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TARUTAO NATIONAL PARK
The Tarutao National Park was founded in 1974 by the Royal Forest Department and consists of several islands of which Koh Lipe is by far the best known. The park covers an area of almost 1,500 km2, of which only 230 km2 is land and the rest water. And then 60% of the land is rainforest. In the article about Pattaya Beach on Koh Lipe we wrote about the southernmost beach of Thailand. In this case Tarutao National Park is the southernmost national park of Thailand. The park is part of the province of Satun and is situated in the Andaman Sea against the Malaysian border.
A large part of the Tarutao National Park is closed between the months of May and November because of the rainy season. Koh Lipe and a number of surrounding islands are accessible all year round.
Founded in 1974
Tarutao National Marine Park was founded in 1974 and with 51 islands it is a fantastic natural park to discover! When the park was founded it was also the first national marine park in Thailand. The national park consists of two groups. The Tarutao group in the east and the Adang-Rawi group in the west.
Entrance fee and popular islands in the Tarutao National Park
The entrance fee of the Tarutao National Park is 200 / 100 baht for adult / child. The largest islands in the area are in order of size Koh Tarutao, Koh Adang, Koh Ra Wi and Koh Lipe. Some of the smaller and popular islands are Koh Khai, Koh Hin Ngam, Koh Yang and Koh Rang Nok (translated as bird nesting island because of the swallow nests that used to be robbed).
The largest island, Koh Tarutao
This island with the same name as the national park is the largest of the total of 51 islands that this park is rich. The island has a particular history and therefore it is an interesting place to stay at least one night. You can sleep in tents or in bungalows located near the headquarters and ranger stations. There are few transport possibilities and therefore we recommend you to rent a mountain bike here. Scooters may only be used by the working staff on the island. Read more about this island in our article about Koh Tarutao and the history of Koh Tarutao.
The most famous island Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe is by far the most famous island in the Tarutao National Park. A beautiful small island overlooking Koh Adang and close to Koh Ra Wi. An advantage of this island is that its also open in the rainy season. Koh Lipe is also called the Maldives of Thailand by many people and for good reason! Koh Lipe has become more and more popular in recent years, unfortunately this has resulted in more and more garbage on the island. Luckily there are also good initiatives like Trash Hero! The pollution is mainly found on pieces of wasteland and on stretches of beach where there are no restaurants or hotels. Places where there are (luxury) resorts usually look very neat because the beach is kept clean by the staff. Despite the garbage problem we still find Koh Lipe and its surroundings super nice and definitely worth a visit! Do you want to visit this little paradise? For more information see all our articles about Koh Lipe.
The second largest island Koh Adang
Exactly opposite Koh Lipe lies her big brother Koh Adang. This is also the second largest island of the Tarutao National Park. Koh Adang is 6 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. The highest point towers 690 meters above sea level. This island is often visited first on a snorkel trip from Koh Lipe, it is about 10 minutes by longtail boat.
During our boat trip towards the small floating pier we passed a waterfall that we could see from the boat. Upon arrival at Koh Adang we had to pay 200 baht park fee per person during our snorkel trip. From Koh Adang you can also see the island of Koh Lipe via a climb to the viewpoint. The island has a ranger station, campground, restaurant and a number of bungalows on the southern tip of the island. The bungalows can be booked in advance via the DNP website (Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation). The tents can only be rented upon arrival on the island and reservation is not possible.
Koh Ra Wi
Of the 51 islands in the Tarutao National Park, Koh Ra Wi is probably the island with the most beautiful beach of all the islands you can visit. Koh Ra Wi is often visited during an excursion from Koh Lipe. It is located next to Koh Adang and therefore close to Koh Lipe. Because of the location of these two islands, Koh Ra Wi has protection against the thrive waste. Partly because of this, the beaches of Koh Ra Wi beautiful white and clean.
Koh Ra Wi has several beautiful white sandy beaches as well as some good places for snorkeling. On Haad Sai Khao in the southeast you will find a beach with a ranger station, here you can also eat if you want. Ask a member of staff and they will prepare something for you right away. If you plan to visit Koh Ra Wi then you should definitely go to King’s Beach in the west. This beach is named after the Thai King Rama III who stayed on Koh Ra Wi for a few months. From King’s Beach you can walk along a path into the jungle of the island where there is a chance that you will encounter wild animals!
DID YOU KNOW?
You can rent a tent for 200 baht per night or set up your own tent (30 baht) on Koh Ra Wi. Ask at the ranger station or get informed on Koh Lipe before you leave. You can then call and ask for availability. Do take cash with you as there are no ATMs. You can be brought from Koh Lipe to Koh Ra Wi for about 600 baht (price for a boat not per person).
Koh Hin Ngam
Koh Hin Ngam is also known as the island of beautiful stones. These beautiful stones are formed by the waves that rage over the island during the rainy season. If you visit the Tarutao National Park and you see a sign or banner that says that you are not allowed to stack stones then you don’t mean stacking stones on this island. This is because people are afraid that by stacking the stones will fall apart as soon as the pile collapses. But you can play a game of Jenga in a nice bar or hostel instead.
With a fine for stacking stones you can (literally) still live, but be aware if you take a stone from the island! There is a curse on the stones when they leave the island, The God of Tarutao gets angry and this will lead to the death of one or more family members … Doesn’t sound very nice does it?!
We have experienced snorkeling in the waters around Koh Yang as the best snorkeling spot in the Koh Lipe area! This tiny island is located between Koh Adang and Koh Rawi and during a snorkel trip from Koh Lipe is a snorkel spot that you should definitely visit. Little coral but a lot of fish can be seen here!
Halfway through Koh Tarutao and Koh Adang lies Koh Khai (egg island). This island should not be confused with Koh Kai (chicken island) opposite the coast of Railay. Koh Khai is a small island that can only be visited during various excursions, you can’t spend the night here. The most famous landmark on Koh Khai is the rock formation in the shape of an arch. Many a tourist has taken a picture of this and it can also be crowded during a stop for a good photo.
Diversity of life in Tarutao National Park
Various snakes such as the king cobra and the reticulated python live on various islands. There are an estimated 100 different species of birds in the natural park, including several birds of prey that thrive here. Various herds of (wild) cattle, descendants of the cattle kept by the former original inhabitants can still be found on Koh Tarutao. Back in the ‘good’ old days many saltwater crocodiles also lived in this national park, unfortunately (but luckily for you) this crocodile population is completely extinct.
Furthermore you will find monkeys, mouse deer (a type of deer not a type of mousse), wild boar, civet cats etcetera at the several islands of the Koh Tarutao National Park. Tarutao is of course a natural park for a good reason… Besides all this land life there is a whole new world to discover in the waters of the Tarutao National Marine Park. From anemones to starfish and of course lots of fish in all shapes, sizes and colours!
Long live the nature!