Small, slow-paced, peaceful KO MAK (sometimes spelt “Maak”) makes an idyllic, low-key alternative to Ko Chang, 20km to the northwest. Measuring just sixteen square kilometres, it’s home to little more than four hundred people, divided into five main clans, who work together to keep the island free of hostess bars, jet skis, banana boats and the like, and on initiatives such as mountain-bike trails. A couple of narrow concrete roads traverse the island, which is dominated by coconut and rubber plantations; elsewhere a network of red-earth tracks cuts through the trees. Ko Mak is shaped like a star, with fine white-sand beaches along the northwest coast at Ao Suan Yai and the southwest coast at Ao Kao, where most of the island’s (predominantly mid-range and upper-bracket) tourist accommodation is concentrated; the principal village, Ban Ao Nid, is on the southeast coast and there’s another village at Ban Laem Son on the east coast. The main beaches are just about within walking distance of each other, and other parts of the island are also fairly easy to explore on foot, or by mountain bike, motorbike or kayak – the best way to discover the empty undeveloped beaches hidden along the north and eastern coasts. The reefs of Ko Rang are also less than an hour’s boat ride away so snorkelling and diving trips are quite popular. There is as yet no major commercial development on the island and no bank or ATM, but bungalows on both beaches will change money. There’s a small clinic off the Ao Nid road, though for anything serious a speedboat will whisk you back to the mainland.
During the rainy season (early June–Sept), choppy seas mean that boat services to Ko Mak are much reduced. Most Ko Mak accommodation stays open – and offers tempting discounts – but the smaller places often don’t bother to staff their restaurants. Islanders say that it can be very pleasant during this “green season”, though you may be unlucky and hit a relentlessly wet few days.