In the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, and not far from the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, Ang Thong National Marine Park (also known as Mu Koh Ang Thong) is an archipelago of 42 protected virgin islands, so gorgeous it has become one of the most famous images of Thailand you can find in tourist brochures.
As I mentioned in my last article about Koh Samui, to see the typical paradisiacal beaches for which Thailand is renowned, it is best to visit one of its marine parks. The reason is very simple: urban development is prohibited on the islands of Thailand’s marine parks, which is why they have escaped the chaotic real estate boom that has affected almost all of the unprotected Thai islands. If you are going to spend a few days on any of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, I highly recommend taking an excursion to Ang Thong Park.
One day on a speedboat tour in Ang Thong
Organizing a trip to Ang Thong by yourself, hiring the services of a local fisherman to take you on his long-tail boat -as I did in Koh Tarutao Park in Koh Lipe-, is a bit complicated. Most people visit Ang Thong on agency-operated speedboat tours, that spend the day island-hopping and making a few stops to snorkel and enjoy the colorful underwater life of this paradisiacal archipelago.
These tours are fine for those who want to see various places and take good photos, but they are definitely not the best option for those who prefer to simply relax on a beach at their own pace. These excursions are on a fairly tight schedule, so you only get a short time to explore every beach you stop at before hitting the next.
In my case, I got on the boat at 9 o’clock, and around 10 o’clock we were already stopping to snorkel in a coral area, with a couple more boats packed with tourists. Truth is I’m not a big fan of this kind of trips. I prefer to snorkel in quiet places, where there are not dozens of tourists floating around in their life jackets, and damaging the coral with their excessive sunscreen and their neoprene gloves and socks, with which they feel free to touch (and damage) the seabed. I think by now most people have internalized that the seabed should not be touched, especially in tropical areas… but many in China have apparently not heard of it, and it is quite common to see Chinese tourists take whatever they can grab out of the sea to take pictures with their smartphones.
After this stop, we headed to an island where we finally stepped onto the sand for the first time, and from there we did a little kayak excursion. When we finished we had lunch on a pretty cool beach on that same island. Afterwards, we went to Ko Mae Ko island, where the amazing Thale Nai lake is located: a lake connected to the sea by an underwater tunnel. We finished the excursion on the main island, Ko Wua Talap, where the Park Headquarter is located, and had free time to swim. On that island there is an impressive viewpoint.
Is it possible to overnight at Ang Thong?
Yes. In the main island of Ang Thong National Marine Park, Koh Wua Talap, you can spend the night in the tents and bungalows located next to a very beautiful beach. Tents, already set up and equipped, cost 150 THB. Bungalows are equipped with beds, fans and private bathrooms, and come in different sizes: for 2 people (500 THB), 6 people (800 THB) and 8 people (1400 THB). A small restaurant next to the accommodation area will keep your stomach happy throughout your stay.
Acommodation can be booked on the website of the Department of National Parks of Thailand. They also have a telephone number: (+66) (0) 77 286 025.
How to get to Ang Thong
The Park and its main island, Koh Wua Talap, can only be reached via one of the different agency-organized tours offered from Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao.