering an excellent a la carte menu of international and Asian dishes, it is the preferred spot for sundown cocktails. The signature restaurant Acqua runs a nice menu of Italian favourites.
Let's be clear – this resort is not for partygoers who should play hard closer to downtown Phuket or Krabi. Evening live music and an occasional fire show was about it for entertainment which suited us just fine. By day the resort offers yoga, mini golf, tennis courts, a hedge maze, nature walks, a Muay Thai ring for private instruction and, a rarity in Thailand, cricket nets. An excursion to Koh Mook to swim the Emerald Cave, thence to Koh Kradan for some snorkelling and a barbecue lunch at the resort's bar comes highly recommended. We were out of luck spotting dugongs but the kids' eyes were truly opened to their fortunate circumstances when they visited the school and fishing village, one of many opportunities available to sample the culture and give guests hands-on experience alongside local and international scientists.
Deluxe rooms for two adults start at $132 low season. Try for sea view upgrades and all-inclusive VIP packages. See sikao.anantara.com
With all meals, snacks, drinks and cocktails included for four people, our stay represented unbeatable value for money in a family-friendly resort still to hit its straps.
Glorious sunsets accompanied by a soundtrack of lapping waves and the soughing of native casuarina trees. Commendable conservation ethics to marine life protection and sustainability and a commitment to employ locals. Staff members are eager to please but be patient as they learn the ropes.
High tide brings the rubbish from island villages that tarnishes the pristine beaches.
Linda Morris travelled at her own expense.