Facts about Angthong National Marine Park
Angthong National Marine park is an archipelago of 42 islands found in the Gulf of Thailand to the west of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, best known as the setting for the Alex Garland novel “The Beach”.
Covering an area of 102km2, of which 82% is water, the park was established in November 1980 to protect an area which is famous for its natural beauty.
Weather at Angthong National Marine Park
The islands consist of limestone mountains, sitting between 10 and 400m above sea level, which also contain many caves created due to the ease with which limestone can be changed by weather conditions and chemicals.
Each island is different in shape and size, and many are named after their distinguishing features, such as “Sleeping Cow Island” and “Three Pillars Island”.
The majority of the islands are covered in 4 types of tropical forests. The larger islands are mainly covered in dry, evergreen forest and have a narrow strip of beach forest running around their edge.
Limestone forest covers the exposed cliff faces and the tops of the hills, where the soil is shallow, and mangrove forest can be found at sheltered spots where sandbars and mudflats have developed.
The islands are also home to the Lady’s Slipper Orchid, a species which is only found in the park.
Uninhabited islands in the Gulf of Thailand
With the exceptions of Koh Wua Ta Lap and Koh Phaluai, all of the islands within the park are uninhabited by people but the larger islands contain a limited number of animal species – 16 mammals, 50 bird, 14 reptile and 5 amphibian.
The mammals include long-tailed macaques, wild boar and smooth-coated otters whilst the birds include the white-bellied sea eagle, oriental pied hornbill and pacific reef heron.
Snorkeling Angthong National Marine Park
The waters within the park are better suited to snorkeling than diving as the average depth is just 10m and the visibility is poor due to sediment which flows from the Tapi River.
Coral development in the park is limited with just a narrow band around each island, close to their shores, particularly on the southwestern and northeastern sides. The northwestern sides have less coral, due to the effects of the monsoon, although sheltered spots still see good coral growth.
Marine Life at Angthong National Marine Park
The type of marine life within the park is dictated by the underwater geography. The coral reef areas contain a variety of animals, including butterfly fish, stingrays, angelfish, groupers and black tip sharks.
The areas with strong currents and murky water show significantly fewer species, predominantly inhabited by brown seaweeds, crabs and seaworms.
Coral cannot survive in the areas around the steep and rocky shorelines where the water is turbid, so these areas are dominated by sedentary marine life, such as clams, mussels, oysters and sea fans.
The evidence of these species can be seen on exposed rock surfaces in these areas.
Best Things to do in Angthong National Marine Park
There are a number of must do activities within the park depending on which island you are visiting. One of the main attractions of the park is the Pha Jun Jaras view point on Koh Wua La Tap (“Sleeping Cow Island”).
It is accessible via a steep 500m trail which takes around 30-45 minutes to climb and can be slippery when it rains, so be sure to wear shoes with a good grip.
The path has a rope alongside it for support and there are viewpoints approximately every 100m along the trail. The view from the top provides a spectacular panorama of all the islands within the national park.
Once you have climbed the view point, you can make your way over to Bua Bok Cave. The trail to the cave is approximately 1km long and starts on the main beach.
This is a more difficult hike than the path up to the viewpoint and will definitely require good shoes, but once you arrive at the cave the path opens up to reveal a stunning display of stalactite and stalagmite formations.
On Koh Mae Ko, also known as “Mother Island”, you will find “Thale Nai” (Emerald Lake), a saltwater lake. The lake is connected to the ocean via underwater caves and surrounded by limestone cliffs.
No swimming in the lake
There is a trail up the cliffs which takes around 20 minutes to hike and will provide the best views of the lake. Be aware though that swimming in the lake is not permitted to protect the local wildlife.
Located to the East of Koh Mae Ko is Koh Sam Sao, or “Tripod Island”. With several beaches, some great coral, hiking trails and a camping site, this is another of the islands that is worth a visit.
On the north end of the island you will also find a dramatic, natural stone arch curving out into the sea that has been formed from the natural erosion of the limestone island.
Angthong National Marine Park Tours
In order to visit Ang Thong, you need to join a boat tour from either Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao as there are no regular boat services travelling to and from the park.
These tours cost from around 1,000THB, depending on what type of boat you travel on and what activities they provide when you arrive in the park.
The price usually includes a transfer from your accommodation but doesn’t include the entrance fee to the park which, for foreigners, is 300THB for adults and 150THB for children.
If you only have a short amount of time to spend in Ang Thong then the boat tours are the best way to see it, but, if you want to spend a bit longer visiting the park you can also arrange to stay overnight with two options for accommodation.
Angthong National Marine Park Accommodation
The first is on Koh Wua Ta Lap where the government maintain 5 bungalows that can be rented through www.dnp.go.th. The prices of the bungalows range from 600-1,500THB per night and they provide basic accommodations with fans and shared restrooms.
The bungalows do not have hot water and electricity is only available from 6-11pm, so be sure to charge any electrical devices during these hours.
The bungalows, which generally need to be reserved in advance, can only be booked via the website and payment must be made 2 days before the booking to prevent cancellation.
Camping in Angthong National Marine Park
Alternatively, if you want to stay a bit closer to nature, you can choose to camp on Koh Wua Ta Lap or Koh Sam Sao. You are able to bring your own tent or you can hire one from the visitor centre on Koh Wua Ta Lap for 250THB.
The rental provides a tent for 2 people along with a torch, clean sleeping bags and a mosquito net. No reservations are required for camping.
If you choose to stay overnight you can either arrange a return trip on one of the boat tours before you head into the park or you can ask the visitor centre to arrange the transfer back for you.
Kayaking in Angthong National Marine Park
Whilst staying in the park you can move from island to island by renting a kayak. Costing just 500THB per day, there are both double and triple kayaks available to use. They will allow you to explore the park at your own pace and stop on any island that piques your interest.
Some areas can get quite busy when the day tours arrive so staying overnight and hiring your own kayak will give you the opportunity to visit these areas without the crowds.
Food and Eating in Angthong National Marine Park
There are limited options for food within the park and Koh Wua Ta Lap is home to the only restaurant, which is open until 10pm each night.
As this is the only option for food in the park, if you are staying for a few days you may want to bring some supplies with you.
The area around the restaurant is also the only place in the park where you will find access to the internet.
Important Information About Angthong National Marine Park
Whether you come to Ang Thong for a day tour or book accommodation and stay overnight, there are a number of rules that need to be followed.
When you are in the water you need to be aware of the depth, current and temperature as well as being careful not to stand on any of the coral or kick it with fins when snorkeling.
No pets are allowed within the park and in order to protect the local wildlife and vegetation you will need to stay on the tracks that are laid out, remove all your rubbish when you leave and ensure you only use the toilet facilities that have been provided.
You are also forbidden from removing any plant or animal life from the park.
Visiting Angthong National Marine Park
The park can be visited throughout most of the year, with the exception of November and the first 3 weeks in December when they close.
The day tours will visit on all other days, except when there are strong winds or high waves, but the best time to visit is from February to April, when you get the driest and sunniest weather of the year.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to visit Angthong National Marine Park?
The best time to visit Angthong National Marine Park is between February and October when the weather is at its best and the sea is calm. The national park is sometimes closed during the winter monsoon months of November – January due to bad weather.
How to get to Angthong National Marine Park?
There is no regular ferry service to Angthong National Marine Park so the best way to visit this beautiful national park is on a day trip. Currently the only day trips to Angthong National Marine Park depart from either Koh Phangan or Koh Samui.
What is the best Angthong National Marine Park tour?
There are several reputable Angthong National Marine Park tours operating from Koh Samui that offer snorkeling, sea kayaking and swimming and provide a guide and lunch. We can also organize an Angthong day tour direct from Koh Phangan, please contact us direct to discuss your itinerary.
Can I snorkel at Angthong National Marine Park?
You can enjoy a snorkeling tour at Angthong Marine Park provided by a reliable tour operator from either Koh Phangan or Koh Samui that will provide you with supervision, guidance and equipment.
Can I swim at Angthong National Marine Park?
Swimming is one of the activities you can enjoy during an Angthong Marine park trip along with snorkeling, hiking, sea kayaking, scuba diving or swimming.