Classic Thai national park digs
Ao Phante, Ao Molae and Ao Son, Ko Tarutao T: (089) 736 9328 ,
(074) 783 485
Most visitors set up a tent or take a simple room near park headquarters and the pier at Ao Phante Malacca in the north of Ko Tarutao. You could also go for newer digs further south at Ao Molae or the campground down at remote Ao Son. At all three sites you can expect quiet nights, vast beaches and electricity switched on from 18:00 to 06:00.
Visitors can rent two-person tents from the national park and set them up just about anywhere along any of three main beaches. If bringing your own tent it costs a mere 30 baht to camp. At Ao Phante, most campers set up under the casuarina trees that rim the beach -- scenic spots indeed. Expect a five-minute walk from there to shared cold-water bathrooms with unexpected interior gardens and tiling that was upgraded in recent years.
The old cabin-style rooms at Ao Phante come in brown wood-and-concrete buildings shaded by trees, with two rooms sharing a large porch sporting benches and tables. Interiors are banged up spacious, with hardwood floors, small desks, ceiling-mounted fans and screened windows spanning walls on three sides. Beds are notably hard and blankets heavy for the tropical climate. Small bathrooms come with sinks, Western flush toilets, cold-water showers and most likely some big spiders. These rooms do not have electric outlets, but no one bothered us when charging our phone at the visitor centre.
Closer to the beach, the orange Rak Thale (“Love Sea”) concrete bungalows are larger and equipped with lofts and electric outlets, but also fewer windows. Two-bedroom family cottages that sleep four are also available. Ao Phante’s longhouses are sliced into smaller rooms with mattresses on the floor, relying on shared bathrooms. We saw local Thais staying in these but they weren’t being offered to foreign travellers; you could ask if looking for a cheaper option.
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 along with high ceilings and better bathrooms. These are prime choices 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—and it’s not an easy bike ride or walk from one to the other.
An advantage of staying at Ao Molae is a far more manageable trip down to Ao Son and Lu Du Waterfall, one of the island’s best options for enjoying the jungle. If staying at Ao Molae you’ll need to catch a shared pick-up for 50 baht per person, departing Ao Phante at around noon for check-in and returning sometime in the morning for checkout. At other times you’ll have to pay at least 100 baht per person to charter a pick-up, or take on the hilly five-kilometre road on foot.
Ao Son also has a restaurant and bathrooms, but the old concrete bungalows were closed at research time. Only consider camping here if you’re the self-sufficient type in search of a remote atmosphere. While Ao Son is longer than the other two beaches, it also collects a lot of tidal garbage and is not any more scenic.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 23rd April, 2017.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.