The Viking Cave and Birds Nest at Phi Phi
One of the most notable sites on Phi Phi is the Viking Cave. Phi Phi, pronounced ‘Pee Pee’, are a group of islands in Thailand between the large island of Phuket and the Straits of Malacca coast of Thailand. Viking Cave Phi Phi Islands is home to the “Viking Cave”, where there is a thriving industry harvesting edible bird’s nests. In and around the large limestone caves on the islands are some of the world’s fastest-flying birds called swifts, or swiflets (sometimes referred to as “sea swallows”). The cave-dwelling swifts – the Edible-Nest Swiftlet, Pacific Swifts and Black-Nest Swiftlets, build tiny white nests which is the key ingredient in birds’ nest soup! One of the most expensive ingredients in the world. Prized due to their scarcity, high nutritional value (containing high levels of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium) and exquisite flavor, birds’ nests are regarded as a delicacy, health booster, life prolonger and aphrodisiac, and are said to rejuvenate skin, clean out the digestive track, and cure lung cancer.
Harvesting the birds’ nests
The edible-nest swiftlets build their nests in the most inaccessible places – higher up on the walls, ledges and ceilings of the limestone caves, or among the overhangs on the Viking Cave Phi Phi Islands. To collect the valuable bird’s nests from inside the dark Viking Cave Phi Phi Islands, locals risk their lives by climbing the weak looking bamboo scaffolding, bridges and ropes, tapping as they go to ensure the bamboo is strong enough to reach the nests. Hong Kong and the United States are the largest importers of these nests, and a bowl of bird’s nest soup costs between 30USD to 100USD in Hong Kong. Bird’s nests are sold, on average, for US$2,500 per kilo! The nests (about the size of a small egg) are made from the saliva secreted by fully-developed salivary glands of the birds which enlarge during their breeding period. The intertwined strands of saliva when exposed to air harden like glue that hold the nest together and keep it attached to the vertical walls of Viking caves or cliffs.
Tourism on the Viking Cave Phi Phi Islands
The Viking Cave Phi Phi Islands cave is however not open to tourists. The cave is approximately 3.2 square kilometers in size; with a height of around 10 to 15 meters. Boat operators will however slow down their boats close enough to the entrance of the caves for tourists to take a peek inside and to take photos. It will take roughly 35 minutes to get to the Viking cave by long-tail boat from Tonsai Bay (the main jetty in the Phi Phi Islands). Tham Phaya Nak as known in Thai, Viking Cave gets its name to the paintings found on the eastern southern walls of the cave located at the bottom of a tall limestone cliff. The paintings represent different types of boats, including what resembles a Scandinavian Drakkar Longship. The paintings seem rather quite recent, and were seemingly drawn by sailors and traders taking shelter in the cave during the monsoon storms. This is probably a depiction of European explorers or traders during the age of discovery rather than remnants of a Viking expedition.
How to get to the caves
To get to the cave of the Viking Cave Phi Phi Islands, you will need to hire a long-tail boat from Tonsai pier or from nearby Laem Tong, it will cost you approximately 68USD for a whole day and you could discover the most interesting sites around the Viking Cave Phi Phi Islands. Join a boat trip around Phi Phi and be sure to take a look at the entrance to Viking Cave for the bamboo scaffolding and ropes used by the harvesters, and during the breeding season watch out for the tiny, fast swiflets performing acrobatic dives in search for food.
However, one of the best ways to experience, not only the Viking Cave but the other Phi Phi locations is on a Simba Sea Trips sunrise speedboat tour. You’ll experience comfort and luxury while taking in the many sites on offer.
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