Angthong Marine Park
One of the most popular and talked about places to visit on Koh Samui is Angthong Marine Park. Even though it is quite popular, because of the draw by the islands of Koh Phangan, which has the Full Moon and Half Moon Parties, and Koh Tao with its famous diving. Often Angthong Marine Park gets lost amongst the other attractions. Even I forgot about Angthong Marine Park until recently and didn’t visit it until after living in the area for a year. Although others might tell you differently, I think a visit to this park should be on everyone’s list when they visit Koh Samui. It’s very scenic and beautiful, a good price, and is an efficient use of your time. After visiting the park, I really appreciated how well preserved the marine park has been kept even with the flocks of tourists visiting each day.
History of Angthong Marine Park
Angthong Marine Park was established in the 1980s to protect some of Thailand’s most stunning geography. There are over 42 islands in the Angthong Marine Park and the majority of the park includes water. Because the islands are made of limestone, they have been easily eroded to become the ocean’s creative masterpieces that they are today. Ang Thong in Thai means Golden Bowl and many of the islands are named after their appearance.
Because there are so many companies that take people to the marine park, you don’t need to worry about booking your ticket too far in advance, unless you have a really unflexible schedule. Barring this, booking a day or two in advance is sufficient time. Don’t forget that the marine park isn’t open during the months of November and December. There are many different companies to choose from the more expensive trips are private boats or charters. They can cost anywhere upwards of 3,000 baht. If you don’t mind being with a crowd of people then the cheaper option of 1,500-2,000 baht is for you. (I don’t enjoy being on crowded trips, but we did the cheaper route and I didn’t feel that crowded.)
Once you’ve booked your ticket most companies will come pick you up at your hotel between 6:30-7 am. The van will drive you to the pier and you’ll board the boat around 8 am departure is between 8:30-9 am. Breakfast at least on our trip was provided. In the evening you’ll get dropped off at your hotel around 6-7 pm. I really enjoyed Samui Island Tour to visit Angthong Marine Park because it included round-trip transportation, breakfast, and lunch. The food was pretty good too.
Samui Island Tour Company to visit Angthong Marine Park
Although there are a lot of people on the boat I never felt as crowded as I thought I would. The boat is big enough that people can spread out around it. Samui Island Tour split our large group in half and alternated activities. This really helped to make it feel like there were fewer people. Be warned though that on any given day there are many different tour companies visiting Angthong Marine Park, so it will be hard, even going with a private charter to not see other people. The best way to visit Angthong Marine Park crowd free is to camp there overnight.
Itinerary for the day:
After you set sail the boat trip lasts about an hour and a half from Samui to the Angthong Marine Park. This is a great time to relax on the ship with a book or a game that can’t get blown over by the wind. If you bring a beach towel there is an upstairs deck where you can stretch out in the hot sun and tan.
At the Marine Park, you’ll visit two islands.
Mae Koh Island
Time to Kayak!
The first island Mae Koh Island is where you have the opportunity to kayak. From the boat or to the boat depending on your group you’ll paddle to this scenic island with steep stairs. The kayaking trip is about 30 minutes long either direction. We really enjoyed it because our tour guide took us on a route that was just right for my level of adventure.
Our guide was a sea wizened, tan, older woman. It was very evident she loved her job and the sea, the tourists though maybe not quite so much. She meandered ahead of us carving our path through the water and leading us under the iconic landmass cliffs carved by the ocean onto tall rocks that jet out of the ocean. These small overhangs I would never go under normally but with her, I felt safe and we kayaked underneath them. They were really neat because they looked like they had been made from magma because the rocks were eroded away leaving lots of mini half spheres in the rock face. With all the waves bouncing us up and down we had to watch out to make sure we didn’t hit our heads. It was a really fun time following our guide through small caves and tunnels in these overhangs.
The caves can get a little crowded and one of our tour member’s boats tipped over. Make sure to wear that life jacket. Fortunately, most of the trip is over shallow water so it wasn’t that hard to get everyone back in the boat. I expect that this happens at least a few times a week, especially with tourists who don’t have very much experience with kayaks.
On Mae Koh Island
Mae Koh Island is a small, very steep, island that is extremely crowded. The beach though small has white sand and the water is a beautiful, bright, turquoise. The attraction of the island isn’t the beach however it’s the inland salwater lagoon. To get to the lagoon you have to hike up many sets of steep steep stairs. They are so steep I seriously was considering whether it was better to crawl up the steps instead of walk because they were steep enough to almost climb. Needless to say, if you have sensitive knees take it very easy going up and down them. Once you climb all the steps there is a breathtaking view of the lagoon and the surrounding islands.
On the way back down you can opt to go all the way down the steps to platforms that walk out over the lagoon. I highly recommend doing this extra part even though it’s vertigo-inducing climbing down the steps to get there. I think this was one of the most pristine and untouched environments I have ever witnessed. There were huge schools of fish, cool seaweeds, and corals that could be seen on the platform because the water is so clear. With all of these steps, you might be sore the next day.
We’re having lunch on a boat!
Lunch was a huge array of great Thai food they had a chicken dish, veggies, spring rolls, and fruit. It was really filling and good. We were surprised that they did such a great job with the food because feeding so many people is hard.
Koh Wau Ta Lap Island
The second island, Koh Wau Ta Lap Island, is where you are able to snorkel. Although the day we went it had low visibility. If the purpose of this trip is to snorkel, then this isn’t the trip for you. Samui Island Tour does have great snorkels and masks. They are clean and in good condition, but ultimately the best snorkeling isn’t found right on a beach and you’ll be disappointed if this is the reason you went on this trip.
The swimming is great at this beach. It is a semi-long beach that is white and picturesque. If you are doing the boat tour, like what we did, you have about two hours here. I wish we’d had more time. There is a viewpoint hike that is very steep. Steep is the theme of these islands. It’s a total of 500 brutal meters. We made it only up to level three due to time restraints. If you take the time to get all the way to the top I heard it’s worth the effort. All three levels that we saw were very beautiful.
Camping at the Marine Park
A neat aspect of this island is that you can get a long tail boat to bring you here to stay over night. Renting a bungalow or camping here is really cheap only about 500 baht a night. All the tourists are gone by 3 pm so after that the island is yours. It’s large enough that there are areas to explore. Also, there is a bathroom and shower. You would need to bring your own heat source and food. As there is only a small shop which closes pretty early in the day and doesn’t offer much in terms of food.
Getting back to Koh Samui
After a few hours on Koh Wau Ta Lap Island, it’s time to head back to Samui. Fortunately, the long ride back is a great time to sleep, read, or look at the photos that you took of your day. At the pier, vans are waiting to bring everyone back to their hotel. We got back to our house by about 6-6:30 pm.
Let us know how your trip to Angthong Marine Park went! Visiting Angthong Marine Park is defintely a must do when you are visiting the island of Koh Samui. It’s beautiful and well organized. Plus since the companies that visit the park are taking good care of Angthong Marine Park, you are supporting an environmental cause.
Let us know your thoughts and comments below! We can’t wait to hear about your trip. As always feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for tips and advice.