Angthong National Marine Park
Angthong National Marine Park is a fascinating archipelago of around 42 islands in the Central Gulf Coast of Southern Thailand. It is northwest of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan but only a short boat trip away from Koh Tao. Most of the islands are close to each other, making for a breathtaking panorama when sailing around the park. All the islands are of different sizes and shapes. Most of them are covered with tropical jungles and named after their distinguishing geography. A kind of descriptive appellation, such as ‘Sleeping Cow Island’ and ‘Three Pillars Island’.
Koh Wua Talap is the island that contains the headquarters for Angthong National Marine Park, as well as the tourist information centre. There is a restaurant, Buaboke Cave, bungalows as well as the famous view point from where you can see the panoramic view of Angthong National Marine Park. Koh Wua Talap has two beaches. Both beaches are located on opposite ends of the island and it is possible to go from one to another via a short, but by no means easy jungle trek using a trail. There is a rope all along the trail which ensures you do not get lost.
Lagoons, Nature & Wildlife
Angthong translates as “golden bowl”. It occupies almost 250 sq km and includes 50 sq km of limestone islands and karst topography which rise from the sea as dramatic rock cliffs and bizarre rock formations. Caves, hidden lagoons, and white sand beaches are there to be explored and snorkelling among the shallow coral gardens makes for a popular and fascinating day trip. Angthong National Marine Park is a protected nature area consisting of over 40 islands and is famous for its natural beauty. All of the islands are uninhabited and undeveloped except for two. One being Koh Wua Talap and other, Koh Paluay, which is inhabited by sea gypsies who still earn a living from the fishing.
The woods in this national park can be classified as dry evergreen forest, beach forest, and limestone forest. Dry evergreen forests are found in larger islands like Wuatalab, Paluay and Samsao. Beach forests are lighter woods and found in small stretches along the beaches. Limestone forests are found on limestone mountains with thin soil layer. Plants here are much smaller. Larger animals do not thrive on these islands as they are small and dominated mostly by steep limestone mountains, with only few lightly to moderately slanted plains.
Sixteen species of mammals like otters, langurs, crab eating monkeys and hogs can be found here. Dolphins, and whales can also be seen. Other inhabitants include at least 54 species of birds, including little herons, Brahminy kites, common sandpipers, oriental pied hornbills, drongoes and hill mynas. Fourteen species of reptiles are also found. Such as ground lizards, iguanas, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, pythons, and cobras. Only five species of amphibians are found: common Asian toads, tiger frogs, rugose frogs, grass frogs, and tree frogs. The waters of Angthong National Marine Park are home to butterfly fish, angel fish, parrot fish, blue-spotted fantail rays, black tip reef sharks, snappers, groupers, sea slugs, blue swimming crabs, sea fans, sea whips, giant clams, oysters, and coral. The park is also a breeding ground for mackerel.
A must visit area of Angthong National Marine Park is Koh Mae Koh (Mother Island). Here there is an emerald seawater lake in the middle of the island. the lake is encircled on all sides by limestone cliffs and linked by an underground tunnel to the sea. Reaching the lake entails a strenuous climb of 40 minutes or so, but is rewarded with a spectacular view across Angthong National Marine Park. The climb is up a series of staircases wonderfully combined into the natural landscape of the karst, threading through a narrow opening in the rock face at one point, and entailing minimum exertion if you pace yourself and are in decent physical shape.
Probably one of the best hikes in Thailand ca be found at Angthong National Marine Park. At park headquarters there is a path leading up the side of the rocks. This will take maybe 25-30 minutes to walk up and is well worth it. But be warned, this is not a hike for the faint hearted. Make sure you have good footwear as there are sharp limestone crags which will be your foothold, especially towards the peak.
With a breathtaking view of all the islands on Angthong National Marine Park, the end result of the hike is well worth it. Beware though, the hike is very steep in some sections and offer questionable ropes to hang on to. But this hike alone will justify your trip to Angthong National Marine Park.
Caves on many of the islands around Angthong National Marine Park have intriguing rock formations. Visit one for an awesome experience. The beaches are surrounded with excellent coral reefs which make for perfect swimming and snorkelling. Hundreds of beaches here in the archipelago are deserted. Other popular sites are Koh Sam Sao (Tripod Island), with an extensive coral reef, and Wua Talap Island or “sleeping cow”. It takes some effort to climb up the steep 430m hill to a viewpoint offering great scenery of the entire archipelago and the mainland.
Tours & Accommodation
There is no better way to discover the true beauty of Angthong National Marine Park than a 3 day / 2 nights cruise – Visiting all the best places while avoiding mass tourism, to let you feel alone in paradise. Enjoy kayaking trough the islands and their hidden secrets, there is so much to explore ! Trek to the top of the main island to enjoy the stunning scenery of the park and these 42 islands. Explore caves with huge limestone formations and get very close to monkeys and enjoy all of the many other things to do here. Cruise aboard a fully furnished boat – with beds and hammock for the night, a sun deck, showers – basically everything you need for the trip is included. For more information about this awesome trip and to make a booking, please visit www.unseentourskohtao.com
If you wish to stay overnight at Angthong national Marine Park then there are a few bungalows which are of different sizes. The costs are quite low at 600 THB per night for a 2 bedroom bungalow. The bungalows are set against a beautiful backdrop and the park staff are very friendly. However, please note that the park is not for the resort seeker. Facilities are basic with no hot water. And the park shuts off its generator at 23:00, so no electricity at night (which only adds to the appeal of the place). If the bungalows are full, you can rent a tent for 2 for 250 THB per night. You can also bring your own tent and camp at the camping area. Ask your travel agent or resort to book your stay at Angthong National Marine Park.