Photo: A snippet of Ko Adang's Laem Som.


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The dramatic mountains of Ko Adang loom over Ko Lipe like protective uncles rooted in jungle. These two islands are so close together that, when arriving on Lipe at Pattaya Beach, many visitors assume that Adang’s bulging slopes are part of Lipe’s interior. In fact, the two neighbours in Mu Ko Tarutao National Marine Park could hardly be more different.

The island’s name comes from the Malay word udang, meaning "prawn,” and the surrounding sea was once full of them. This partly explains why dynamite fishermen fought national park rangers after the boundaries of Thailand’s first marine park were drawn to include Adang in 1974. On one occasion, 10 rangers had to radio for an air rescue after bullets sprayed their longtail boat.

Ko Adang seen from Ko Lipe. Photo taken in or around Ko Adang, Thailand by David Luekens.

Ko Adang seen from Ko Lipe. Photo: David Luekens

While Lipe is now heavily developed, old-growth jungle blankets nearly all of Adang and other islands in the Adang (or Butang) archipelago, including Ko Rawi and Ko Tong. The only humans are found at park headquarters and accommodation in the south; one illegally built resort that we’ve heard will probably close in 2018; and an Urak Lawoi village at Talo Puya Bay to the east. After living here for generations, these “sea gypsies” have been allowed to stay, for now, on land that the park has accused them of encroaching on.

The rest of the island’s 30 square kilometres belong to the jungle and its resident macaques, wild boars, cobras, hornbills and countless other critters. Locals believe that spirits also inhabit the island, a notion that was perpetuated when a Thai woman got lost for several days after a “strange force” made her wander deep into the woods, or so we’ve heard. Trails are minimal and there are no roads, so do be careful when exploring the interior.

Adang is home to plenty of old-growth jungle. Photo taken in or around Ko Adang, Thailand by David Luekens.

Adang is home to plenty of old-growth jungle. Photo: David Luekens

Visible from as far away as Ko Libong on a clear day, Adang’s mountains reach up to 650 metres and form a dramatic backdrop to Lipe’s beaches. A series of viewpoints on Chadoe Cliff afford tremendous vistas to Ko Tarutao, Ko Khai, Ko Lipe and the smooth blue Andaman in between. For more of a challenge, a park ranger may be able to lead you on a full-day trek to a higher summit that can also be seen from Lipe.

Adang’s beaches are notable for grains of black sand that derive from tourmaline fragments and blend into the otherwise white coral sand. Known as Laem Son after the cluster of pine-like son trees that tower nearby, the beach at park headquarters is aesthetically similar to Sunrise Beach on Lipe, but with more tidal garbage and far fewer people. You’ll also find a reef where you don’t have to worry too much about the threat of boat traffic.

Adang's beaches feature black sand deriving from tourmaline fragments in their mix. Photo taken in or around Ko Adang, Thailand by David Luekens.

Adang's beaches feature black sand deriving from tourmaline fragments in their mix. Photo: David Luekens

A three-kilometre hike inland from park headquarters takes you to the small but pretty Pirate’s Waterfall. With more time you could hop in a longtail boat to hit the larger Jon Salad Waterfall along with isolated beaches rimming more distant shores. While Adang is most often visited as a day trip from Lipe, those seeking serenity could settle into a basic bungalow or tent at park headquarters, easily reachable by longtail boat from Lipe’s Sunrise Beach.

Trying to decide between Ko Adang and Ko Tarutao? We suggest Adang if you’re mostly keen on snorkelling and relaxing at an idyllic beach with clear water and reefs. But we’d give Tarutao the nod if you prefer mountain biking and hiking. Adang’s close proximity to Lipe is an advantage in many ways, but it does make it hard to escape the buzz of all those boats.

Note that all national park services at Ko Adang close each year during rainy season from May 15 to October 15.

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Located 65 kilometres west of mainland Satun province in far southwestern Thailand, Ko Adang is just over a kilometre north of Ko Lipe. Don’t attempt to swim across the deep channel that separates these two islands—strong currents and boat traffic can be very dangerous. The nearest ATMs, medical facilities, police office and WiFi are all found on Lipe, which you’ll need to pivot through to reach Adang.

Honey, our longtail's coming from Lipe! Photo taken in or around Ko Adang, Thailand by David Luekens.

Honey, our longtail's coming from Lipe! Photo: David Luekens

At national park headquarters on Laem Son you’ll find a basic park-run restaurant, atmospheric campground, bungalows and visitor centre. The latter doubles as a museum with displays on the environment, wildlife and the Urak Lawoi people. A ticket to Mu Ko Tarutao National Park costs 200 baht for adults and 100 for children, but officials at Adang have never asked us to pay.

It took us an hour to climb the steep trail up to Chadoe Cliff, which begins a few hundred metres east of the visitor centre. The three-kilometre trail to Pirate’s Falls starts along the beach to the west. Jon Salad Waterfall is located inland from Adang’s west coast, while the Urak Lawoi village at Ao Talo Puya is found on the east coast. To reach either of these you’ll need to employ a longtail boat.

Decent basic bungalows. Photo taken in or around Ko Adang, Thailand by David Luekens.

Decent basic bungalows. Photo: David Luekens

Pockets of coral surround Adang and make for some fine snorkelling opportunities. Snorkels can be rented for 50 baht at the visitor centre, but we were told that kayaks are not available. Park staffers don’t tend to be very friendly, though the man we most recently spoke with at the visitor centre did a fine job of answering our questions.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Ko Adang.
 Read up on where to eat on Ko Adang.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Ko Adang.
 Read up on how to get to Ko Adang, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Ko Adang? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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