Ang Thong National Park is one of the leading tourist attractions in Surat Thani Province. It is a collection of islands near Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand. The islands feature spectacular karst cliff scenery, a large inland lake, great scuba diving and the chance to see Moken people.
Ang Thong National Park
Until 10 years ago, few people had heard of Ang Thong National Park, let alone visited the area. It is a protected national park that until 1980 was used exclusively by the Thai Navy. The Ang Thong Archipelago consists of 42 islands that cover 102 km squared. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty far removed from the developing and busy islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao nearby. The official population of Ang Thong Park is 20. This includes a couple of park rangers.
Tour of the Islands
The main island is Ko Wua Talap. This is where the main rangers’ station is situated. There is also a small resort with bungalows, shop and restaurants where visitors can stay.
Most people do a day tour of the islands. You can find plenty of travel agencies in Surat Thani as well as on the islands offering trips to the marine park. The better hotels in Surat Thani can also arrange trips to Mu Ko Ang Thong for guests.
Exploring the Coastal Waters
Day tours will usually involve visiting the main island to have food and a swim, kayak tours around the many small craggy inlets and hidden beaches, and snorkelling. There are several excellent spots to snorkel around a variety of corals. Below the surface there is a profusion of colourful marine life. Indeed Ang Thong Marine Park is one of the major dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand. When the conditions are correct several dive boats enter the marine park waters every day. There are a couple of dive spots where it is possible to see among other marine life, the whale shark, the biggest fish in the world. It is also possible to see large schools of mackerel as well as the occasional dolphin.
Exploring the Islands
Some tours offer overland treks. The islands are in pristine condition and contain a wide variety of flora and fauna. Things to spot include long tail macaques, sea otters, dusky langur monkeys and 40 species of bird. There is also a chance to encounter the Moken people. These are semi-nomadic sea gypsies that originally came from Malaysia and Indonesia. The other remarkable feature of Ang Thong is Koh Mae Ko. It is an island with large inland lake with a beautiful turquoise colour.
Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach‘
Finally, for those keen for literary tie-ins, Ang Thong is probably where Alex Garland’s The Beach (later made into a film) was set. The book portrays a group of dope smoking Westerners setting up a hidden and secret community on an uninhabited island in the Gulf near Koh Phangan. If you visit Ang Thong you get the feeling of a remote and tropical idyllic location where you could happily while away the hours waiting to be rescued.