This group of 42 rocky island outcrops lies some 40kms to Koh Samui’s northwest and was designated a national park way back in 1980. The 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 base his novel The Beach among such scenery.
Ang Thong literally means ‘golden bowl’ in Thai 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.
Angthong National Park highlights
Wua Talap Island
Wua Talap 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 sunbathing and warm seas for swimming, as well as caves with impressive stalagmites and ‘tites. There is also a stunning viewpoint that can be reached via a 500m trek. Once at the top of here, all of the islands in the national become visible, as do the mirrored seas surrounding them.
Also known as the ‘Emerald Lake’, Thale Nai is an inland lake completely surrounded by limestone cliffs and is 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, the elements are constantly sculpting and shaping the relatively soft rock to produce wonderful formations.
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 – at least one of them can be found on most tour operators’ itineraries. All boast stunning beaches, with warm waters and vibrant coral reefs lying just off the sand; ideal for snorkelling or swimming.
Ang Thong 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. From these trails, many species of birds inhabiting Ang Thong National Park can be discerned, which will fascinate nature lovers, plus these boat tours also stop at sublime snorkelling locations. 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 conditions unreliable and uncomfortable.
A host of companies offer day tours to Ang Thong during the open-season periods. Speedboats depart 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, while those in the mood to relax can go back to the beach and chill out in the sun, or surf.