Ang Thong National Marine Park is a pristine archipelago of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It features towering limestone mountains, thick jungle, white-sand beaches, 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. It is home to a rich variety of exotic wildlife and sea creatures. Snorkelling, hiking, sea kayaking, diving, and simply relaxing are the main activities to enjoy at 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 on Koh Wua Ta Lap. The Park Headquarters also hosts a simple restaurant. Despite its increasing number of visitors, the Ang Thong islands remain the postcard-perfect image of a tropical paradise.
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Ang Thong Marine National Park History
Ang Thong Marine National Park, established in 1980, covers an area of more than 80% of the entire archipelago. Its national park status ensures that development remains minimal. Only a few licensed tour operators have access to Ang Thong Park.
Ang Thong gained widespread renown when it appeared in the novel ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland. It's 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 Leh, but by then Ang Thong was already on the bucket-list of many travellers. Only one of its islands, Koh Paluay, is inhabited. It's home to a sea-gypsy community that largely maintains its traditional fishing lifestyle.
Ang Thong 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 that live 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. Only a few islands are visited during day trips from Samui. Those include the aforementioned Koh Wua Ta Lap. Additionally, most visitors with limited amount of time find their way to Koh Mae (Mother Island). This island 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. These day trips may be booked on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao. Sailing liveaboard cruise trips and speedboat charters may also be organised. Most tours stop at a few different locations. They 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 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.