If you’re looking for a vacation that mixes adventure with history, Krabi is definitely the place for you. Krabi is a treasure trove of natural history, and the best evidence of this is the Fossil Shell Beach, or Susan Hoi. Because the Fossil Shell Beach is both beautiful and educational, it’s definitely fun for the whole family!
Ancient Secrets Revealed by Time
Around 40 million years ago, a large, freshwater swamp covered this whole area. Decaying plant and animal matter sunk to the bottom, forming a thick layer of sediment. This sediment would eventually come to form Krabi’s iconic limestone landscape, both above and under the sea. The area of Susan Hoi, located at Ban Laem Pho, is especially wondrous.
Long before the dawn of humans, the ancient swamps held other secrets.
Krabi’s cliffs and caves hold many mysteries. In addition to their stunning appearance, the limestone reveals ancient relics. Remains of prehistoric animals, humans and human artifacts have all been discovered here. But long before the dawn of humans, the ancient swamps held other secrets. The Fossil Shell Beach reveals them to us.
Susan Hoi: The Shell Cemetery
Millions of small, invertebrate creatures known as gastropod snails inhabited the waters of old. At Susan Hoi, the muddy swamp bottom preserved the gastropod shells, forming huge fossil clusters that you can view today – hence the name Fossil Shell Beach. “Susan Hoi” literally translates to shell cemetery or seashell graveyard.
Resting on the swamp bed, millions of shells formed masses, combining with ancient plant material, clay, spores and pollen. Finally, geological upheaval pushed the resulting rock layers to the surface, revealing themselves to us in a spectacle of nature.
Of the four types of fossils found at Fossil Shell Beach, a snail specimen known as viviparus is the most numerous. This prehistoric snail’s ancestors still inhabit the area today. In fact, you will find many of their living descendants as you explore Krabi’s freshwater areas. Therefore, the viviparus is not used as a factor in dating the fossil shelf.
Microscopic relics tell us that shells at Susan Hoi are between 40 and 20 million years ago.
The second most common fossils are bivalves, the mollusk family containing clams, mussels and oysters. However, scientists have dated the site using information from the fossils of a much smaller organism – spores. These microscopic relics tell us that the shell cemetery of Susan Hoi is between 40 and 20 million years ago.
Explore the Fossil Shell Beach
You can investigate the collection in any of three locations:
- Because of its submerged position, visitors can view the first site clearly at maximum low tide. This site, west of the visitors’ center, is home to millions of gastropod fossils around 1-2 centimeters in diameter.
- The second site is located at the Susan Hoi visitors’ center. A limestone rock shelf, two meters thick, contains millions of compacted gastropod fossils. Because of its placement, this site is easily eroded by waves.
- Susan Hoi’s third fossil site is also accessible only during low tide. Here, the fossil shelves are up to three meters thick, and contain stubby snails as well as long snails and bivalves.
Each of the three fossil sites at Susan Hoi are comprised of large chunks of flat rock that the sea has thrust up from its bed. From a distance, they resemble large slabs of concrete, broken and scattered by the shore. Closer inspection will reveal millions of fossils embedded in the rock. Of course, the cliff overlooking the beach provides a beautiful view as well. On a sunny day you will see the “chicken neck” of nearby Koh Gai easily. Low tide reveals the rock shelves, which can also be viewed from a distance – though you will not see the details.
A Unique Archaeological Phenomenon
Susan Hoi is one of only three similar sites in the world – the others in the United States and Japan. Of these three, Thailand’s Fossil Shell Beach is the only coastal site. This unique distinction makes it a must see for any and all fossil lovers. Of only three similar sites on the planet, Susan Hoi is the only coastal location.
The Fossil Shell Beach visitors’ center hosts a small exhibition with samples. Information is available in Thai and English for those wishing to learn more about the site. Because Susan Hoi is included in the vicinity of Hat Nopparat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to access the beach. Foreigners can expect to pay 200 THB (adult) and 100 THB (child), Thai nationals will pay much less.
Of course, if you don’t wish to pay a fee to access the beach, the surrounding area is an adventure in itself. The visitor’s center is accessed at no charge, and the parking lot has some of the best shopping in the province.
Shopping at Fossil Shell Beach
For the shopaholics among us, Fossil Shell Beach is Krabi’s best kept secret. Rows upon rows of handcrafted items and souvenirs fill the many shops. In fact, you’ll often see vendors from town stocking up on souvenirs, hoping to re-sell them for a higher price at Ao Nang Beach. If you’re in the market for regional T-shirts, hats, sunglasses or magnets, Fossil Shell Beach has the best selection and the best prices.
On the hunt for something more unusual? Susan Hoi has got you covered.
On the hunt for something more unusual? Susan Hoi has got you covered. The unique geological backdrop provides vendors an opportunity to showcase things you won’t find elsewhere. Glistening strings of Andaman pearls greet you almost everywhere you turn, along with beads, minerals and gemstones set in unique jewelry.
Gifts for those hard-to-buy-for family members
Along with your standard souvenirs, awe-inspiring pearls and beads, the Fossil Shell Beach vendors also offer many interesting handmade and nature-made items. Massive seashells fit for the mantle. Corals and other relics from the sea. Statues and mirrors completely encrusted in seashells. Musical instruments, handmade lamps and decorative paper umbrellas. You’ll find all of this and more at Susan Hoi. Of course, don’t forget to check with your country’s customs in the event you bring home something truly unusual.
Along with the array of material goods, Fossil Shell Beach plays host to a number of food and beverage stalls – just don’t expect anything fancy. Fruit shakes, meat-on-a-stick, and local snacks are about the only thing on the menu here. Treat yourself, but we recommend stopping at the nearby Andamana Beach Resort for a proper meal on your way back.
How to get there:
Susan Hoi is located in Ban Laem Pho, around 17 km from Krabi Town and 8 km from Ao Nang Beach. You can take a taxi or a tuk tuk, but we think the best way to get there is by songthaew. Songthaews leave Ao Nang Beach regularly, and will get you there for 30 THB.
Of course, you can always add to the adventure by renting a motorbike. To get here from Ao Nang Beach you’ll turn left at the only traffic lights, towards Ao Nammao. A right turn at the roundabout will take you past Ao Nammao Pier, where you’ll follow the road left and continue until you reach your destination. Along the way you’ll pass by the Andamana Beach Resort and Dawn of Happiness, so make sure you save some time for dinner and beach lounging. We recommend renting your bike from Krabi MotoRentals, the best bike rental service in Ao Nang.
Best time to visit:
Susan Hoi is open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. Depending on the weather, some will tell you to go earlier or later to avoid the blazing sun. Our best advice is to check the tides. Since the site is best viewed at maximum low tide, it might be a good idea to time your visit in the afternoon when the water level is lowest.
What to bring:
Sunscreen, money (for entrance fee and/or shopping), camera and your curiosity! We also recommend a hat and water, but you can buy those on-site if you forget.
Enjoy Your Date with History!
The Fossil Shell Beach isn’t just for the history nerds. With something for everyone, it’s a great place for the whole family. Shop, snack, learn and take in the wonder of it all at Krabi’s Susan Hoi, the seashell cemetery.