You don’t have to be Sir David Attenborough to appreciate the wildlife of the tropics. As Phuket continues to undergo rapid development the habitat for much of the island's species is shrinking and sometimes disappearing altogether. That being said, there still remains a diverse population of interesting, rare, and just downright cool animals.
Gecko | Cr: homegekko.blogspot.com
This first one is a creature that is most often heard before seen. Usually beginning shortly after sunset all over Phuket you will hear this reptile whose name reflects the sound it makes – the tokay gecko. People who are unfamiliar with these may be surprised when they finally spot one as they sound small, but can be up to 40cm long. They tend to be shy and while you may hear their loud call, can sometimes be difficult to spot while they remain hidden high on vertical surfaces. Tokay’s can have orange spots over a bright blue background, and with their amber-colored eyes and vertical pupils, can be very striking. Speaking of striking, don’t attempt to handle these guys as they are quite aggressive and have a strong bite that can break the skin.
Gibbon and Monkey Cr: pixabay
Since they are so humanlike, it seems most people love to spot monkeys and the coolest ones found in Phuket are gibbons. Unfortunately there once existed a thriving population of gibbons in Phuket, but they were hunted to extinction on the island some 40 years ago. However, there is a non-profit center called the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project that has been operating for about 30 years which rescues and rehabs gibbons. In most cases, they are either kept as pets or used by touts to solicit money from tourists to have their picture taken with them. The center is located on the edge of the last bit of remaining rainforest on the island and there is a small population of the creatures that can be heard calling from the treetops and sometimes even spotted.
Although quite uncommon and rarely spotted, there still exist some sea otters around Phuket. There are four species found throughout Thailand and if you explore quiet beaches in the early morning hours you may get lucky and spot the playful creatures. Many Thais and expats reside on the island for decades without ever spotting an otter. One unexpected benefit resulting from the COVID19 pandemic was the re-emergence of wildlife that made itself scarce before humans had to hunker down during restrictions. During this time otters were spotted at Nai Harn beach, Nai Yang beach, and a whole raft of otters frolicking on a beach in Koh Payam north of Phuket.
Loris Cr: BBC
If you notice a theme in that interesting animals are difficult to spot in Phuket, the slow loris is no exception. Unfortunately for these nocturnal creatures, they are very cute and have been heavily exploited similarly to the plight of the gibbon. While they are not extinct (yet) in Phuket, their populations are dwindling. These little guys move slowly through the jungle canopy at night in search of insects, fruit, and tree sap. They rarely venture onto the group so you’re best advised to keep your gaze skyward if you want to catch a glimpse. Slow lorises are endangered and protected so if you see them being shown off for photos anywhere, you are strongly encouraged to call the authorities.
ฺBue bottle Cr: phuketaquarium.org
The blue bottle, or Indo-Pacific man-of-war, is beautiful to see, but not the cuddliest sea creature you will find in Phuket. Often mistakenly thought of as jellyfish, these floating organisms are actually colonies of polyps that work together. Their air-filled sacs float atop the water and the wind blows them around, which is why you will see them washed ashore in Phuket during the monsoon season. They are quite unique with their bright blue coloring and intricate tentacles, but those tentacles can extend for several meters and the sting can be very painful for those who are more sensitive to their venom.