Cycling, hiking and beach-hopping, Ko Tarutao

From Ao Phante to Ao Son

What we say: 3.5 stars

Travelling by bicycle, there are two ways to go from park headquarters at Ao Phante. The southeastern route to the Talo Wao historical trail is a great option, but those set on swimming and hiking should opt for the slightly easier western road. Vast beaches, paths leading through dense jungle and refreshing mountain streams await. So does a sore behind.

A stop at Ao Molae along the way?

A stop at Ao Molae along the way?

The narrow concrete road doesn’t waste any time before winding up and down steep hills that occasionally open to southwesterly sea views. Even if your body is in Tour de France shape, you might walk up the steeper stretches to take it easy on the overworked bikes that look more solid than they are.

You might want to bring a wrench.

You might want to bring a wrench.

Descending to Ao Molae, countless macaques took little notice of our presence. Monitor lizards, snakes, swirls of butterflies, hornbills and a wild boar that let out a squeal as it sprinted across the road were also spotted along the way.

“Look: he’s waving!”

Home to the park’s second set of bungalows, Ao Molae is a formidable expanse of sand with a limestone cliff to the north. We found it utterly empty apart from the monkeys.

That's one big, empty beach.

That’s one big, empty beach.

Further down the road, we stopped for a drink but hesitated before pushing off. Arm-like roots of the dectarocarp trees nudged onto the mossy road. Hardy umbrella palms tapped in the breeze, and the rich sounds of the forest filled our ears. This, right here, is what a visit to Ko Tarutao is all about.

Into the wilds.

Into the wilds.

Another four km of pedaling and we arrived at Ao Son, a beach that we reckon is long and wide enough to safely land a jumbo jet at low tide. The road ends here, and we had difficulty finding the trail head for Lo Po Waterfall that supposedly begins halfway down the beach.

And that's a bigger, empty beach.

And that’s a bigger, empty beach.

Instead we hiked inland towards Lu Du Waterfall, following a trail that began just before the road ended at Ao Son. The trail was not well marked or maintained, but it was easy enough to follow the rocky stream bed. A wide breadth of strangling vines, towering trees, flowers and fungi coloured in the path.

Beauty in the details.

Beauty in the details.

Upon reaching the waterfall after an hour of hopping from rock to rock and bending under fallen trees, we found the water trickling over a slanted rock shelf. Even so, the emerald pool that it emptied into was darn refreshing. The hike and bike ride were worth the time in their own right.

Enjoy your swim.

Enjoy your swim.

The bike ride from Ao Phante to Ao Son covers some eight km of hilly road, and the hike to either waterfall (assuming you can find the way to Lo Do) is another two to three km. Bring plenty of water. In theory, restaurants open at Ao Molae and Ao Son from 08:00 to 14:00 and 17:30 to 20:00. If you don’t feel like cycling, a pick-up taxi can usually run you to Ao Son from Ao Phante for 600 baht.

Last updated: 17th January, 2015

About the author:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.
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