The largest number of bungalows is found alongside park headquarters at Ao Phante Malaka in the north of Ko Tarutao, with a second location a few kilometres further south at Ao Molae. At both sites, expect quiet nights, sea breezes and monkeys who will snatch food and other items if you’re not careful. Power used to shut down at 23:00, but on our most recent visit the ceiling-mounted fan kept humming straight until 06:00.
At both Ao Phante and Ao Molae, visitors can rent standard-issue tents from the national park and set them up wherever they please in those vicinities. Sleeping mats and other equipment will run you a little extra, but camping is the cheapest option on the island. Most pitch their tents under the casuarina trees just back from the beach — idyllic spots that aren’t too far from the shared cold-water bathrooms.
Visitor Centre staff told us that it’s not possible to set up tents at Ao Son. However this runs contrary to other reports so don’t be afraid to push the issue if you’re looking for a more remote location (most things in Thailand are flexible). Visitors are also welcome to set up their own tents for the cost of a cheap coffee.
Ao Phante is the original accommodation area on Tarutao and it’s still where most visitors choose to stay. More like cabins than bungalows, the cheapest rooms come in brown wood-and-concrete buildings shaded by trees, with two rooms situated side by side. Outfitted with benches, tables and clotheslines, the porches are huge.
Interiors are also spacious, with hardwood floors, small desks and screened windows with white drapes spanning the walls on three sides. Beds are hard, linens cheap and the only blankets are superfluously heavy. Small bathrooms come with sinks, Western flush toilets and cold-water showers. No mosquito nets are provided, and while we didn’t have a problem sleeping, we did find quite a large spider in the bathroom.
Closer to the beach, the “Rak Thale” (“Love Sea”) bungalows are larger and equipped with lofts, but have fewer windows. Two-bedroom family cottages that sleep four are also available. Ao Phante’s longhouse is sliced into shared rooms with four mattresses on the floor that are rented individually and rely on shared bathrooms. The value on these is poor — either splurge for a private room or take a tent.
Down at Ao Molae, a smaller collection of newer concrete bungalows go for the same price as their Ao Phante counterparts but come with larger glass windows facing the sea, vaulted ceilings and better bathrooms. Outfitted with double beds rather than the usual two twins, these are prime for couples in search of seclusion. A small restaurant is located here, but some might feel too isolated away from the main park services at Ao Phante.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 3rd August, 2015.