Ko Tarutao Marine National Park
Ko Tarutao Marine National Park information
One of the most exquisite and unspoilt regions in Thailand, Ko Tarutao Marine National Park encompasses 51 islands blanketed by well-preserved virgin rainforest teeming with fauna and surrounded by healthy coral reefs and radiant white beaches. Born in 1974, it's the country's second marine national park. Within the park you might spot dusky langurs, crab-eating macaques, mouse deer, wild pigs, sea otters, fishing cats, tree pythons, water monitors, Brahminy kites, sea eagles, hornbills, reef egrets and kingfishers.
The park's main accommodation consists of small, eco-friendly, government-run cabins and longhouses. Pressure from big developers to build resorts on the islands has so far (mostly) been ignored, though concessions were made for the filming of the American reality-TV series Survivor in 2002. And there is the minor issue of a private resort on Ko Adang, which is supposed to be off-limits to developers. It was originally scheduled to open in 2010, but local environmentalists appealed to the Thai courts to keep it shuttered, so far successfully.
Rubbish on the islands is a problem – removal of beach and visitor rubbish only happens sporadically, though successful Trash Hero cleanups are improving things. Do your part and tread lightly.
Ko Tarutao is the biggest and second-most visited island in the group (after Ko Lipe). It's home to the park headquarters and most of the government-run accommodation. There are no foreign-exchange facilities at Ko Tarutao – you can change cash and travellers cheques at travel agencies in Pak Bara and there are ATMs in Pak Bara and La-Ngu.
Most travellers choose to stay on Ko Lipe which, despite being part of the park, is fast transforming into a popular and increasingly paved resort island full of tourist facilities and hotels. Curiously, the island has managed to evade the park’s protection because it is home to communities of chow lair people, making it exempt from zero development laws.
Long-tail tours to outlying islands can be arranged through travel agencies in Satun or Pak Bara, through the national park headquarters on Ko Tarutao, or through resorts and long-tail boat operators on Ko Lipe.