The delightfully scenic marine park of Ang Thong consists of 42 small islands stretched out to the west of Ko Samui. The islands and waters that surround them support a huge variety of wildlife including macaques, dolphins and kingfishers. However, you don’t have to be a birdwatcher or naturalist to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the islands. The name Ang Thong translates to ‘Gold Bowl’ and refers to one of the park’s main attractions, a stunning landlocked salt-water lake (pictured). It is this lake that is said to be the inspiration behind Alex Garland’s book, ‘The Beach’.
The pirate ships which used to hide amongst the islands have long since departed and have been replaced by tour boats which are the only practical way to get to the marine park. If money is no object, then you have the option of chartering a private boat, but the vast majority of visitors elect to join the organised day-trips which can be arranged from just about every tour operator on Ko Samui (and some on Ko Pha Ngan). A typical day tour involves a cruise amongst the islands, with stops for snorkelling and swimming followed by lunch on one of the islands and a chance to climb up to some of the various viewpoints or just lounge on the beach. Please note that some of the viewpoints, including that for the salt-water lake, involve a bit of physical effort to climb to the top of the steps. Taking along plenty of water and enclosed shoes or sandals rather than flip-flops (thongs) will make life easier. As you can see from the photo above, it’s well worth a little bit of effort to get there.
Some tours offer the chance to go kayaking and explore the caves and hidden nooks and crannies of the islands. There are a few tour operators who also offer a two-day trip which provides the opportunity to stay on one of the islands overnight (usually camping on a beach).