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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Angthong Marine National Park: A Natural Wonder in the Gulf of Thailand

If you are visiting the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, you should ensure that you don’t give Angthong Marine National Park a miss. Mu Ko Ang Thong is an archipelago of 42 limestone islands that rise up in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand and are possibly one of Thailand’s top sights.

Angthong view from Moe Koh Island
This place that means ‘bowl of gold’ is famous for its rich coral waters, fabulous beaches, amazing caves and mind blowing panoramic views. And since this place is a marine national park, most of it is uninhabited except for one island, where a small population resides.

Anthong - Scenic beauty at the best...
The most popular way to explore Angthong is by taking a day trip from Koh Samui or Koh Phangan. The approximate cost of an all inclusive day tour from Koh Samui should be 1300 THB, while that from Koh Phangan should be 1800 THB. The cost might vary a little depending on boat and services offered. If you’d like to stay away from the crowd that an organized tour brings, you have the option of chartering a private boat.

Snorkeling at Angthong
I took the tour from Koh Phangan on a speed boat and it began roughly at around 8:15 AM and ended at 5 PM. In this, a light breakfast, snorkeling, lunch on one of the islands, hiking to the view points and kayaking is included.

Swimming amidst the limestone rocks of Angthong
It is super critical that the weather be good when you  go on this trip as otherwise you will end up seeing no views. Hence, when I saw blue skies in the morning, I was really happy and hoped that it stays like that for the rest of the day.

The natural wonder of Angthong Archipelago
It took me about 45 minutes from the Thongsala pier to our first pit stop, the Koh Wao island, where we were supposed to get wet and snorkel. The visibility was perfect in this 5-10m coral reef and a variety  of fishes could be seen in huge numbers and that too at the surface. When I was in the water, I felt like I was in the middle of these fishes. Such was their huge numbers. 

Emerald Lake in Angthong
The next stop was lunch at Koh Sam Sai island, but before that we passed by some of the iconic islands of Angthong, namely monkey island and lion island. Basically, if you have a good imagination, you can see an entire island looking like a monkey face. The other lion island used to look like a lion, but the lion’s head dropped off during a storm and only its body remains.

Steeo hike that leads to Emerald Lake
Koh Sam Sai Island was a nice small island with a pretty beach. A dip in the sea was followed by lunch and then a short break in the shade. The island looked nice, but I didn’t explore as it was a bit too warm and I wanted to reserve my energies for the climb to the famous Angthong view point.

Limestone cliffs of Moe Koh Island
The next stop was Koh Mae Ko island from where one can see the salt water emerald lake and the view point from where one can supposedly see the entire 42 islands of Angthong. The climb to the top of the view point is fairly short, but extremely steep and can send your heart rate soaring in no time. The saturated air just made the climb a tad more difficult. But, the end result was totally worth it as the view was simply spectacular.

The place where you land at Moe Koh Island in Angthong
On one side, you could see the emerald lake or Talay nai and if you turned around, you would see the limestone islands of Angthong. From here one can climb down to the emerald lake, though swimming is prohibited in this lake. It took another climb and descent to get back to the boat jetty. Here we took a much needed swim to cool our over heated bodies.

Moored Boats at Anthong
The next and the last stop was Koh Pee island where we could explore the forests and see its monkeys, simply swim and laze around, play a game of beach volleyball or go kayaking through the caves surrounding the island.

Moored Ship and Kayaking
The return journey was fairly uneventful as we were all tired, but the beautiful memories remained. I would definitely recommend this place to all kinds of travelers to Thailand. Such sights, if accessible are not to be missed.

White sands at Angthong's Beaches
Note: Carry a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, lots of water and a shirt for snorkeling as the sun can be really bright and warm during the day.



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