A journey to discover Ang Thong National Marine Park. A spectacular marine wonderland; setting out on an adventure to explore a landscape of 42 islands.
For many, if they think of Thailand, it is a vision of green island beauty nestling in sparkling blue waters; sunshine lighting up an inspiring picture-perfect scene. As a holiday hotspot, the island of Koh Samui is every bit the dream location, complete with white-sand beaches, green palms swaying in the tropical breeze and a chilled-out Thai holiday vibe.
Explore at sea and discover a scenic paradise
Getting out on the water defines any trip to Koh Samui, and during June – September the island’s climate is simply glorious and the conditions at sea are the best. If a speedboat through stunning scenery, snorkeling and kayaking in a rich marine setting appeal then, a daytrip into the Ang Thong National Marine Park is a must. Translated as ‘Golden Bowl’, the protected marine-land is without doubt a priceless destination.
A magical land of uninhabited islands
Reachable by boat in about an hour from Koh Samui or Koh Phang Ngan, the protected park covers over 100 km², with less than 20% being actual land. However, the islands, which are largely uninhabited, are close together. What you get on a boat tour are really amazing panoramic views of this almost mystical land. The park is visually spectacular with jungle clad islands, rich rainforests and limestone cliffs jutting marvellously upwards.
What to do and see in Ang Thong National Marine Park
There are plenty of tours that head out to the park and just as many reviews giving you an insight into each individual trip. Perhaps the most special part of a visit here is actually just looking out from the boat at the natural vistas, camera at the ready.
Snorkelling outside the park is often the first stop for boats as this activity is restricted inside the protected waters. Koh Wao is just outside Ang Thong and a good place to see coral reefs with waters teeming with marine life. Inside the area, a distinctive island is Monkey Island. Your guide will probably point it out as it resembles a huge monkey and in this setting images of King Kong rising out of the sea come to mind.
Samui is home to wild monkeys too and once you spy them you can enjoy watching them swing from tree to tree. A great place to spot spider monkeys is on the park’s Koh Wua Talab, one of two inhabited islands, which translates as ‘sleeping cow island’ because of how it looks from above. This is usually a stop-off island as it has a restaurant, visitor center and a jungle trek which is a good 30-minute walk to another beach. Here you can take a nap on a wooden deck under a tree on a grassy lawn by the sea, paddle in the clear-as-ice water or take a kayak out to see Ang Thong from a different perspective.
Ko Paluay is the park’s second inhabited island and home to Thailand’s renowned sea gypsies, a fascinating indigenous ethnic tribe whose culture and home is on the water. Meanwhile, a must-see is Emerald Lake, featured in the Leonardo Di Caprio film, The Beach. Steps take you up high to see this mesmerizing saltwater lagoon in the middle of Ko Mae Ko (Mother island); a view that is truly worth the climb and will be the money-shot of your adventure.
Tips When Visiting
Follow our guide to making the most out of your Ang Thong experience:
Choose the right group – For all its seemingly never-ending serenity, Ang Thong National Marine Park is a big tourist attraction. It’s worth finding out how many other people will be on your boat and consider going for a personalized tour or small group.
Get there quicker – Slow boats may sound appealing in a romantic way, but to get to the park in under an hour a speedboat is better.
Avoid nausea – Depending on what time of year you go and how your sea legs are, you may decide to take a sea-sickness tablet before you hop on board. You may want to keep a few first-aid essentials such as plasters in your bag too.
Don’t get burnt – With the sea breeze across the Gulf of Thailand it is really easy to slacken off with the sun cream. Avoid an evening of sunburn and even mild sunstroke, keep covered up with a hat and top as much as possible and apply enough protection. Park trips usually see a few people return red and worn out from too much sun.
Keep hydrated – Take plenty of water with you whenever you set foot of the boat. Whilst sugary sodas may seem tempting balance with enough water. Trip organizers usually provide drinks but there is nothing wrong with taking your own supply too. Take an iced bottle that takes time to turn into cold water.
Do not venture off route – With all ages and nationalities grouped together, it is really important to listen to what your guide tells you and also stick to the routes provided. If you are not sure how steep a trail or steps to a viewpoint are then ask before you set off. The heat combined with a big trek can prove too arduous. Be careful at the Emerald Lake viewpoint where people stand up on the benches to get the best selfie or group shot. Keep your feet firmly on the deck.
Wear a lifejacket – Keep a lifejacket on when you are on the boat and when you are snorkeling too. Even if you are a strong swimmer, the fact that there are lots of people who are looking for fish means that it is easy to bump into someone else in the water. Also, it can be surprisingly tiring since you cannot put your feet down either and your only rest stop is back by the boat.