Angthong National Marine Park guide
Angthong National Marine Park is a place that’s full of wonder. Think hidden lagoons featured in Hollywood blockbusters, rock formations that tell stories from centuries ago and vantage points that offer uninterrupted views of the Gulf of Thailand.
Just an hour-long boat ride from Koh Samui, Angthong – which directly translates to “Golden Basin” in Thai – refers to a group of 42 islands that make up the vast national marine reserve.
For first-timers, the sheer number of islands to visit may seem overwhelming. Especially if we’re gunning for a fulfilling itinerary on a limited budget.
That’s why we’ve done the homework for you by curating only the most underrated islands within the park – including a hidden turquoise oasis, and an hour-long hike to a panoramic viewpoint of all 42 islands.
Other beaches worth checking out in Thailand:
- Swim with pigs at Koh Matsum
- Private beach resort in Koh Kood with free kayak rentals
- Black sand beaches in Thailand
Hike to the world-famous Emerald Lake on Ko Mae Koh
Koh Mae Koh is one of the basin’s most famous islands – home to the saltwater lagoon, Talay Nai, or “Emerald Lake”.
Image credit: @jamesrludlow
The green-hued saltwater lagoon is encircled by millennia-old limestone cliffs – a cinematic locale that has Hollywood’s stamp of approval.
Emerald Lake made an appearance in the 2000s romance flick starring Leonardo DiCaprio, The Beach – as titular ‘Beach’, breathing life into the story that unfolds. Despite its fame, the lagoon does guard secrets of its own closely.
Image credit: @mywaytobemyself
Emerald Lake is known as a “secret” lagoon because you won’t be able to see it unless you fly over it, or hike up to it. To get to Talay Nai, guests will have to climb up a snaking staircase.
But we’re 100% positive that the unadulterated view at the pinnacle of the climb – aka the lagoon’s shining, shimmering, splendid emerald waters – will make you forget all about your burning calves.
Image credit: @stellavillela
Part of the reason Talay Nai is so pristine is because it’s a protected area – this means that there is no swimming or drone photography permitted onsite.
So if you’re not itching to hike for miles just to see some green lagoon, enjoy equally pristine seas right at the shores of Ko Mae Koh while sipping out of a coconut.
Image credit: @hdrvisuals
Unlike Emerald Lake, there’s nothing stopping you from diving into the turquoise waters along these shores.
Do note that the lagoon is closed from November to December, so if Emerald Lake is high on your trip’s bucket list, we’d recommend going during any other month.
Visit the “Sleeping Dragon” a.k.a Koh Wao Yai
Next on our list is a rugged island that looks like the aftermath of an epic clash between a fellowship of Hobbits and Sauron.
While it took Frodo about three Lord of the Rings films to get to Barad-dûr, you’ll only need an hour’s boat ride from Koh Samui to gaze upon Koh Wao Yai’s towering cliffs, with sharp, jagged faces that look like something out of Mordor.
Locals say Koh Wao Yai resembles a sleeping dragon, but we’d say it looks a little more like a dragon’s habitat.
Image credit: Islander.io
Known as the island of the sleeping dragon, Koh Wao Yai boasts swim-throughs and semi-hidden caves that contribute to the island’s fantastical vibe.
Image credit: Jose Deguelle via Google Maps
Though known for its craggy and rugged geological features, the island is equally famous for the clear and calm waters that juxtapose the island’s rough terrain.
Visitors will be hard-pressed to visit Koh Wao Yai and see that it’s not teeming with tour boats, as it’s a popular kayaking, snorkeling and diving destination.
Image credit: @sabina_javornic
While we couldn’t find pictures of the underwater fauna, you’re just going to have to take our word that divers were so enamored by the “sleeping dragon” – they simply didn’t have time to snap pics.
Kayak through a gravity-defying archway at Koh Sam Sao (Tripod Island)
The waters that surround Koh Sam Sao possess a uniquely turquoise hue comparable to that of Emerald Lake. Lush, abundant greenery also blankets the entire island, giving rise to a sense of mystery.
Image credit: @pfleisch87
Visitors who gaze upon Mother Nature’s professionally sculpted triple-peaked rock as pictured, will quickly understand why it’s called the “Tripod Island”.
But what secrets lie beneath the crystal clear waterways and granite formations? There’s no better way to find out than to embark on a kayaking expedition.
Image credit: Bangkok Airways Blog
At Koh Sam Sao, we recommend that guests explore the island via kayak, to get up close and personal with these gravity-defying structures.
There’s just something about paddling through what seems to be a gate that separates the island from the outside world.
Keep a lookout for this mystifying naturally-formed archway that divides the island’s coast from the larger seas.
Image credit: @bluestarskayakingsamui
Chill backpackers who prefer to stay on the shores over kayaking can indulge in a National Geographic-esque sea creature expedition instead.
Image credit: @tonmaithaiart
Expect ocean waters so translucent that you can see tens of metres down into the seabed. Basically, if Marlin and Dory swam through here, they’d have a much easier time navigating the journey to find Nemo.
Image credit: @mui.mamui
Thankfully, the first couple metres off of Koh Sam Sao’s shores are blocked off from boats, explaining its uncannily-clear waters, as part of efforts to preserve marine life.
Rest assured that the island’s ecosystem will continue to thrive, even after you depart.
Conquer a panoramic viewpoint & trek through a cave on Koh Wua Talap
Famous for its viewpoint that delivers uninterrupted panoramic views of the entire Golden Basin, Koh Wua Talap is usually the last stop on most tours.
Besides saving the best for last, it’s also due to the fact that guests are encouraged to invest more time into fully exploring this island haven.
Image credit: @thosethingsilove
The viewpoint is approximately 500 metres above sea level, and would take about 45 minutes to hike up and down.
If you’re not too big on hiking but want to snag some cool shots, you can always stop on the steps to take pictures – it’s just as aesthetic.
Image credit: @thai.landofsmiles
Avid adventurers who’re game to hike another 100-metres up from the viewpoint should stop by Bua Bok Cave.
The cave’s adorned with stalactites, large limestone formations, and is probably vast enough for actual Zubats to inhabit.
For real, though, we’d recommend trying to make it up to the cave as it’s really not every day you get to step into a place that looks like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.
Image credit: @wkaosmaunt
Koh Wua Talap is just as beautiful at the beach as it is up at the viewpoint – whether you get there by kayak or well-worn hiking shoes.
Image credit: @bluestarskayakingsamui
Though hiking and kayaking in tandem may sound a little taxing, just remember that you can slip back into your comfy slippers and air-conditioned hotel room in the evening.
As for how to get here, most tours offer a kayaking excursion through this underrated gem at Angthong National Marine Park.
Angthong National Marine Park
Opening Hours: 24H, Daily
Address: 45/1-2 Moo 1 Thongsala Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84280
Price: ฿300 (~USD9) entrance fee
Getting to Angthong National Marine Park from Koh Samui
Koh Samui has a myriad of tour options for Angthong National Marine Park. Charter a private yacht for a multi-day trip, join a group tour for a snorkeling adventure, or go on a semi-private sunset cruise. The world’s your oyster.
Image credit: Samui Island Explorer
There’s a ฿300 (~USD9) entrance fee for the park, but most of these tours include this charge in the price.
If you’re interested in heading over to Koh Samui, Bangkok Airways operates non-stop flights from Singapore every Monday, Thursday and Sunday.
50 free getaways from Singapore to Koh Samui, are up for grabs for flights between 1st September 2021 to 31st October 2021.
Since your trip comprises more than flight costs, visitors will be thrilled to hear the fully-sponsored package includes:
- Round-trip flight tickets
- Accommodation for three nights
- Hotel-Airport transfer
- RT-PCR tests
All you’ll need is a Certificate of Entry (COE) to enter. You’ll be looking out for a booking code from TAT, once the COE is pre-approved.
Next, use the promo code to claim your well-deserved free Bangkok Airways flights upon checkout. Terms and conditions apply, so do visit their website for the full deets.
Once flight details are settled, travellers can begin planning where to stay.
Currently, visitors stay in an Samui Extra Plus hotel before moving to a SHA Plus accomodation, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao resorts included.
The Lamai Resort Samui, Samui Extra Plus and SHA Plus certified
Image credit: @tattzto
Here’s a list of Samui Extra Plus and SHA Plus accredited hotels that have passed strict health, safety and hygiene standards.
Image credit: @abba_neo
Clocking in at over 40 islands, each with its own take on paradise, Angthong National Marine Park should be on the list of anyone who says they love The Beach.
After spending a year cooped up in our homes and dreary offices, it’s probably high time we give ourselves that nature retreat that we’ve been dreaming about since 2020.
This post was brought to you by the Tourism Authority of Thailand Singapore Office.