A boat trip exploring the pristine areas of the Angthong Marine National Park is without a doubt one of the most popular activities in the Samui area of Thailand. A picturesque archipelago of small islands, about 40 in number, provide delightful vistas of sandy white beaches, secluded lagoons, steep limestone cliffs and thick vegetation. The islands take numerous unusual shapes for which they are named; a couple of them are ‘Three Pillars Island’ and ‘Sleeping Cow Island’.
Angthong, which means ‘golden bowl’ in Thai, covers an extensive expanse of 250 square kilometres. It is renowned for its natural beauty, with its striking rocky cliffs and mesmerizing rock formations which appear in unusual shapes. The scenic landscape of the islands is fascinating to explore and snorkelling amidst the adjoining coral formations is always a delightful experience. The islands of Angthong are all uninhabited apart from Ko Paluay which is occupied by sea-gypsies who even today make their livelihood from fishing.
Botanists have classified the vegetation of the islands as beach forest, evergreen forest and limestone forest, each with its distinctive characteristics. Although large animals are not found on the islands, visitors may catch a glimpse of langurs, otters, hogs, crab-eating monkeys, silver-haired bats, whales and dolphins. There are also many resident bird species including Brahmin kites, common sandpipers, little herons, hill mynas, drongoes and oriental pied hornbills. A variety of toads and frogs may also be seen.
The waters of the marine park feature such fascinating underwater denizens as angel fish, butterfly fish, blue-spotted fantail rays, parrot fish, groupers, snappers, blue swimming crabs, giant clams, sea fans and lovely coral formations.
Several tour companies arrange visits to the marine park, with luxury speedboats offered by some operators. Kayaking in the environs of the islands is another attractive option; many visitors feel like explorers of a pristine and uncharted land.
A key attraction is Ko Mae Ko which translates as Mother Island. A lovely lake lies in the centre of the island, reached by a challenging climb up limestone cliffs, but the result is worth the exertion; a sensational view over the entire park.
A hotel in Koh Samui will be an excellent base from which to explore these delights. The Anantara Bophut, Koh Samui one of the outstanding Koh Samui hotels never fails to meet the expectations of its guests.