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The Ang Thong Islands

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The 42 islands of Ang Thong National Marine Park stretch like a jewelled necklace of limestone cliffs, coral reefs and white-sand beaches to the west of Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. Stunning natural scenery, both above water and below, draws large numbers of daytrippers along with a handful of travellers willing to rough it for a chance to get to know the chain of islands better.





Declared a national park and officially protected against development in 1980, the Ang Thong (“Golden Bowl”) Islands remained largely pristine as hundreds of resorts and an airport were built on nearby Ko Samui. It’s permissible to set foot on only the larger islands, with hefty fines threatening anyone who tramples the delicate flora that grows on limestone surfaces of smaller islets. You can however snorkel off many of these – we found modest marine life and moderate visibility off the coast of Ko Wao Yai, at the far north of the chain.

Cliffs dwarf the moored fishing boats. Photo taken in or around The Ang Thong Islands, Ko Samui, Thailand by David Luekens.

Cliffs dwarf the moored fishing boats. Photo: David Luekens

Towering limestone cliffs ring a large emerald lagoon, or Thale Nai (“Inner Sea”), at the centre of Ko Mae Ko. Steep steps – more like ladders in places – begin behind a beach and lead to a viewing platform placed high above the lagoon. From here you can descend close to the surface and watch fish explore the crystalline water, but swimming is not allowed. Bring your patience, as crowds of daytrippers often plug up the stairs. The lagoon helped to inspire the book-turned-movie, The Beach, though it was mostly filmed on Ko Phi Phi Don.

The rule against setting foot on most islands makes more sense when you see the many islets that stand like oversized buoys with vertical limestone walls towering over the sea. Some of these are among the most interesting-looking of any karst islets that we’ve seen in Thailand. One supposedly looks like two monkeys, while another, Ko Hin Lak, resembles “James Bond Island” in Phang ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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The Ang Thong Islands
Around 30km west of Ko Samui

Location map for The Ang Thong Islands

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