Ang Thong National Marine Park
'Ang Thong' means 'Golden Bowl', and this designated area of great natural beauty occupies almost 250 sq. km in the Gulf of Thailand, clearly visible to the north-west of Koh Samui. There are over 40 large closely-grouped islands in this stunning archipelago, many of them rising from the sea as sheer limestone cliffs or exotic rock formations, topped with greenery. The islands and rocks of Ang Thong Marine Park are full of caves and hidden lagoons and the surrounding sea teems with brilliant underwater life, making snorkelling a compulsorily activity.
All of the islands in Ang Thong Marine Park are uninhabited except for one, Ko Paluay, where you’ll find traditional sea-gypsies who still earn their living from fishing. Although there are more than 40 main islands in The National Marine Park, there are also countless other smaller islands, nearly all of them offering exciting opportunities for exploring. The main island of the group is Koh Wua Talap (Island of the Sleeping Cow), where the park office is located and there is also a small bungalow-style guesthouse for anyone who would like to stay overnight.
Koh Mae (Mother Island) is particularly popular, with an emerald seawater lake in the middle of the island, encircled on all sides by limestone cliffs. It is linked by an underground tunnel connecting with the sea, although reaching the lake entails a strenuous climb of 40 minutes or so, but it’s rewarded with a spectacular view across the whole park.
The two most northern islands in Ang Thong National Marine Park are Koh Wao and Koh Tungku, they are noted for hosting spectacularly huge schools of fish, which often number more than 1,000 in the shoal. There is also a considerable amount of wildlife inhabiting the islands, including the Asian long-tailed monkey (langur), hair-nosed otters, pacific reef egrets, white-bellied sea eagles, ashy drongos, tortoises, sea turtles, lizards and pythons, amongst others. The archipelago is also a bird-watcher’s paradise, with 54 different species of birds having been recorded.
Access to Ang Thong Marine Park is strictly controlled, but there are several Samui-based boat rental and kayak operators who are licensed carriers, catering to both independent visitors and with organized kayaking, snorkeling and camping visitors. These trips will generally include hotel transfers, buffet lunch, fruits and soft drinks.
As an alternative to the large tour boats, there are also speed boats that leave from Bo Phut and Nathon, and can reach Ang Thong National Marine Park in one hour instead of two. Of particular note here is the Lomprayah high-speed catamaran which takes just 45 minutes to reach the park as part of a day trip that will pick you up directly from your resort at 7:00 am and return you back again at 4:30 pm.
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