The Malay word tarutao means "old, mysterious, primitive". With gnarly cliffs, former prison sites, immense beaches and old-growth jungle thriving on mountains that reach up to 700 metres, Ko Tarutao does indeed stir up a primeval sense of awe.
Despite being Thailand’s fourth largest island at 152 square kilometres, Tarutao has never really been settled thanks to its reputation as a place of criminals, beasts and ghosts. The Thai government sent 3,000 prisoners here in the 1930s and ‘40s; common criminals were banished to Ao Talo Wao while political prisoners, including a son of then-exiled King Rama VII, were interned at remote Ao Talo Udang. Supplies ran dry during World War II, when scores of prisoners died and others turned to piracy for survival. At both sites, you can now explore the ruins and learn some of the harrowing tales from the past.
In 1974 the island was officially protected as part of Mu Ko Tarutao National Marine Park, which also includes Ko Adang, Ko Rawi and several other islands found near Ko Lipe, some 45 kilometres further west in the Andaman Sea. As the kingdom’s first marine park, its early rangers faced intense resistance from dynamite fishermen who occasionally attacked park boats. The eventual success of the preservationists at Tarutao was a crucial first step towards establishing Thailand’s network of ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,000 words.)
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