Thailand // The deep south //

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park

The unspoilt KO TARUTAO NATIONAL MARINE PARK is probably the most beautiful of all Thailand’s accessible beach destinations. Occupying 1400 square kilometres of the Andaman Sea in Satun province, the park covers 51 mostly uninhabited islands. Site of the park headquarters, the main island, Ko Tarutao, offers a variety of government-issue accommodation and things to do, while Ko Adang to the west is much more low-key and a springboard to some excellent snorkelling. The port of Pak Bara is the main jumping-off point for the park, and houses a national park visitor centre, set back on the left just before the pier, where you can gather information and book a room on Tarutao or Adang before boarding your boat.

The park’s forests and seas support an incredible variety of fauna: langurs, crab-eating macaques and wild pigs are common on the islands, which also shelter several unique subspecies of squirrel, tree shrew and lesser mouse deer; among the hundred-plus bird species found here, reef egrets and hornbills are regularly seen, while white-bellied sea eagles, frigate birds and pied imperial pigeons are more rarely encountered; and the park is the habitat of about 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species, as well as dugongs, sperm whales, dolphins and a dwindling population of turtles.

The park amenities on Adang, though not on Tarutao, are officially closed to tourists in the monsoon season from mid-May to mid-November (the exact dates vary from year to year). Accommodation is especially likely to get full around the three New Years (Thai, Chinese and Western), when it’s best to book national park rooms in advance.