Ang Thong Marine National Park - Surat Thani

    

Ang Thong literally means ‘golden bowl’ in the Thai language and is the name given to the emerald lake within the park that is surrounded by high cliffs, giving the impression of a bowl. The colour of the water is green rather than gold, but the majesty of the surroundings merits the splendid description.

This group of forty-two rocky island outcrops lies some 40 kilometres to Koh Samui’s northwest and was designated a National Park in 1980. The Ang Thong park itself covers more than 100 square kilometres and includes areas of outstanding natural beauty, with awesome limestone formations, a maze of cave systems and alluring stretches of white sand that inspired Alex Garland to the base his novel The Beach among such scenery. Here are a few of highlights on Ang Thong National Park:
 

Thale Nai
Also known as the ‘Emerald Lake’, this is an inland lake completely surrounded by limestone cliffs, it ‘s an awe-inspiring location. The lake is connected to the sea via a series of underwater caves that surround the islands of Ang Thong. As these islands primarily consist of limestone, factors such as weather conditions are constantly sculpting and shaping the relatively soft rock.

Wua Talap Island

This is one of the main rocky islands where the Ang Thong National Park headquarters and visitor centre is based. The island features a beautiful white beach for sun bathing and warm seas for swimming, as well as caves featuring stalagmites and stalactites. There is also a stunning viewpoint that can be reached via a 500 metre trek. Once at the top, all of the National Park’s islands become visible, as do the mirrored seas surrounding you.

Samsao, Thaiphlao and Wua Kantang Islands

With so many islands to choose from, it’s impossible to visit them all in one go on Ang Thong, but these are three of the best and at least one of them can be found on most tour operator’s itineraries. All boast stunning beaches, with warm waters and vibrant coral reefs laying just off the sand, ideal for snorkelling or swimming.

Nature Trails

Apart from the walking trail that leads you to the viewpoint on Wua Talap, there are also some popular nature trails that can be reached by boat in and among the collection of islands. There are many species of birds inhabiting Ang Thong National Park, which will fascinate nature lovers, but these boat tours also stop at some nice snorkelling locations if your natural interests lie below the waves. A whole host of tropical fish species call these waters home, as well as squid, corals, invertebrates and even turtles.

Ang Thong Marine Park can be visited for most of the year with the possible exception of November and December when there are often strong winds and rough seas, making the conditions unreliable and uncomfortable. During other periods a whole host of companies offer day tours to the National Park. Speedboats leave in the morning for a journey that should take around 45 minutes to an hour, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the park before a return to Samui in the late afternoon.

A normal tour itinerary will include opportunities to snorkel, sunbathe or swim at several beautiful beaches. Most companies go to Thale Nai and to Wua Talap where you can trek to the viewpoint and also visit the caves if you wish. After lunch, kayak tours are offered for people that wish to follow some of the boat trails, whilst those in the mood to relax can go back to the beach and chill out in the sun or the surf.

 

 
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