Ang Thong National Marine Park
Islands near Koh Samui0
Ang Thong National Marine Park is a pristine archipelago of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand with towering limestone mountains, thick jungle, white-sand beaches, fertile mangroves, waterfalls and hidden coves and lakes to explore. Within sight of Koh Samui, Ang Thong park is a protected area of more than 100 square kilometres of land and sea, and home to a rich variety of exotic wildlife and sea creatures. Snorkelling, hiking, sea kayaking, diving, sailing and simply relaxing on one of its idyllic beaches are the main activities to enjoy on Ang Thong.
Most Ang Thong visitors arrive on a join-in day trip or by boat charter from Koh Samui or Koh Pha Ngan. For those who wish to stay overnight, there are simple bungalows and camping tents available for rent at the Park Headquarters on Koh Wua Talab, where a simple restaurant is found as well. Though the park has started to get busy with day-trippers in the peak season, the Ang Thong islands remain the postcard-perfect image of a tropical paradise.
Ang Thong Marine National Park, established in 1980, covers an area of more than 80% of the entire archipelago. Its national park status has ensured that development has been minimal and only licensed tour operators are allowed entry into the park.
Ang Thong gained widespread renown when it appeared in the novel ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland, as the destination where backpackers in search of a secret island utopia set up camp. The subsequent movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio was actually filmed on Koh Phi Phi, but by then Ang Thong was firmly in the imagination of many as an appealing holiday escape. Only one of its islands, Koh Paluay, is inhabited, home to a sea-gypsy community that largely maintains its traditional fishing lifestyle.
Highlights and Features
Ang Thong has some of the most unusual and spectacular scenery in all of Thailand. Its steep limestone cliffs, some rising as high as 400 metres, have been formed into wondrous shapes by centuries of erosion. This ‘Golden Basin’, as ‘Ang Thong’ translates into, features four distinct types of forest, all teeming with wildlife. Some of the creatures to be spotted here are langurs (long-tailed monkeys), little herons, hair-nosed otters, pacific reef egrets, white-bellied sea eagles, sea turtles, iguanas and pythons. In the surrounding sea many colourful fish can be seen, offering some decent snorkelling and diving sights.
With 42 islands to discover, a complete tour of Ang Thong would take weeks, but most with limited amount of time find their way to Koh Mae (Mother Island), which has a stunning beach and an inland saltwater lagoon called Emerald Lake (Thale Nai). A popular climb up pathways and a wooden staircase takes you to the peak of a nearby mountain where you get the full view of this glittering sea-green body of water. Koh Sam Sao (Tripod Island) features a coral reef, a large and dramatic rock arch and some great hiking grounds.
Getting There & Around
As a national park, only government-approved tour boats may enter Ang Thong, which may be booked on Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Tao. Sailing liveaboard cruise trips and speedboat charters may also be organised. Most tours stop at a few different locations and combine a day of hiking, sightseeing, kayaking and lounging on the beaches. Some of the hikes require a good level of fitness, so be sure to check with your guide or agent about the degree of difficulty before setting off!
Ang Thong is 28 kilometres from Samui and 32 kilometres from Pha Ngan. The national park entry fee (sometimes included in the tour cost) is 200 baht for foreign adults, 100 baht for foreign children, and 40 baht for Thai nationals.
The best time to visit Ang Thong Marine National Park is March to October when the seas are calmer. The park is sometimes closed due to inclement weather in the months of November through January.
Ang Thong National Marine Park