Generally blessed with blinding white beaches, great coral and amazing marine life, the islands off the coast of Trang and Satun provinces have managed, mostly with just a handful of resorts on each, to cling onto some of that illusory desert-island atmosphere which better-known places like Phuket and Samui lost long ago. Indeed, islands such as Ko Hai and Ko Kradan support no permanent settlements other than the bungalow concerns, while on Ko Tarutao and Ko Adang in the far south, the peace and quiet is maintained by the national parks department; at the other end of the scale, however, nearby Ko Lipe is developing at its own merry pace and now boasts over forty resorts, as well as a substantial chao ley village.
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- Ko Hai (Ko Ngai)
KO MOOK, about 8km southeast of Ko Hai, supports a comparatively busy fishing village on its eastern side, around which – apart from the sandbar that runs out to the very pricey Sivalai Resort – most of the beaches are disappointing, reduced to dirty mud flats when the tide goes out. However, across on the island’s west coast lies beautiful Hat Farang, with gently shelving white sand, crystal-clear water that’s good for swimming and snorkelling, and gorgeous sunsets.
The island’s main source of renown is Tham Morakhot, the stunning “Emerald Cave” north of Hat Farang on the west coast, which can only be visited by boat, but shouldn’t be missed. An 80m swim through the cave – 10m or so of which is in pitch darkness – brings you to a hong with an inland beach of powdery sand open to the sky, at the base of a spectacular natural chimney whose walls are coated with dripping vegetation. Chartering your own longtail or taking a trip with Ko Mook Nature Beach Resort (B200/person, in a group of four or more) is preferable to taking one of the big day-trip boats that originate on Lanta or Pak Meng: if you time it right, you’ll get the inland beach all to yourself, an experience not to be forgotten. It’s also easy enough to kayak there from Hat Farang (from B100/hr from Sawaddee), and at low tide you can paddle right through to the inland beach: buoys mark the cave entrance, from where a tunnel heads straight back into the rock; about halfway along, there’s a small, right-hand kink in the tunnel which will plunge you briefly into darkness, but you should soon be able to see light ahead from the hong. Mid-afternoon is often a good time to paddle off on this trip, after the tour boats have left and providing the tide is right.
About 6km to the southwest of Ko Mook, KO KRADAN is the remotest of the inhabited islands off Trang, and one of the most beautiful, with crystal-clear waters. On this slender triangle of thick jungle, the main beach is a long strand of steeply sloping, powdery sand on the east coast, with fine views of Ko Mook, Ko Libong and the karst-strewn mainland, and an offshore reef to the north with a great variety of hard coral; such beauty, however, has not escaped the attention of the day-trip boats from Ko Lanta, who turn the beach into a lunchtime picnic ground most days in summer. From a short way north of the Anantara beach club, which is located towards the south end of this beach, a path across the island will bring you after about fifteen minutes to Sunset Beach, another lovely stretch of fine, white sand in a cove; a branch off this path at Paradise Lost leads to a beach on the short south coast, which enjoys good reef snorkelling (also about 15min from the Anantara beach club).
- Ko Libong
- Ko Sukorn
Ko Tarutao National Marine Park
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.
- Ko Lipe
Island-hopping and tours
Island-hopping and tours
Access to the Trang and Satun islands from their nearest mainland ports is described in the individual island accounts, but what sets this area apart are the enticing opportunities for island-hopping, thanks to regular boat services in the tourist season out of Ko Lanta, further up the coast, which can be booked through any travel agent in the area. If you just fancy a day exploring some of the islands, any travel agent in Trang can book you on a boat trip (mid-Oct to mid-May only) to Ko Kradan, the Emerald Cave on Ko Mook, and other small nearby islands for snorkelling, for around B700/person including packed lunch and soft drinks.