It will be a while before I can write this up in full detail. Here is a short version for now:
Ang Thong (Marine) National Park, Thailand
Ang Thong is a string of islands to the East of Chumphon and to the West of Gulf Islands Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui in Southern Thailand. Ang Thong has about 40 islands in total. The Northern half of the archipelago is designated as a National Park.
Views from the surface and some elevated viewpoints are spectacular, but underwater visibility is extremely bad and most of the park is a non-starter for snorkelling because of this.
Apparently, the poor underwater viz is caused by the relatively shallow waters in the area combined with mainland river runoff (at the South of the archipelago). Visibility improves towards the Northern end of the park and most of the day-trip boats from Pha Ngan and Samui do a snorkelling stop at the far Northern end where the snorkelling is pretty decent.
There are no public ferries to Ang Thong and most people visit the islands as part of a day-trip. A day trip typically consists of a snorkel session; a walk around an inland lake; and a climb up to a spectacular viewpoint. Some trips also include a ~2km kayak trip along the edge of an island.
There is a National Park camp on one island. There is a restaurant, toilets and tents where people can stay-over for a couple of nights. Some day-trip operators will allow you to “split” a day trip – effectively using their trip as a means of transport for getting to and from the islands for your overnight stay.
I visited in May and stayed for about a week. You are mostly land-locked on the camping island, and there isn’t very much to do there. One or two nights is enough for most people. I wanted to explore as much snorkelling as I could and I swam about 40km around the islands. I am not recommending that you do this.
The National Park camp is on Ko Wua Talap (Sleeping Buffalo Island) (At point 1 on the map).
There is a small, roped off, snorkelling area to the right of the beach, where you can have a snorkel as an alternative to making the long climb to the viewpoint. There are some decent corals there, but the visibility is atrocious.
I based myself at the National Park camp at Ko Wua Talap. Below are some of the highlights from about 40km of snorkelling around the surrounding islands (my route is the marked by the burgundy line on the map, above).
But here are the best bits, all the same. Mouseover for speciesnames:
On Ko Wua Talap, apart from the hike to the viewpoint, there is another trail to a cave:
This hike is usually offered as a ‘less strenuous’ alternative to the viewpoint trail (although it is still pretty steep and needs hauling yourself up climb-ropes).
Island Ko Mair Ko has an ‘emerald’ lake enclosed inside it (point 3 on the map). There is a wooden walkway along one edge, with an elevated viewpoint and very steep staircases. Walking around the walkway is a feature of all the daytrips.
You can’t get into the water.
Some of the scenes from the movie ‘ The Beach’ were filmed here. There isn’t actually a beach here – the scenes showing the beach were filmed on Ko Phi Phi Ley, on the Andaman side.
The daytrips allow you to (pay extra) to take a kayak on a designated stretch of coastline. You can get a close-up of the karst rocks and you can kayak underneath the overhanging rock.
Here are some daytrippers conga-ing from point 2 to 3 on the map.
The slowboat trips have less time on the islands than the speedboat trips. Generally with the speedboats, you can do both the kayaking and the walk around the lake; but with the slowboat trips you have to choose one or the other.
Off the daytrip routes – here are a couple of nice spots on the islands.
There is a natural rock bridge on the North side of Saam Sao island (4 on the map).
It looked like only a couple of the high-end operators from Samui came here (Chat and Zero-degrees North).
The coastlines of the islands are 80% karst rocks, but there are a few lovely deserted beaches dotted around the place. Here is the longest beach in the park, on Ko Hin Dap:
(a 15km round-trip swim from Park HQ!).
Generally, people who stop-over stay in tents provided by the National Park on Ko Wua Talap. These are about 300B per night. There are a couple of concrete huts for about 500B, but you will likely find that these are already in use.
(Prices correct at 2013)
The usual problems with booking National Park huts apply. You have to pay within 3 days at a Thai bank. There are plenty of tents though.
If you bring your own tent, it is 30B a night.
Drinking water is quite expensive – so you might want to bring a supply.
It is possible to rent kayaks for 500B per day. There are no other means for campers to move between the islands.
There are some English speakers at the National Park camp.
There is also a ranger station at Saam Sao island. The National Park website says you can stay there, but you can’t (well, you can – but only if you have your own tent, food, water, cooking facilities and boat).
There aren’t any public ferries going to Ang Thong. I got to the islands by ‘splitting’ a daytrip from Ko Pha Ngan. Head out on one day, stay over, then head back a few days later.
In 2013, there were three operators running daytrips from Ko Pha Ngan – two speedboats and one bigboat. Only the bigboat was willing to split a trip so that I could stay over on the islands.
The Orion (big boat, out of Ko Pha Ngan). I paid 1700B. The daytrip price included snorkel sets, soft drinks and lunch. Not alcohol or (optional) kayaking (or accommodation on the island!!). The speedboats were >2000B.
There seemed to be about another 10 operators arriving in Ang Thong every day (presumably all from Samui). Two of these were big boats.
National Park entrance fees are 200B, usually paid on the boat. (Edit: Increased to 300B in Feb 2015).
That’s it for now – someday I will get around to writing up the detailed, inch-by-inch version.
Written: June 2013 Last updated: Apr 2017