Protected as part of Mu Ko Lanta National Park, the twin Rok islands are two of the most beautiful in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. Most come as a day trip, and while it’s been possible to hang around for extended stays during high season in the past, that is on hold till at least high season 2020/21.
Long stays aside, if you’re a beach bum or a keen snorkeller, Ko Rok Nai and Nok are for you. By Thai standards, the snorkelling is excellent, and some of the beaches are just a-grade white sand delights.
Aesthetically similar to Ko Surin further north, Ko Rok refers to Ko Rok Nai (called the “inner” island since it’s closer to the mainland) and Ko Rok Nok (the “outer” island), both located some 30 kilometres south of Ko Lanta and 12 to 20 kilometres west of Ko Ngai, Ko Muk and Ko Kradan. Small and rugged, the twin islands are roughly the same size and sit only 250 metres apart, with hard and soft coral covering the channel in between.
The Rok islands are subject to the same monsoon as the rest of Thailand’s southwest coast. The rainy season runs roughly from May to October, during which time the islands are closed. The tour boats stop running at this time and the park accommodation shuts down for the May 1 to November 1 rainy season. Across the dry season however, expect calm seas and brilliant sunshine.
One note if doing a daytrip from a nearby island, the wind tends to pick up in the afternoon making for a less comfortable boat trip. Leave for the islands early in the morning and aim to be on the way home by two or three in the afternoon to hopefully dodge a bumpy ride home.
While Rok Nok is completely untouched apart from a few beach bums washing up on San Chao Beach, Rok Nai has a small ranger’s station, restaurant and accommodation zone just back from the 500-metre-long Ko Rok Beach. This is the landing point where daytrippers have their lunches and snap their customary “Look I’m in paradise” selfies. Excellent swimming and decent snorkelling can be enjoyed right off the sand, but the better spots are approached by boat.
Just over some rocks from Haad Ko Rok lies Haad Man Sai, a quieter 300-metre-long beach named after the banyan trees that drape over it. On the north side of Rok Nai is Ao Talu, a small cove with a mix of sand, rocks and mangroves. This is also where you’ll find the trail leading up to Pha Samed Daeng, a viewpoint affording sweeping northern vistas to Ngai and Lanta.
The normal entry fee to Ko Rok is 400 baht per person, but it was not being levied when we last visited. When they are levied, tickets are valid for a few days, so hold on to them if you’ve yet to visit other parts of the national park, like Ko Haa, Ko Chueak (one of the islets near Ko Ngai) or the beach and lighthouse at the far southern point of Ko Lanta itself.
A small cell tower is located on Ko Rok but the service on our AIS provider cell phone was patchy at best. No banks, ATMs, convenience stores or internet cafes are found on the island. The park rangers can help clean up minor bumps and bruises, but any serious injury would require an express run to Trang in one of the national park’s boats.
Those looking to stick around can normally rent a standard-issue tent for 450 baht a night, plus a little extra for sleeping mats and pillows. Identical to (but more expensive than) those found on Ko Adang and Ko Tarutao, or any other national park island, the tents are pitched under the shade of trees and are large enough to sleep a family of four. Visitors are also welcome to set up their own tents for 30 baht and use the shared cold-water bathrooms.
When we last visited in late 2019 a park ranger told us all accommodation was closed till the 2020/21 high season. Keep an eye on the DNP’s page for Lanta National Park for future visits. The national Park entry fee was not being levied when we visited, though this may change in the future.
The park station has a small restaurant, but as most people are currently visiting on a day tour, that tour should include, in the least, a simple meal. If you’re still hungry (or thirsty) hit up the park’s basic offerings.
While some snorkelling sites have names like “Bermuda Ridge” and “Seafan Garden”, it all blends together into one impressive reef system that supposedly spans over a square mile in all. Visibility is usually excellent and a little of the coral has retained its colour despite considerable bleaching in the past. Angelfish, pufferfish and anemones are among the vibrant and thriving marine life most commonly seen. You might spot a sea turtle, moray eel, sea snake or even a black-tip shark if you’re lucky.
Much of the coral is no more than five metres below the surface and easily explored with a snorkel. Though plenty of daytrippers hit the islands and the nearby dive sites of Hin Mueang and Hin Daeng, the overall traffic is moderate and the beaches nowhere near as crowded as on the Similans. On a recent visit in late 2019 we shared two of the reefs with just one other boat.
The interiors of both islands are blanketed in jungle, with some dark-grey limestone cliffs stretching up to 100+ metres high. Beaches covering the east coast of Rok Nok and south coast of Rok Nai are so white that they can be blinding at midday. It’s a joy to dig your bare toes into the super-fine coral sand.
Ko Rok also hosts its share of wildlife on land, including the small squirrel-like creature for which it was named. Monitor lizards crawl at the top of the food chain and have grown larger here than elsewhere in Thailand as a result. You’ll often see them lounging without a care amid fallen leaves off the beaches, so do watch your step. You’ll also see plenty of birds, smaller lizards and perhaps a snake or two.
There are no public boats to Ko Rok; the only ways to get here are by booking a tour or chartering a private boat.
Most visitors book a speedboat day tour from any resort or travel agent on Ko Lanta for around 2,000 baht per person. These tend to pick up customers on all of Lanta’s west-coast beaches and will include two or three snorkelling stops, lunch, drinking water, snorkels, masks and fins. It takes around an hour to reach Rok from Lanta, and the tours usually run from 09:00 to 15:00. Similar tours can be booked in Pakmeng Beach on the mainland.
Ko Rok is also easily reached by private longtail boats from Ko Ngai, Ko Kradan and Ko Muk, which can be arranged through resorts or directly with the boatmen. We paid 4,000 baht for a boat from Kradan and saw prices ranging from 3,500 to 4,500 at various places on the three islands. These rates are per boat, not per person, so the price can be reasonable if you rustle up four or five heads. It’s an often bumpy 1.5- to two-hour ride by longtail.
Last updated on 19th December, 2019.
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