A lot has been said already about the natural beauty of Ko Lanta. But there is something else quite amazing on this island that often gets no attention in travel guides.
Koh Lanta Animal Warefare.
In a few short years Lanta Animal Welfare changed the island and made it into a happier, safer place for animals.
“In 2005, during the construction boom after the tsunami, workers from all over Thailand came to help rebuild what had been destroyed. Many brought dogs and when the building was complete they left them behind. Tourists took pity over the dogs and began feeding them. This resulted in a high survival and reproduction rate causing a completely different kind of boom. That of starvation, disease, abuse and injuries. Something had to be done…” Junie Kovacs, the owner and creator of the Time for Lime concept (2002), is also the founder of Lanta Animal Welfare (2005).
Before Lanta Animal Welfare was created, local people had to take the issue of sterilization and animal control into their own hands. What that meant was “treating” the unwanted pets with drowning, beatings and burning them with hot oil. In the best case scenario the animals would die instantly from inflicted wounds, but in most cases it would leave them crippled, fighting for their lives in agony.
I’ve always believed that it takes just one person to change the world. Although I never had the chance to meet Junie Kovac, I admire her. It takes great courage to make a stand and say: “I will help, I will change this island. I will make things better.”
Every time I watch this video I cry. In fact I’ve never stopped sobbing throughout each word of this article.
Lanta Animal Welfare is a non-profit, volunteer based organization. And I know for a fact that they are always in desperate need for volunteers. Unlike so many fake volunteer programs who charge ridiculous amount of money to do something questionably helpful, that can be done by local people in less time and 90% cheaper, volunteering for Lanta Animal Welfare is free. And the best part of it is they will sometimes offer you free accommodation and food for the work you do.
So if you are planning a trip to Thailand and you also want to make a difference in this world – visit Lanta Animal Welfare. If you don’t have time to do a full time volunteering there – just take one of their dogs for a walk down the beach. They will greatly appreciate it.
We travel through the dense Thai jungle, in nothing except for beach wear and sandals.
“Are there any snakes here?”
Christian, our guide who has been living a life of isolation for the last 2 years, cheerfully replies in a thick Italian accent:
“I caught a python here last week but if I catch a cobra – it would really make my day”. Trying our best to look brave and not bothered with this random dangerous fact, we continue forward extra slowly and carefully.
He continues: “Snakes sometimes come to my hut to hunt mice, it’s not good, not good at all. I didn’t have electricity for a while so it can be dangerous. “
“I want to make a belt out of a snake one day” He continuous. The eco tourist in me frowns at the fact. But I soon come to realize that there might not be any other option for Christian to get a belt. Here, 50 kilometers away from the nearest town, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by limestone mountains and thick rainforest – you can’t just pop in to the local supermarket to buy the things you need. You have to make everything yourself.
And so he did, everything we see in his home and surrounding it – all hand made by Christian. He had to clear the land that he purchased, from dense jungle with his own hands, then he had to cut down some of the trees to prepare wood for the hut. Only after that he could start building his home. When I ask him if it was hard to do all those things just on his own, Christian just laughs it off, saying that since there was no electricity or internet, he had nothing better to do anyway.
There is something primeval about this place and Christian. He does not have the same dreams as most of us. Instead of a big apartment in the city, he dreamt of a hut in the jungle. Instead of surfing the internet, he studies local plants and trees. Christian didn’t want the same things as most men do. He wanted something special. A unique place to call a home.
“I used to have a girlfriend; she was a nice Thai lady. She thought that after I buy this land, I would build a nice European villa here and start some sort of a business. But after she realised that I’m not that rich and I want to build everything myself… she didn’t like the idea of living in the jungle with no water or electricity…or toilet…but with plenty of spiders, mice and snakes. So she left me.”
Arriving at a narrow hole inside a limestone mountain, Christian point out: “This is my cave, we need to go through the passage to get to the other side. Do you have a flashlight? No?”
After crawling 20 meters in complete darkness we finally see the light and with it a beautiful valley with a well hidden monastery. Christian politely asked the monks if we could enter. They didn’t mind, it’s been a while since they seen the last tourist.
Nobody I know back home owns a cave.
At the moment Christians only companions are his 4 dogs.
Last year only 20 people came to visit Christian in his beautiful home.