The fourth-largest island in Thailand, forested KO KOOD (also spelt Ko Kut and Ko Kud) is still a wild and largely uncommercialized island. Though it’s known for its sparkling white sand and exceptionally clear turquoise water, particularly along the west coast, Ko Kood is as much a nature-lover’s destination as a beach-bum’s. Swathes of its shoreline are fringed by scrub and mangrove rather than broad sandy beaches and those parts of the island not still covered in virgin tropical rainforest are filled with palm groves and rubber plantations. Most of the 25km-long island is penetrated only by sandy tracks and, in places, by navigable khlongs, if at all. All of this makes Ko Kood a surprisingly pleasant place to explore on foot (or kayak), especially as the cool season brings refreshing breezes most days. The interior is also graced with several waterfalls, the most famous of which is Nam Tok Khlong Chao, inland from Ao Khlong Chao and the focus of occasional day-trips from Ko Chang and Ko Mak.
Because of its lack of roads, Ko Kood has to date been the almost exclusive province of package-tourists, but things are becoming much easier for independent travellers, with a choice of scheduled boat services from the mainland, as well as from Ko Chang and Ko Mak, and the emergence of some budget-minded guesthouses. The island is still pretty much a one-season destination, though, as rough seas mean that nearly all the boat services only operate from November through May. An increasing number of places are staying open year-round, however, and offer tempting discounts to those willing to chance the rains and the off-season quiet. There is some malaria on the island so be especially assiduous with repellent and nets if you are not taking prophylactics; there’s a malaria-testing station in Ban Khlong Hin Dam.
Most of Ko Kood’s fifteen hundred residents make their living from fishing and growing coconut palms and rubber trees. Many have Khmer blood in them, as the island population mushroomed at the turn of the twentieth century when Thais and Cambodians resident in nearby Cambodian territory fled French control.
The main settlements are Ban Khlong Hin Dam, just inland from the main Nam Leuk (Hin Dam) pier, Ban Khlong Mat, a natural harbour-inlet a few kilometres further north up the coast, the stilted fishing village of Ban Ao Salat across on the northeast coast and the fishing community of Ban Ao Yai on the southeast coast. On the southwest coast, several of the main beaches also have small villages. Of these, the obvious choices for budget travellers are Ao Khlong Chao and Ao Ngamkho, which both have a choice of accommodation and eating options and are within walking distance of each other; Ao Bang Bao also has cheapish bungalows and is the longer and arguably better beach but has no village and is more isolated. Seclusion is the thing on all the other west-coast beaches, most of which are the province of just one or two upmarket resorts.