Ang Thong National Marine Park is located in the Gulf of Thailand near the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Many tourism agencies on each of these islands offer day trips to the park on which you can kayak, snorkel, hike to viewpoints and relax on gorgeous sandy beaches.
While this is a great way to see some more remote scenery, there are a few considerations worth bearing in mind before booking the Ang Thong tour.
Different tours use different boats to reach the Ang Thong National Marine Park. Some are speedboats while others are slow boats – and they really are slow. There’s not a lot to do on board except sunbathe on the upper deck or sit below on uncomfortable benches. I was perfectly content dangling my legs over the side and watching the waves as the breeze caught my hair, but there was no denying there were a few grumpy faces on board. If you get seasick or bore easily, you might be better off with the faster transfer.
ANG THONG KAYAKING TIPS
To reach the beach – and entrance point for kayaking – we first had to move into a tightly crammed long tail boat, before wobbling across a floating pier and paddling through a couple of feet of water. Your best bet is to wear flip flops or sandals to prevent your feet from burning on the pier and then to take them off in the sea. When you’re choosing where to sit in your kayak, the stronger person should be at the back. Stay close to the islands because there are some fascinating overhanging rocks and even a few caves to paddle through. Wear plenty of sunscreen as there’s little shelter from the burning sun. Your tour provider should loan you a dry bag for your valuables and other items you think you’ll need.
Most Ang Thong National Marine Park tours incorporate the Emerald Lake. Reminiscent of the huge lagoon Leo and friends have to jump into on their mission to find ‘The Beach’, the viewpoint is well worth a look. Before you set off, though, bear in mind that all of the steps are really, really steep. We passed a lot of uncomfortable tourists gripping fiercely to the railings and looking like they regretted ever leaving the safety of the beach. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to swim in the lagoon, but you should have time for a quick dip in the sea before you head back to the boat.
SNORKELLING IN ANG THONG
This was by far the most disappointing part of the trip. First of all, we were only supplied with a mask and snorkel. There were no fins. By the time we reached the designated snorkel area it became apparent why. The cordoned off snorkelling area was not very big and there were so many tourists crammed inside, fins would be a hazard. Any disappointment at not being able to snorkel without the proper equipment was rapidly overwhelmed by the realisation that this was quite possibly Thailand’s – or the world’s – worst snorkelling location. Visibility was, at best, 50 cm, and despite stellar efforts, we only managed to find one small black fish. The beach area was pleasant enough, but given that snorkelling was one of the main selling points of the tour, this was a huge let down. If you’re booking a similar tour, ask where the snorkelling location is and see if they can show you some photos of the marine life. Different tours probably go to different spots, in which case you might luck out.
We paid 1,100 baht per person, plus a 300 baht admittance to the marine park itself. When booking, make sure you ask if this is included. We were provided with water, Coca Cola, tea and coffee, a light breakfast of croissant and a banana, and a good lunch of rice, vegetables, chicken and spring rolls. None of the activities cost extra, although it’s worth taking some cash each time you leave the boat, for refreshments or emergencies.
GETTING TO ANG THONG
There are so many options for transport in Thailand that it can be difficult figuring out your route. Overnight trains are the cheapest, but buses are a little faster, and planes much easier. Sometimes it can be frustrating finding legs of the journey that aren’t hours apart. You also have the option of heading over to Koh Samui via one of the other islands or either Chumphon or Surat Thani on the mainland. To make your decision less complicated, you could use a transport planning app.