Month: July 2014

Ang Thong Marine Park


Ang Thong National Marine Park along with Sail Rock are the two most famous dive spots that are accessible from Mae Haad. What is less well known is that Ang Thong is a fascinating collection of islands to the West of Koh Phangan that is great for not only diving but also snorkelling and kayaking. If you are looking for an interesting day trip, a break from the relaxing sands of Mae Haad then Ang Thong Marine Park might be the ideal destination for you.

From the north of Koh Phangan it takes just over 2 hours to reach the northern tip of the Ang Thong island chain. The main island and where you find the park headquarters is Koh Wua Talap. Here you will find a restaurant, some bungalows and two beaches at either end of the island. You can trek between the two beaches via a 30-minute jungle trek. There aren’t any roads on the Ang Thong islands and this trek is through thick jungle. To make things easier for visitors there is a rope to guide you.

‘Ang Thong’ means ‘golden bowl’. It refers to the large inland lake in the archipelago. The lake is located on Koh Mae Ko. The saltwater lake is called Thale Noi. The turquoise water and rich bio-diversity make it a great place to snorkel or dive.

The islands are the peaks from a flooded limestone mountain range. Each of the islands have unusual shapes made by karst rocks. The names of the islands in translation reflect the shapes such as ‘Sleeping Cow Island’ and ‘Three Pillars Island’.

On Koh Paluay is a semi-permanent settlement of Sea Gypsies or Moken. They follow an animistic religion and migrated to the Gulf from farther south in Malaysia. Other than the park rangers and the Thais working at the restaurant and bungalows these are the only people on the islands.

Because the islands are mostly uninhabited they are full of fascinating flora and fauna. These include Leopard cats, long tail macaques, sea otters and the dusky langur.

Activities on Ang Thong Marine Park include trekking, exploring hidden coves in sea kayaks, snorkelling, and of course, diving. The depth ranges from shallow to 25 meters. The best dive spots in Ang Thong Marine Park are Hin Yippon, Koh Yippon and Koh Luuk Lek. There are plenty of coral gardens as well as swim-throughs. You can spot the famous whale shark as well as common fish such as trigger fish and parrot fish. For those looking to spot rarer species there is the also the chance to see sea snakes and turtles.

From a diving point of view the other great thing about the Ang Thong Marine Park is that it is seldom visited by the large Koh Tao diver groups as it is too far away. Too many dive boats tend to scare off the wildlife and make the water crowded. This is not the case at Ang Thong.

All the dive shops in Mae Haad, Haad Salad, Haad Yao and Chaloklum have regular day trips to the islands. Snorkelers are welcome to join too. Trips usually include transfers and free lunch on the boat. It is also possible to find boat tours to the islands. You can asked to be left on the islands and be picked up the following day. For those looking for the ultimate remote and Robinson Crusoe experience it is hard to beat. Indeed this is where the film ‘The Beach’ is supposed to be set.

Private Villa Rental

lord-jim-retreat

For those looking for privacy as well as luxury the solution is a private villa rental. For family groups as well as groups of two or more couples a villa can often represent excellent value for money, as one villa rental fee can be less than 3 or more double rooms in a hotel.

Balanced against the advantages of villa rental are a few disadvantages. Private villas are never on the beach either in Mae Haad or elsewhere in Koh Phangan. It is an unreasonable expectation to imagine you can rent a luxury private villa in Koh Phangan and be a stone throw away from your own beach. Many such as Lord Jim’s Retreat are up a steep hill.

The other main disadvantage of villa rental from the visitors’ viewpoint is that they don’t include the same facilities and amenities as a hotel. In particular they don’t have a restaurant next door, and don’t offer room service. Mums on their luxury holiday are often very keen to not cook. Self-catering is perhaps more attractive for those on a budget. And perhaps these type of people don’t rent private villas.

In Mae Haad area the most impressive villa for rent is Lord Jim’s Retreat. It is perched on the hill overlooking the sea. You have a great view of Koh. It is a fantastic spot to see the sunset.

Lord Jim’s Retreat consists of 3 connected villas lined up around two edges of a rectangular swimming pool. There are 4 bedrooms and capacity to accommodate 9 people.

The roadside entrance to the villa takes you into a spacious living and dining area. There is a kitchen, large TV and large outdoor terrace.

The master villa and the Conrad Suite have large rooms with their own living areas.

Extra facilities include Wi-Fi, CD player and free pick up. There are staff for gardening and pool maintenance but not for on-site cooking.

Low season costs 18,000 to 23,000 THB per night; high season is 25,000 THB per night and peak season is 30,000 THB per night. Check the minimum stay requirements as it is more than usual – between 5 and 10 nights. No doubt that is because of the large running costs of such a big villa.

Although the view is of Koh Ma, the nearest beach is Haad Thong Lang. It is a very quiet beach with only one resort and no adjoining village.

If you look at the pictures you can see you get a lot seclusion and luxury when you stay in a villa like Lord Jim’s Retreat. However, you will need a hire car and you will also need to do a bit of your own cooking. There are logistics involved.

Click here to view Lord Jim Retreat  website (Haad Thong Lang)

Click here to view Sunrise Villa website (Thong Nai Pan)