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What to enjoy at Ang Thong Marine Park
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What to enjoy at Ang Thong Marine Park

Elisabeth Forsman - The Luxe Nomad
30th July 2019

Comprised of 42 islands across 100 square kilometres within the Gulf of Thailand, Ang Thong Marine Park is a pristine archipelago. The multitude of islands feature the towering limestone mountains, thick jungles, white-sand beaches, waterfalls, hidden coves, lakes, and, of course, azure waters that inspired the Alex Garland novel, The Beach which later became the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton. A trip to this archipelago, known as The Golden Basin, will be sure to inspire you as well. With so much space and so many things to explore, what should you actually be doing when you make an excursion to this paradise off the coast of Koh Samui? 

 

Organise a boat trip

This is an absolute must, not just because of the experience, but because this is the only way to get out to Ang Thong. We recommend hiring a private charter, as this will help you escape the crowds and experience an Ang Thong that most people do not see.

Climb to Wua Ta Lap Viewpoint

Wua Ta Lap is the main island within Ang Thong and where the archipelagos’ headquarters can be found. From this island, you can climb a 500-metre long trail to discover the most stunning view of Ang Thong. The climb is not for the faint-hearted as it is quite steep, although there is a support rope you can use to assist your climb. As it is on the main island, this viewpoint is well-visited, so don’t expect to be alone, but the panoramic views over all the islands are worth every elbow squeezed past. 


Hike to Emerald Lake

Dock at Koh Mae island and climb a series of stairs and ladders to find your way to the Emerald Lake. This saltwater lake is within the island and protected on all sides by sheer limestone cliffs. The lake is connected to the sea by a maze of caves and is absolutely pristine as humans are not allowed to dive or snorkel here.

Go Scuba Diving or Snorkelling

The northern islands of Ang Thong are home to some of the best diving and snorkelling options in the area with stunning coral reefs. The average sea depth is only 10-metres so its accessible even to beginner divers. In one of these reefs, you will have the opportunity to see some gorgeous marine species like the green sea turtle, hawkbill sea turtle and yellow-spotted trevallies. 


Paddle around in a Kayak

Kayaking is a particularly popular activity in Ang Thong. This is because it is one of the few ways that individuals and groups can get close to the towering limestones and make their way through many of the caves and tunnels within the cliffs. 


Discover hidden caves

Within Ang Thong, there are many caves hidden from obvious view. Some entrances are so small that they can only be accessed during low tides during the dry season, and even then only one person can fit through them at a time. Once inside, some of these caves open up to be over two metres high with massive stalactites and stalagmites. There may also be rimstone pools you can swim through, as well as massive flowstones which are smooth to the touch, having been carved out by flowing water over millions of years.

Explore the forests

If you wanted to spend all your time along the coasts of Ang Thong, you could not be blamed, but the evergreen forests of the larger islands are worth exploring. Within the forests, there lives an array of wildlife. Here you can follow the howls of dusky leaf monkeys and long-tailed macaque or delight in leopard cats. Bird watchers can spot species like collared kingfishers, white-bellied sea eagles and oriental pied hornbills. Amongst the plant life, keep an eye out for Ang Thong’s Lady’s Slipper Orchid. This orchid is an endemic species only found within the park.

Meet the Sea-Gipsies of Ko Phaluai

The only inhabited island of the Ang Thong, about five hundred sea-gipsies live on Ko Phaluai. The people here still make a living from fishing, and a stop here allows you to visit their villages. While on Ko Phaluai, you can have lunch with the locals, tour around the island via a fisherman’s long-tail boat or even go fishing with them. 
It is on this island, as well, that part of the movie, The Beach was filmed. 


Find a Private Beach

The benefit of taking a private charter is you can go where no one else can. With a private charter, you can explore the beaches only known to locals. Once on your beach, enjoy having the white sands and azure waters to yourself, have a glass of wine, watch the sunset and explore your surroundings.

 

With so much space and 42 islands to discover, you might just find a place that has never been touched upon before. Regardless of what you do, you’re sure to leave understanding why Alex Garland was so inspired by Ang Thong Marine Park. 

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