Ko Adang, Thailand

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Ko Adang is one of the larger islands in the Tarutao National Marine Park in South-West Thailand. It is about 65km West of Satun town.

I visited in early November (at the end of the wet season) and again, 14 months later, in mid-January, during the ‘dry’ season.

Ko Adang is part of a National Park (=conservation area). There are no roads, very few tracks and only one place with accommodation. There are only two areas reachable for off-the-beach snorkelling.

The accommodation is in the South-East corner of the island. On the East side of the accommodation is a rugged, naturalistic beach about 1km long. Off most of its length, there is a wide strip of coral reef in good health. The coral is almost entirely Porites (Hump) coral – a rather unglamorous species, all in brown. The depth of the reef is 2 – 7 metres. There are plenty of common reef-fish around. The snorkelling here is similar to that off Sunrise Beach on nearby Koh Lipe. In Adang, the coral is in slightly better health and the fish are a little more relaxed.

The other bay, on the South side of the accommodation, has mainly sandy bottom with patches of long-dead coral rubble. Snorkelling here is generally disappointing. But, if you search hard, you can find a few interesting oddities or patches of attractive coral.

It is difficult to reach other parts of the island without a boat. Currents are often strong and the lack of roads means you can’t walk home if you get swept off-course.

Birdwatchers will enjoy seeing Hornbills and Sea-Eagles.

There are a couple of hiking tracks leading inland to rivers/waterfalls and cliff-top viewpoints.

Accommodation is in tents or a few concrete bungalows. There is a basic restaurant.

Best-ish seascape:

Typical seascape:
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

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All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

I first visited in early November 2012 (actually, the day after the Loy Krathong festival) day-tripping from Ko Lipe by rented kayak. November is at the end of the wet season, but I was lucky to have beautiful, calm conditions and bright sunlight throughout. The next time I came was in mid-January 2014, ostensibly well into the dry season. I was planning to stay three weeks and do some full-on underwater investigation. Of course, the day I arrived, the weather broke and we had pouring rain for two days. After that, the rain stopped, but the strong Easterly winds persisted for the whole three weeks I was there. This was not helpful for underwater visibility.

The pictures on this page are a mix from both trips. See if you can guess which ones are from the ‘stormy’ wet season and which are from the ‘calm’ dry season!


Ko Adang sits in the Western group of islands in the Tarutao Marine National Park (maps at the Park page). The Western group is sometimes known as the Adang-Rawi Group, or the Butang Group.

At ~20 square km, Adang is quite a big island. The National Park accommodation is in the South East corner of the island and realistically, the only places you can reach for snorkelling are the beaches immediately to the East (A to C on the map) and South (D to G on the map).

I’m a swimming masochist and I also slogged-it all the way along the South coast to the South-Western cape at Area L and all the way up the East coast to Area R – just so I could see what was there. Realistically, these areas are very hard to reach and it’s probably unwise to try it, due to strong currents. So, let’s start by focussing on the more accessible areas A- G.

Here’s a zoom-ed in map:

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.


The East Beach

The main event – snorkelling wise – is the long beach off the East side of the tent area. It is a bit of a natural beauty.


It’s about 1 km from the Southern cape to the rocky headland at the Northern end. Nine times out of ten, there was a current running parallel to the beach, from North to South, so the usual way to tackle this one is to walk up to the Northern end and then drift back down to the South.

There are some mooring lines and buoys near area C, so just double-check which way they are being pulled to see what the current is doing. Occasionally (and unpredictably), it flows in the opposite direction. If that is the case, just do everything in reverse.

Generally, all along the East beach, the profile is: (1) sandy shallows containing the occasional clump of Porites (“Hump”) coral. Depending on the height of the tide, this strip may be up to 40 metres wide; (2) then you have a wide band of good-health Porites/hump coral, often stretching another 30 metres out to sea. Mixed in with the Porites coral, you will find the occasional patch of Brain Coral or Double-Star coral and a few big Barrel Sponges to add some variety; and (3) further out from this you have a modest drop-off that goes down to sandy bottom (~7m deep at the Northern end, ~4m deep around area C). Further-out still, the plain sand quickly slopes off to over 15m deep.

You can get an idea of the profile from this picture, taken from the track leading to the viewpoint.

At low tides it can be difficult to access the water along this beach, due to coral in the shallow water. It is quite easy at points A and C (where there is less coral in the shallows), so plan to get in/out at those points.

OK, so entering the water at A, you can see (through the murk) the corals start to take over from the sandy bottom:
That’s a Redfin Butterflyfish centre-frame.

Further out, the reef-proper starts. Get used to seeing a lot of this Porites coral:
That’s a school of Lined Butterflyfish finding their way through the fog.

Turning right to follow the reef southwards towards B, the coral looks like this:

Barrel Sponges can provide an interesting spectacle:
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As you go along the reef, you will find all your common-or-garden reef fish from Groups 1-3 in the Common Fish Page.
(by the way, those are shots from my SPECIESLIST, and probably weren’t taken in Adang. Don’t infer anything from the backgrounds).

There are also pictures of most of the common fish in my article on nearby Ko Lipe.

As you head South, the reeftop is wide and you can choose what section/depth you want to look at. Personally, I prefer to be deeper – closer to the drop-off, where you have more chance of seeing some interesting beasties. Here are a couple of the more interesting fish found on the stretch from A to B.
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The species names are mentioned in the filenames, so hover your mouse over the picture to see the name. For more information, including the latin scientific name, check out my SPECIES LIST.

Also seen (but not photographed) near here were some juvenile Yellow-tailed Damselfish and some schooling Convict Tang.

Did I mention interesting beasties? Well, one day, in the murky shallows, I stumbled into this gentle lady.

It’s a White Spotted Eagle Ray – a quite big one, too, with about a 1.5m wingspan. Nice.


At the edge of the drop-off, where reef meets sand, you can find the occasional seafan (gorgonian), filtering food from the passing current.
There is a small clump of rocks on the beach, close to its Northern end

About 30 metres South of those rocks, out where the drop-off meets the seabed, there are a couple of beautiful seafans. Here, at point B, is my favourite photogenic location.


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These are about 6-7 metres deep, so if you don’t dive down, you would need pretty clear water to see them very well. If you are planning on diving down to see them, please don’t break anything!

You can always rely on nemos to throw some shapes:
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And there are three Red Coral Groupers down there, who gently slink off under a rock as you approach.

Too quick-on-the-draw for me was a beautiful Brown Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge multispinis) who disappeared before I could get a picture. You’ll have to g0ogle for that one.

There aren’t really that many seafans along the main (Eastern) beach (perhaps about 8 in total), but when you do find one, there is often quite a lot of interesting other life nearby.

This one has some attractive white Scleronephthya species coral and lots of patrolling White Saddle Cardinalfish :

This one has two clusters of Ascidians; a Feather Duster Worm and some Sponges

…a pretty Brittlestar, some Sponges and a Narrowlined Cardinalfish

some Brain Coral and a Feather Duster Worm:

And this one has everything except the kitchen sink:
(Actually, I had to break-out the flash for that last one. Without the extra light, and down at 7m deep it doesn’t look quite so shiny.

Just South of Area B, a small freshwater stream runs down the mountainside onto the beach. During my January visit (in the dry season), the stream was dried up, but in my November (end of wet-season) visit, there was a big pool on the beach and a noticeable temperature-drop in the sea water. There was also a bit of a turbid thermocline underwater, where the fresh water and salt water mixed together. The stream doesn’t reach the sea at surface level, so presumably the flow is continuing beneath the sand and rocks.


The stretch of reef from Area B to C is the longest and most representative selection of the snorkelling on Ko Adang.

Here, you have your wide strip of Porites coral

Sometimes without the fishies

and with the occasional patch of more interesting, diverse coals.


Here are some pictures of fishes more interesting than the very common ones listed above:
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(mouseover these pictures for the species names)

Most interesting are:

this Slingjaw Wrasse.
Pictured here is the adult. Juveniles are bright yellow.

Both of them can fire their lower jaw forward to launch a surprise attack on an unsuspecting meal. I’ve never been able to get a picture of that happening, but there is some interesting video of it in a laboratory here.

These Golden Damselfish are cute. There were a few of them around the drop-off. They often like to hang around sea fans. This one was near to a seafan, but not close enough for the glamour-shot.

The big-nosed Bird Wrasse is fun and quickly darts around the reeftop. Its colouring is very different between its early and later life. This one is a male adult (Terminal Phase).

Indonesian Sweetlips are cute-looking, bigger fish. Sometimes inquisitive, sometimes flighty, this friendly late stage juvenile was about 60cm long.

This Emperor Angelfish is quite an uncommon sighting. I think that this one is pregnant. See the bulge in her side? Those horizontal stripes aren’t very flattering during pregnancy. I saw her here on most days and the bulge is on both sides.

You don’t often see Squid around, but I had quite a few sightings off the East beach in Adang. I got surprisingly close to this one. They travel around in groups of 10-15 and usually keep a distance of about 4 metres away from you – all edging-away in unison if you try to get any closer.

Some uncommon fish that escaped my camera here were a pair of Virgate Rabbitfish.


About halfway down the beach, there is a distinctive-looking Barrel Sponge at the drop-off. This always seems to attract fish who want to be stars of the screen.
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There were a few Giant Moray Eels in their holes, looking mean
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That last one is getting his teeth done by a small Cleaner Wrasse.


Other animals that like to hide in the shelter of holes include the Rock Lobster, the Porcupine fish, various species of big Groupers:
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…and the beautiful Lionfish
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There are two main species of Lionfish in the Andaman Sea – the Common Lionfish and the Spotfin Lionfish. These pictures are both Spotfin Lionfish (they come in both red and black). On the red one, you can see the blue spots on the pectoral fins, which is what gives the species its name (not the spots on the tail, which are also present on the Common Lionfish). The Spotfin also have antennae on their heads, which you can see quite well on these pictures. Be careful around these – each spine is connected to a chamber of strong poison inside the body. You wouldn’t want to step on one by accident.

While we’re on the subject of stings, have a look at my safety page.

Creatures hanging around the sandy bottom included this Flutefish:

And this interesting looking Sea Cucumber, getting ready for mo-vember:

There were quite a lot of schooling fish who liked to cruise the border between the reef and sand.

These Snapper win the numbers game, but the Golden Damselfish has the high-ground on aesthetics:
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And these Five-lined Snapper look best when passing by a Sea Fan, Barrel Sponge and Rounded Bubblegum Coral:
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These Yellowfin Surgeonfish show-up from time to time. More often they are swimming in open water over the sand, rather than over the reef.

Area C

As you continue towards the South end of the beach

The seabed gets shallower and the coral starts to fade out.

By point C it has almost all gone and you are left with plain sandy bottom.

Most people don’t bother snorkelling here as there doesn’t seem like there is much to see. There was a resident juvenile Longfin Batfish who I saw most days.

Most of the fish around here are silver-grey in colour and your biggest problem is seeing them at all. Would you spot these fellas ?
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You would? OK how about this one – do you see him ?


.No? Well move in for a closer look

Do you see him now ?
No? Well move in a bit closer, then. . .
Aw, you scared him off now!
If you spend half an hour searching around for where he ended-up, you might find him:

He’s a Flathead (Platycephalidae species). Either the camouflage guy was off-sick on the day they painted his tail, or it is used as a distraction for pursuing predators, so that they chase after disposable tissue, rather than vital organs.

Here’s that second picture again with his outline marked on it.


Even though the flat sandy bottom is not very exciting, if you have the time and patience, you can find some interesting stuff.

Here’s a cuttlefish placing her eggs underneath some recent wreckage from a longtail boat.
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There are some interesting looking anemones.

This one was housing a family of Boxer Shrimp.

You can see mama in the middle there, but do you see junior hanging around translucently at the edge ?

Here he is up-close.

There were about 9 of these cool translucent juveniles on the anemone. If you get too close, they instantly disappear then pop-up again at the other side of the anemone, like pressing the ‘hyperspace bypass’ button in Asteroids.

Do you see who’s here, where the steep beach of the cape joins the flat bottom of the seabed?
Well, fair enough. There’s nothing there.

Err, sorry about that.

There are some interesting photos in the Visitor Centre about how that little cape has grown and shrunk over the years.

Generally, there has been a lot of beach erosion over the years on that South coast, but the little cape comes and goes, comes and goes, comes and goes every ten years, or so.

Before we leave the East coast, it’s worth swimming out 70 metres to some of the buoy lines to see who’s living on/under them. When I stayed there, the weather was unappealing, so there were no longtails tied-up there or day-trippers’ boats coming and going to frighten-off the fish.

The big polystyrene buoy had these cute baby squid sheltering there.
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These clam-like critters were growing on the buoy line. Regular clams sit in the sand and filter-feed by sucking water through. These ones were extending their feathery tentacles every five seconds to collect any passing food particles; and then pulling them back into the shell for noshing.

Knotty buoy lines are a good place for baby fish to find protection from predators. These babby Sergeant Major Damselfish were cowering behind the knot

And these baby (?)Barred Flagtail were being a bit daring and extending their range until Mr Needlefish came calling, when they all sprinted back to the cover of the buoyline.


Returning back-in towards the beach and then round to the tip of the sandy cape, there was an attractive Sea Pen

..and then you were back to playing spot-the-camouflaged fish.

There were lots of these Longtail Silver Biddies

As well as their little cousins, the Blacktip Silver Biddy.

I assume that this little fella is a juvenile Blackspotted Pufferfish.  I have never seen one without any markings.

In the foreground here are a few Pompano
With a couple of Small Spotted Dart in the background.

The Darts are lots of fun – if you don’t scare them off initially, they will get inquisitive and start a game of ‘hide-and-seek’ with you.
They set the rules, so they always win.


Area D

Area D is the start of the bay on the South side of the island.  Longtail boats anchor in this bay and any coral has long-ago been smashed-up and is sitting as rubble on the sandy seabed.  Or maybe it was a South West monsoon that broke it all up.

This end (D) gets particularly busy around 5pm as all the ‘watch the sunset’ boats come over from Koh Lipe.

Most people don’t snorkel here, and if they do, they come out looking disappointed and never bother again. But if you have the time to look closely and explore a bit, you can find some interesting things lurking around.

For example – who would’ve thought that that chunk of boring rubble would be home to those pretty, delicate little blue Ascidians, filtering the sea water for food?

Or that the expanse of flat sandy bottom would be home to these pretty Hydroids?
(be careful around these, they sting like hell)

I don’t know what these are, but I found them hiding in the tangles of a buoy in the shallows.

The sandy seabed has some interesting bottom-feeders, like this Speckled Goatfish.

And the lack of cover means this usually shy Black-Blotched Porcupinefish has nothing to hide under!


As you move further from the shore, you start to find some bigger chunks of coral

Some of which may be hosting Featherstars

Or, if you are really lucky, you might find the winner of the local beauty pageant, the uncommon Picasso Triggerfish.
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(Actually, there was also an uncommon Black Patch Triggerfish here at the same time, but, let’s face it, the Picasso wins the ‘chase-me’ prize every time!)

Moving away from Area D and out towards Area F, there were also some interesting things to see.

Actually, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you exactly where “F” is. I took this picture from the viewpoint to try and map-out the best bits of DEFG, but away from the beach, I rarely saw the same features twice and I never could figure out exactly where I was in relation to the picture.

Just head from D towards Ko Lipe and see where you end up!

Winner of the ‘best fish’ contest here was the Bluespine Unicornfish. There were three of them out here on most days, all subtly trying to slink-off while you weren’t looking.
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Another good one is the Yellow Margin Triggerfish. These are fairly uncommon, sometime quite inquisitive and much more fun than their mean Titan cousins who just head for the hills as soon as they see you.
(btw, if a Titan squares-up to you, be ready to make an exit, as they can get aggressive when protecting their nests. I’ve never seen it happen, myself)

Other interesting fish include a passing Red Coral Grouper

Quite a few Yellowtail Scad

And this unusual Parrotfish, the adult Eclipse Parrotfish (Scarus russellii).
Pretty, but elusive.

You might find some small, colourful fish lurking in the cover of the shallower water, like these Andaman Damselfish (Pomacentrus alleni)

And there are no shortage of schoolers, here, especially around dusk.
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On the non-fishy side, my favourite was a few of these punky Horned Sea Stars
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Out to Area F

Area F is a loosely defined spot, about 150 metres away from the beach. As you get out away from the shore, you start to see some bitty reef.


Earlier, I said:  “to get to Area F, just head from D towards Lipe and see where you end up”. Well, be careful with that! There can be strong currents parallel to the beach and where you end up might be in India!

Away from the shelter of the sandy cape, you will be subjected to tidal currents. As far as I could tell, the current runs from East to West when the tide is going out (= falling). And it’s pretty strong. Wearing fins, and swimming against the current, I could only stay still. With overarm stroke as well as the fins, I could make creeping progress.

When the tide was coming in (= rising), the current flowed from West to East, but was a little weaker.

If you’re going out away from the shore, be aware of the currents and make sure you will be able to get home again. There is less current closer to the shore. Make any corrections to your course early-on.



Area F has some patches of actual reef, with a few more fish species than Area D.

It even has the occasional fan coral, some soft (Scleronephthya species) coral and some diverse hard-coral species.
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Fish-wise, there were more of the common Nemo (False Clown Anemonefish) as well as their cousin, the Clarke’s Anemonefish.
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Unusual fish in the area included these Indian Damselfish, sheltering in the Acropora coral

And this Lattice Monocle Bream, which isn’t as pretty, but I haven’t seen it before.


I have always wondered whether it was practical to swim between Lipe and Adang. Having now experienced the currents at the Adang end, I would certainly say that it is a bad idea. But one day, at slack water, I did venture-out past the coral at F and on South towards Lipe. All I found was a long sandy patch.

Oh, and ET’s bike.
I think ET, himself, must have burned-up on re-entry.


Back at the reef at F – every time I went there I had a visitation from about 15 late-stage-juvenile Golden Trevallys.
These guys make a living out of following bigger species (like sharks) around, nimbly dodging any snapping jaws. Maybe they came out and found me because it is their natural instinct to search-out big beasties. I like to think that it was my anti-sunburn/jellyfish/boat t-shirt (that is the same colour as them), making them think that I was their pappy.

Here’s a quick video of them nosing around. . .

Also on the Trevelly front, around here, I had a couple of visits from a school of ~8 inquisitive Blue Trevally

Plus, the occasional visit from a tentative Bigeye or two

Area G

Further West, I found a few isolated patches of attractive reef. These were the most picturesque spots in that bay South of the National Park accommodation.

In the foreground is the other common species of anemonefish – the Skunk Anemonefish. That’s not the Pink Skunk (who has an extra white stripe going down his cheek), but the Skunk.


There is some diversity in the hard corals with these Turbinara disc and bracket corals putting in an appearance:
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And quite a few fan corals:
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And a few sprigs of Acropora coral vying for space with the Barrel Sponges:

You can find patches of the crazy Rounded Bubblegum coral dotted around everywhere. If you zoom in real-close, you can see the ‘fingerprint’ texture of the skin.

Fish-wise, there were some treats to be had. As well as this uncommon Yellowmask Surgeonfish:

There was an adult Oriental Sweetlips hanging around one reef-let.
Oriental Sweetlips are usually shy and run for cover when they see a human. Sometimes they develop an inquisitive streak once they feel safe. Not this one.

A new fish to me was this lovely Black-tail Angelfish.
I’m liking that yellow mascara! These little cuties are about 10cm long, and often found in pairs. They are a bit nervous, but not so much that they disappear entirely when spotted. The pair on this reef at G seemed to love a piece of green Brain Coral and kept returning there every minute or so. I also saw some others not far from Area D, so you don’t necessarily need to come out this far to find them.

I also had a fleeting glimpse of their cousin – the Brown Pygmy Angelfish, which is a similar size and shape, but in dark blue colours. Sorry, no pics.


I’ll say it again about the currents: Away from the shelter of the bay and the cape, you will be in tidal currents. When the tide is going out, the current runs from East to West and is pretty strong. When the tide is coming in, the current flows from West to East and is weaker.

I found it easiest to cover this area when the tide was going out. You can start at D, swim out to F, drift with the current down to G and then swim back into (sheltered) E before you get washed-out West. If you overshoot E by a bit, you can do a (somewhat difficult) rock-hop to get back on track.


Area E

Heading back from G to E is mostly flat sandy bottom with some coral rubble and a few small patches of living coral.

Cool sightings around here included an Indonesian Sweetlips, a sleeping Cuttlefish, an unusual (Largenose) Boxfish and a few Blue Spotted Stingrays:
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There were also a couple of Scorpionfish. You have to be careful not to step on these fellas, as they have extremely poisonous spines on their back. Fortunately, the ones I saw were all about 3 metres deep.
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Closer into shore at Area E there are a few small bommies of OK-condition coral. You can sort-of see it from the viewpoint photo. To be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time here – I was usually too cold at the end of my D-F-G-E trip to stay in the water. One fella staying at the camp had found several nudibranchs in this area on a previous visit, but I couldn’t find any this time.

There are a few short strips of beach broken up by rocky patches here. It’s a good place to avoid the ‘crowds’ on the spit, but the beachlets lose the sun at about 4 pm. They are an easy place for a shallow snorkel, but I’m not sure you’d find anything spectacular here.

Here’s a bit of pretty Bristle Coral (Galaxea fascicularis) from around area E.


Generally, the Southern bay gets the afternoon sun and, as long as you avoid the sunset-trip boats, it is an OK spot for an evening potter. Featherstars come out at dusk:
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Sometimes you can catch one taking a walk to the top of its perch.


Area E to D shallows

The area close to the shore between E and D is mostly a boat park. It has sandy bottom and some coral rubble filling-in the spaces between anchors. At the West end, there are several big trees that have toppled into the sea as the beach is eroded. You might find some small fish hiding in amongst the tree branches, but other than that, there is probably not much fruitful snorkelling in this area.


You can stop reading now – that’s all there is for easily-accessible snorkelling on Ko Adang. Everything after this is only really suitable for ‘extreme snorkellers’ or people with boats!

By the way, you can’t rent kayaks on Ko Adang, but you can rent them from a few places on Ko Lipe, about 2km away. As of 2013, one place on Lipe is advertising Glass-bottomed kayaks – “Benji Glass Kayak at Forra Pattaya Resort”.


Down to the West Coast

Here’s that whole-island map again.

One more time with the warning about currents: Ko Adang is a remote location and it has strong tidal currents. You probably don’t want to get washed off the end of the island to spend a day in the open sea before dying of hypothermia and then being eaten by sharks, do you? Stay within your limits.

I wanted to get to the West Coast and planned to do this by riding the second half of the ascending tide for three hours until I got to the South West Corner, then have an hour looking around the South West side at slack-water, before catching the outgoing tidal currents back East to the National Park camp. Obviously, this takes a bit of planning (figuring out tidal-current patterns, distances and whatnot), and waiting for the right day when the tide-times will let you do it all in daylight. Oh, and you have to be prepared to spend eight-hours without food or water.

The plan pretty-much worked. Except (1) the water was cold and I had to get out to warm-up a bit, so I lost an hour of exploration-time; and (2) the Eastbound current turned out to be not as strong as the Westbound, so I had to do more swimming than expected.


Area H

Going out past the patchy, attractive area G, I continued on Westward. At Area H, the coral was still patchy, but again, it had the coral species-diversity that you don’t find on the East coast.

Following a juvenile Longfin Batfish around for a picture . . .

…out of the corner of my eye I saw a big, grey beastie cruising-along the bottom, right at the limits of visibility. It was a shark – a blacktip reef shark. A decent sized one, too, about 1.5 metres, with the stocky bodyshape of an adult. Then another one, right behind it. They did a wide circle and ambled-off into the murk. This is classic behaviour of a suspicious shark. I didn’t expect to see them again. I did fire off a couple of photos, but there wasn’t enough contrast for them to turn out.

Turning around, happy that I had seen the sharks, I saw a huge Feathertail Stingray glide past.
It must have been over two metres long, with the tail.

Happy again, I continued West, only to find that the sharks had come back for a second visit, closer this time.
Still not super-close, but good enough for a snap.

They did another circle, then toddled off again. That was the last I saw of them that day, although I did come back to the same spot a few days later and caught a few more fleeting glances. (btw, Scared about Sharks? Read this).

The coral here was patchy and uninspiring, but there were a few cool fish around. An Emperor Angelfish (not pregnant, this one)

And the uncommon Flagtail Triggerfish

Flagtail Triggerfish are generally quite flighty, but can sometimes show an inquisitive streak. It’s not too often you can get an up-the-nose shot like this:
I saw him both on the way-out West and also on my return journey.

I also bumped into this early-adult Oriental Sweetlips.
At the time, I thought he was an Indonesian Sweetlips, as the markings are similar and the Indonesian is more common. Also, this fella was far too friendly to be an Oriental Sweetlips. Nevertheless, he is an Oriental, and a nice specimen, too.

A little later, I came across the Feathertail Ray again, parked on the seabed.
The silver/yellow Checkerboard Wrasse at the top of the picture is about 15 cm long, for scale.

About 50m offshore, about level with the little headland, I found a sprig of this interesting looking (?)algae – maybe Sargassum polycystum
20 metres further along there was a huge patch of it. I never saw it after that.


Area I

Around the headland, and into area I, there is a beautiful, long beach with a few palm trees at the front

In the middle of the beach there is a luxury resort which is deserted, in a ‘Marie Celeste’ style.


Commercial development is forbidden on National Park islands. So how did this place get here and who uses it? Well, the most common version of the story is that it was built by a chancer-property developer with the support of a dodgy planning official on the mainland. When the transgression was discovered, the mainlander was fired and the developer was never allowed to open the resort.

So now it sits there, with the pool filled-up and cleaned, the hedges freshly trimmed and the footpaths neatly swept.

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I’m not sure whether or not that story is true. There is a plaque on the wall there saying อาคารราชพัสดุ. I can’t fully translate it, but my approximation sounds quite official and there is an identical plaque on the Chamber of Commerce building in Trang. Maybe it’s a private resort used only occasionally by lofty officials?

A caretaker/security guard sits out front, looking out for interlopers. The 2012 guy was friendly and let me walk round and take a few snaps 1 2 3 4 . The 2014 one was less accommodating and wouldn’t let me in. There is no problem with just visiting the beach itself, though. (edit @2017 – Nick has added a comment below saying that it is now open as a commercial concern)


Underwater, it’s not too impressive. The East end of the beach is shallow, silty rocks.
That’s a Goldsaddle rabbitfish in the middle of the picture. You can see the Gold/Yellow spot (=saddle) near the tail.

One interesting observation here was a fish with similar, but not identical markings, cruising around with a group of six Goldsaddle Rabbitfish. You can see it here, infront of a Goldsaddle.
It has the same yellow dot at the b  ase of the tail, but has vermiculations on the body instead of the usual spots. What is it? A mutation? It’s probably not a juvenile Goldsaddle, as they just have paler spots. Maybe a Vermiculate Rabbitfish? But they don’t have the yellow saddle.

Well, it is most-likely that it is another species, the Lined Rabbitfish (Siganus lineatus). It’s not an earth-shattering revelation, but such are the things that discovery is made of 

The middle of the beach has a big plain of young Porites coral.
but is otherwise unimpressive.

At the West end of the beach
..there is a stream running down into the sea (just behind the big rocks). There was also a big flock of Hornbill birds here. They like the tall palm trees.

Running underneath the sand is the old water-pipe that goes across the bay to Ko Lipe. If you ever walk up to the Pirate Waterfall on Ko Adang, you can see a couple of junctions in the waterpipe. The main one goes to the National Park accommodation to the East. Of the others, presumably one goes to the ‘forbidden resort’ and one goes to the Lipe pipe.

On the beach in Adang, you can’t see the Lipe pipe at the surface, but here it is leaving Adang underwater.
It emerges near the Princess’s Summer Palace, near Sunset Beach(es) on Koh Lipe.  I’m told that it’s no longer being used as a water supply in Lipe.

You can see from the water-pipe pictures that there is some bitty coral at the West end of the beach. Other than that, the only thing I saw here was this Nudibranch, Phyllidiella pustulosa – the only nudi I saw in Adang.


Continuing West out of ‘forbidden resort bay’, the seabed remains uninspiring – with a mix of plain-sand and some young Porites coral.
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As you continue West, towards point J, the coral variety and condition slowly begins to pick up.
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This little Butterflyfish is only found in the Andaman Sea. So they called it the Andaman Butterflyfish. Seems fair.

On the way out (Westwards), I took the deeper water track, staying about 100-150m off the beach, where the coral was (probably) more interesting. The pictures above are from there.

On the way back East, I swam closer to the shore. I found this cute little Snowflake Moray Eel in the shallows there.

Game of ‘spot-the-fish’ anyone?
Yes, too easy – it’s a Sting Ray.


Area K

Continuing West towards Area K, about 150m offshore, there was more of the decent-quality corals with some diversity in the species.
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Notable was this sprig of freshly bleached coral

Presumably, he had been done-over by a Crown-of-Thorns Starfish.
There were a few around, but not in unduly worrying numbers.

Another notable around here was a small school of Long Jawed Mackerel, tooling around with their big mouths open. I couldn’t get a decent picture – this one, is borrowed from Malaysia.

The same goes for a pair of Coral Rabbitfish.

I did get a murky shot of this lone Brown Sweetlips


The purple chimney coral in the background here is a member of the Porites family.


I guess that there must have been a lot of it, because as well as being there in my outward sweep 150m away from shore, there was also lots of it on my return journey, about 40 metres away from shore.

Actually, there was a lot of diverse, good condition coral in the shallows of Area K. Because of the species diversity, I would have to say that this was the best area for coral that I found in Adang.

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Interesting beasties nearby included this Filefish and an out-in-the-open Giant Moray Eel.
Thai_Adang_324_kS-Scribbled-filefish_P1162791_.jpg Thai_Adang_325_kS-Giant-Moray-Eel_P1162787_.JPG



The last stretch from Area K to Area L is rocky.

Underwater, it is mostly boring.

With a bit of added-interest from this crazy Barrel Sponge

And these strange things growing on a rock.
Dunno what they are, I’m afraid.


The South West corner of Ko Adang is marked by that lone rock with the white stripe running horizontally through it (see the surface picture, above). I saw on one map that it was named หินขาว (White Rock) which is fair-enough.

Below the surface, it is all very ancient and ethereal


Corners of islands often get strong currents passing by, which many species enjoy.

There was a school of Big-Eye Trevally swarming around

And there is a whole aquarium-full of reef fish here:
I’m seeing– Moorish Idol, Powder-Blue Surgeonfish, Yellow-tail Sergeant Major Damselfish, Java Rabbitfish, Checkered Snapper, Longface Emperor, Andaman Butterflyfish, Vagabond Butterflyfish, Checkerboard Wrasse, Monarch Damselfish (maybe), Moon Wrasse, Parrotfish. That’s a pretty good turnout for one picture!

On the surface of White Rock itself are thousands of tiny little Ascidians, all fervently filtering nutrients from the passing water.

Here are some up-close.

At the depths, on the undersides of the big rock, there are some sea fans who had the same idea
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I only saw the one Sea Krait in Adang. He was here at the South Western tip, poking around between the rocks. Don’t get bitten by these.

Be careful around this rocky headland. Longtail boats taking daytrippers to the Western islands, pass close-in to the corner. At high tide, they even motor through the narrow channel between White Rock and Adang itself.


I had a little paddle up the West coast of Adang

I had intended to have a good look around the West side, but I had lost an hour warming-up in the sun, so I didn’t really cover much of it. At the surface, the first 1-2 km is all rocks. I expect that underwater, it is similar to the rocky stretch K-L, above.

Further North on Adang, the West Coast is a mixture of beaches and rocks, mostly beaches. I’m not sure whether this works, but here is a long-distance picture of the southern end. If you zoom-in enough, you can see what’s beach and what’s rock.

Here’s the same thing, closer to the Northern end.

I did once visit Area M, in the North West corner (on a ‘Trip 1’ boat trip from Lipe). There is a brief write up of that over here.


I’m now going to jump back to point A and have a look up the East Coast of Adang.

For (another) long distance swim like this, it’s a good idea to to know how the currents behave. I spent a lot of time snorkelling of the main stretch of beach between A and C. The current was almost always going from North to South. Out of about twenty occasions, only once was it going in the other direction.

In a way, this was a good thing. If you’re going to snorkel in a current, it’s better to swim upstream. That way, when you get tired, you should have a nice, relaxing float back to where you started from. If the current isn’t going to change direction, then at least you know what’s-what.

Sure enough, when I hit the windy East coast at point A, the current was coming from the North and I was swimming against it. It wasn’t massively strong, but it was enough to make swimming against it a real chore.

At the surface, North of the point A beach, there is a run of rocks about 500m long. Below the water, the same Porites reef from C-B-A just continues on Northwards, looking the same as it had done at C-B-A.

On the drop-off between A and Z, you have your standard, decent-quality Porites, “Hump” coral.


At Z – a long-ish beach starts.

Underwater, there was a big growth of nice fan coral.

And a patch of unusual soft coral:


Heading up from Y to X, there was a small area which had unusual coral diversity
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I had a visit from some schooling Sweepers

And saw a few feeding frenzies, when the Fusiliers found a school of small-fry to gorge on.


As you continue North, the surface continues to alternate beach, rocks, beach, rocks, beach, rocks.

Underwater, you have the continuation of the Porites reef.
Here it is around point Y.

Some schooling Longfin Pike passed by here.
These are only about 40cm long and don’t have the mean looks that other member of the barracuda family have.


Another 1 km on, around X, the Porites reef was still going

I had only swum about 2 km, but with the current against me, it felt more like five. There wasn’t much fishlife about and I was starting to get bored of seeing the same old thing, so, spotting the Chao Lae (Sea Gypsy) village ahead in the distance; and a few long beaches along the way, I decided to get out and walk.


Here, about half way up the East coast, there is still the flipping between beach and rock
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But the beaches get longer and the rocky patches get shorter.

The reef is a long way from the coast. In this snap of a tree growing out of a rock, you can see the light blue water, indicating shallow, flat sandy bottom. From the shore, it’s about 150 metres out to the deeper water and the reef.
Off to the right is Ko Bitsi. In the distance, centre-left is Laem (=cape) Talo poya, (between U and R on the map).

I was still on-foot at this point, and having slivered over a lot of rocks, I was happy to see the beaches getting longer and longer, as I approached the Chao Ley village.
And what a beautiful spot it is.

It turns out that the Chao Ley village was actually spread out over three long beaches on the East coast.

Here’s the first one

And here’s the second

The Urak Lawoi map (see the ‘alternative maps’ section, at the bottom of this page) shows the village as two different settlements on the East Coast and another on the North East.

Either way, there were about 30 houses/huts and all but three of them were boarded-up and showed no signs of recent use. I suppose the residents might have decamped to another village on the West side of the island, sheltering from the bad winds we had been having. Or, maybe this village isn’t much used any more.


I made a couple of trips out to look at the coral at V and U, but to be honest, I was knackered and thirsty and it was half-a-mile walk out to the coral, so my investigations were a bit half-assed. It looked much the same as it had done at A, Z, Y, and X.

Back on land, I had a bit of a rock-hop around the cape, Laem Talo poya


And had a squint at that North East corner. This is the little rocky cape at R and the long sandy beach behind it.

Here is the long sandy beach. Still further beyond that is Laem Tum Yong Baku – off in the far distance on the right. Eagle-eyed listeners will notice a dog on the beach in the middle of the picture. I wonder whether he came from a ‘North East’ Chao Ley village or just found a track through from one of the Eastern ones.

These beaches are beautiful, but it was clear that there was no coral until you get way, way out to sea, so I turned back homeward.

On the way back down the Eastern beaches, the villagers (a boat and five people) had gotten back from work. They looked bemused as I waved them hello and skipped on past to make my return swim.

The return trip was mostly uneventful. The tide was low and it was a little difficult getting through the shallow coral to the drop-off. During the long haul back, there wasn’t any helpful current.

I saw a Lionfish, a Giant Moray and another Flagtail Triggerfish, but you’ve seen all that before.

o o o o o o o

So that’s about it for the snorkelling. Overall, the snorkelling is pretty reasonable at Adang. It’s similar to that found on Sunrise Beach on Ko Lipe, so if you are staying on Ko Lipe, you don’t necessarily need to make a daytrip over here. However, if you have more time and want to dive-down for a closer look, you might find some things worth looking at.


While I’m here, here are a few observations on other nature-y things on Koh Adang.


There are two marked-up treks/walks on the Island – one to a ‘waterfall’, 2 km North West of the National Park Accommodation; and one up a steep cliff at the back of the accommodation which has a few viewpoint stop-offs looking East over towards Ko Bitsi & Ko Glang and South over Koh Lipe.


Pirate Waterfall trek

This trek is well-signposted and reasonably easy. It is 2km from the National Park accommodation to the waterfall. (The waterfall also supplies the tap water to the National Park accommodation). The trek has a bit of an incline in the early stages, and towards the end, there are a few points where you need to haul yourself up between boulders using a climb-rope.

Here are a couple of snaps from the journey.
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To get to the start of the trail, go West from the accommodation towards the little beaches, near E on the map. It is all signposted from there. You are essentially following the black PVC water-pipe all the way to the waterfall. The trail gets a bit diffuse towards the end – but just stick with the waterpipes.

I saw some people do the trip in flip-flops/slippers/thongs/jandles, but you’d be better off with some more robust footwear.

There is forest-cover from the sun for most of the way.

I didn’t see any snakes, but I am sure they are out there. I have seen vipers on nearby islands and they don’t move out of your way! The tracks here are well-beaten, but, even so, keep your eyes on where you are treading, especially in sunny spots where reptiles like to bask.

I saw a couple of monkeys on the way and was quite excited, until I heard that folks with concrete bungalows and food inside had seen more monkeys than they wanted to. It’s not like Ko Tarutao, though, where the whole camp is swarming with them.

The waterfall itself is about 7m tall (in the picture below, you can just see someone’s walking boot mid picture, for scale). It was pretty tame in the dry season of mid-January.
Tezza (below) has a picture of it in livelier times.

I pressed-on upstream beyond the waterfall itself and, 800m further-on, found this pretty section.
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This is much smaller (in height) than the main waterfall.

It wasn’t much further before climbing-gear was required to continue.

The trek to the waterfall takes about an hour each way


Chado Cliff / Viewpoint trek

This is a quite steep trek leading up the cliff/mountain/hill behind the park accommodation. There are three signposted Viewpoints on the way. The first one looks South East and is a good spot to see the sunrise over the sea if you are an early riser. On the way to Viewpoint 1, you can look North at the next mountain on Adang. Viewpoints 2 and 3 look South towards Lipe.

If you scramble right to the edge, you can see the Sunrise from Viewpoint 3, but only just. Once you reach Viewpoint 3, you are at the top of the hill and there’s nowhere else to go. I had a scramble round inside some raw forest there, but it is tough-going and I didn’t find much there.

The whole journey is about 40 minutes each way.

Here’s a snap from the top (marked up with the little islands I visited by kayak from Ko Lipe (from the Lipe Environs page). The other elevated pictures (up the page, or 1 2 ) are taken from various points on this trek.


Dried-up stream

Towards the North end of the Eastern beach, there is a river/stream that runs down the mountain side. In wet season, (November), it ended in a big pool at the back of the beach.

In dry season (January) it was dried-up.

It’s not an official hike, but the riverbed does give you a clear route into the forest if you wanted to take a look.

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I had fun looking in a rockpool half-way up, where a family of freshwater Shrimp were trapped for the season.

The babies will crawl over your hands giving you a free fish-spa.

The adolescents have cute pink claws

The young adults look kinda creepy

Check out that second pair of claws

One of them was feeding on one of grandpa’s claws that had somehow become detached. Meanwhile, one-armed grandpa himself, was scurrying-off to feed on great-grandpa’s shell.
Thai_Adang_729_riverbed-Gramps_P1193050_.JPG Thai_Adang_730_riverbed-Gramps-eats_P1193074_.jpg
It’s a long, dry Summer and it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Well, a. . . . . y’know.

Initially, everyone runs for cover when they hear you stomping up to the pool, but if you are quiet and wait, they will emerge from under their leaves.

The rockpools around Pirate Falls also have these critters living in them.

Other beasties include this stick insect. He has lovely yellow wings when in-flight.

Some butterflies

And the discarded shells of growing (?)crickets, who leave behind these empty husks when they break-out to grow a bigger shell.

Again, watch out for snakes on the trails. I didn’t see any.


There is another waterfall (Rattana Waterfall), near Area Y. I hear it’s good in the wet season. You can’t walk there from the National Park accommodation, you would have to boat/swim it around from A-Z-Y.


Some sea-dwelling plankton take-on a phosphorescent glow when given kinetic (movement) energy by a passing body. Take a walk on the wet sand after dark and watch your footsteps light up like you’re in a Michael Jackson video.

Some species of plankton leave a sparkly trail as you swim through them. I’m not sure if that works here. It was too damned cold to go in the sea after dark.


Hornbill birds like tall trees and there are quite a lot of both in the camping area near the South East cape. This little fella had come down to ground-level near the Visitors Centre for a bit of grub.




Marine National Parks in the Andaman Sea are only open in the dry season. Ostensibly this is 1 November to early May, although in 2013, they changed the opening date to 15 October. I’m not sure whether this will stick. The closing date seems to vary with the weather and how safe it is to make the journey by sea.

The West coast rainy season ‘officially’ ends on 1 November, but you can get beautiful or horrible weather two months either side of that. You’re pretty much guaranteed sunny, calm weather in February-March and early April. I’m told that it can get very hot for tent-dwellers during this period.


Getting there

There are no direct boats to Adang – you have to go via Ko Lipe. There are big-boat ferries and speedboat ferries to Ko Lipe from Pak Bara on the mainland. These take about 2 hours. Tigerline bigboat ferries go to Ko Lipe from various Andaman Islands starting in Phuket/Lanta in the North and from Langkawi, Malaysia in the South. All these ferries drop-off on floating pontoons on the South side of Ko Lipe. You have to take a local longtail boat to get to the island itself. From the pontoon, longtails to Lipe are 70B, or to Adang 100B (per person).

A couple of companies run small speedboat ferries from Lanta/the Trang Islands/Bulon down to Ko Lipe. If you ask them, they might drop you off on Adang on the way past, rather than you having to go the extra 3 km to Lipe and then paying another 100B to come back again.

If you are staying on Lipe, any longtail will take you to Adang for 100B.



The National Park facilities in Ko Adang are basic in style. It’s a Nature Reserve, not a luxury resort-and-spa. You’re not in Samui now.

There is a small restaurant, open from 7:30am -2:15pm and 5:30pm-8:15pm
The food is pretty decent. I’ve heard it said that this is best National Park kitchen in the country. There’s been a change in staff since that observation was made, but it’s still pretty good.

One-plate dishes with chicken/tofu based meals over rice are 70B, or with beef/seafood, 80B.

Bigger portions (one plate of rice, one plate of meat-dish) are 150B/200B.

Plain-rice is 20B a plate.

There is quite a variety on the menu, including noodle dishes, somtam, tom yam, whole fish, vegetarian food and ‘American breakfast’ (toast/jelly, juice, egg-sausage, coffee – 120B). 1.5 litre bottles of drinking water are 30B.

There is a little kiosk stocked with basics like soap and toothpaste. It never looked very open, but I guess they’d sell you something if you asked.

The electricity (generator) is on from 11am-2pm and 6:15pm-about midnight. If you are staying in a tent and want to charge electronics, bring a multi-socket extension, as there are only two electrical outlets (in the restaurant).

Water to the taps comes from the Pirate Waterfall. I had no problem drinking it, but I guess it depends what animal has crapped/died in the stream that day.

There are three big communal bathrooms for tent-dwellers to use. Toilets are bucket-flush; showers are cold; mosquitos come free. The bathrooms are quite swanky with mirrors and ceramic tiles and all, but they didn’t get cleaned too often and day-trippers left them in a hell of a mess. Presumably people over from Lipe never figured out how to use a bucket-flush.



There is a small National Park Visitor Centre containing some marine information and exhibits.

There is no wifi or internet access. From Adang, you can see the wifi network for Andaman Resort over on Ko Lipe. Does anyone have the password?!

My DTAC aircard/cellphone worked fine.



You can charter a longtail boat for an all-day snorkel-trip on one of two set routes round the small islands West of Adang. The routes are similar/identical to the trips starting from Ko Lipe (Trip 1 and Trip 2, over here). The main difference is that in Lipe, there is a fixed price per person, whereas in Adang, you have to gather your own group and share the price of the longtail between however many people you found. It’s usually cheaper to go from Lipe.



I brought my own tent with me. The price is 30B per person, per night this way.

You can hire a tent from the National Park office on Adang. These come pre-erected near the sandy spit and comfortably hold two people. The price is 225B per tent, per night and includes bedding.

There is some concrete accommodation – a few longhouse rooms and two price-tiers of concrete bungalows – maybe 25 in total. I can’t say I know much about them. The venerable Tezza gives some detail here, or here’s the 2013 photos and prices from the National Park.

Advance-booking bungalows is generally not necessary, except maybe at weekends or Thai holidays. It’s the usual situation with National Park bookings – you have to pay at a Thai bank within three days of making the reservation, so it’s not great for booking from overseas. They have recently added some bank account numbers for international payments. So far, I haven’t heard any reports of how well that works.

The National Park website is for the Tarutao National Park is here. And this page is about the accommodation. Click on the button top-right to change the language settings to English.


The biggest downer about Adang is some of the Eurotrash you have to share it with. The area is small and it’s difficult to avoid the fifty-something guy bending over in his budgie-smuggler G-string/thong bikini; the people who brought fishing rods/poles to a conservation area so that they could kill the wildlife by fishing off-the-beach; or the string of people in the restaurant complaining that there is no electricity in the communal bathrooms for their Braun Styling Systems(tm). Many people seem to think that just because a nature reserve has accommodation, that makes it a five-star holiday resort. If you’re the American woman loudly announcing that you ‘hate this place’ because you can’t get coffee in the afternoon, then you should probably stay in your air-con bungalow on Lipe.


There is a 200B entry fee to the National Park for foreigners. I paid in Pak Bara, but they didn’t seem all that energetic about collecting it in Adang. It is valid for five days. Subsequent disbursements were not requested.


Alternative Maps
Most maps I’ve seen don’t include many names for the various bays and headlands. The name of the cape where the National Park accommodation is is Laem Son (?pine tree cape). This is also the name of the camp itself, but you would hardly know it.

The names on my main map, above, are copied from a big wall-chart in the park head-quarters on Ko Tarutao. (btw, don’t beat me up – there are genuinely some naming inconsistences with the other maps)

Here are a few other maps.
1 2 3 4
Two of these (from the 1970s) put Leam Son at the SW, not the SE, corner.

The islands’ original settlers – the Urak Lawoi (a group of Sea Gypsies [Chao Ley], originating from Sumatra) had a name for every inch of coastline, it seems. There are a couple of maps around showing the Urak Lawoi names:
5 6

There are some maps of the entire Taruato National Park (including some different perspectives on Adang) over here.


Other linkies:
Ko Lipe
Small islands near Lipe and Adang
Ko Rawi
Ko Tarutao
Ko Tarutao National Park, generally

Tezza on Ko Adang
National Parks website
Unesco history of the Urak Lawoi people (110 page pdf)


Cape/Bay names in Thai plaintext
Ko Adang เกาะอาดัง
Laem Son แลมสน
Au Ta lo po ya อ่าวตะโล๊ะโปยะ
Laem Ta lo po ya แหลมตะโล๊ะโปยะ
Laem Tum yong baku แหลมตัมหยงบากู
Au Ta lo lan cha อ่าวตะโล๊ะลันจา
Laem Tum yong ma lae tae อ่าวตัมหยงมแลแต
Au Ta lo li paa อ่าวตะโล๊ะลิปา
Au Ta lo ayiang อ่าวตะโล๊ะอาเยียง


Originally Written: February 2014    .  .  .  .    Last Updated: April 2017


2 responses to “Thailand_Adang


    EXCELLENT site. Congratulations and thanks for those informations. Have some good snorkels and dives.

  2. Funny, the forbidden resort is now open as Adang Resort.

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