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“Excellent Relaxing Outside Tourist Areas”

Ranked #1 of 10 things to do in Satun
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Located in the Andaman Sea, this is Thailand’s largest marine park that is a popular area for outdoor naturalists, snorkelers and scuba divers.
Zurich, Switzerland
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
“Excellent Relaxing Outside Tourist Areas”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 January 2013

The actual island Koh Tarutao, which is the largest island of the National Marine Park and hosts the NP headquarter office is one of the last not commercially developed islands in the area. You can get from Pak Bara to Koh Tarutao in about 45 minutes on one of the speedboats that go on to Koh Lipe.
The price is usually 350 THB one way, but only the morning ferry stops there every day. If you go in the afternoon and less than 4 people want to go to Koh Tarutao, you may need to pay double. The park entrance fee is 200 THB for 1-7 days. There is no ATM on the island, so bring enough cash with you.
Accomodation on Koh Tarutao is managed by the NP office and can be reserved in advance via their website, though it seems there is almost always space in the bungalows that are spread behind the beach stretch next to the boat peer. If all are full, you can still stay in one of the tents that the NP office provides. The bungalows are quite basic with cold shower and western style toilet, but clean and quite spacious. There is power from about 6pm to midnight.

Most of the time you will have the beach almost to yourself. There are no corals to see here, but if you are just looking for some relaxing atmosphere, it is definitely the place to go. You can rent kayaks and mountain bikes to explore the island. It is well worth biking the 12km to the other side of the island to see the remains of the former prison, which has been transformed to an open-air museum.
There is a restaurant next to the bungalows, which serves solid quality breakfast, lunch and dinner for reasonable prices.

While Koh Tarutao may not have any snorkeling spots next door and organized trips do not exist, it is well worth spending 2-3 days on Koh Tarutao to relax and get away from the crowds of the tourist centers like Koh Lipe.

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
25 Thank Thomas K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Level Contributor
12 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 102 helpful votes
“Three Cheers for Thai National Parks & Win/Win Tourism. No love for tragic Lipe.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 1 January 2013

Tarutao National Marine Park brings out my strongest opinions on probably any topic I can think of. I give it 5 stars because you can see first-hand the difference between paradise and how we ignorantly destroy it. We stayed on three of the islands for 8 nights: Tarutao and Adang in wonderful Thai Gov't National Park accommodation, and shamefully on Lipe. The islands of Tarutao & Adang are a paradise, virtually pristine, etc. I hope it stays that way after seeing other areas in SE Asia devastated by greed and general ignorance. However what appears to be recycling on these islands consists of sorting bottles, then quietly dumping them at the end of a track. I might be wrong, but that’s what I walked across. Once recycling is real, they should make Ko Tarutao and Ko Adang a model for sustainable tourism in the region and beyond. It’s not that hard folks. Lipe (exempt from park protection) is a prime example of how to quickly destroy it. It’s not a barren industrial wasteland, but if you have a conscience, I would try and avoid Lipe. The ferry operators in Pak Bara could not believe I didn’t want to go to Lipe, only Tarutao and Adang – let them know as well and maybe they will get the hint. As long as Tarutao National Marine Park or the Thai government denies development, places like Tarutao & Adang are without equal. I don't consider Ko Lipe part of the TNMP, rather as more of a tumour. If you require a massage, a pink cover for your iphone or fancy cocktails, please go to Lipe or some other dump with a beach. Dumps with beaches are not hard to find. Places like Ko Tarutao and Adang most certainly are.

Expectations: Ko Tarutao & Ko Adang consist primarily of a small group of basic yet comfortable bungalows & campsites on remote and beautiful islands. You can walk, swim, look for wildlife, perhaps hire a kayak/bicycle or just sit in a hammock (buy in Pak Bara for THB200) and pretend you just washed ashore. If you want to snorkel, Ko Adang is your slice of heaven as visibility at Tarutao was around 1-1.5m max off the beach versus 5m+ at Adang under calm conditions. So what? Tarutao has loads of trails within some truly impressive old-growth jungle with big peaks, and some very nice, rather empty beaches. I saw pythons in the trees near Ao Son and spent the afternoon photographing them. How do you put a price on that?

Accommodation: You can reserve online for Ko Tarutao & Adang, but it's rather complicated and involves wiring money to the park office in advance. This inefficient system is perhaps a blessing.
Ko Tarutao & Adang are hardly what I would call roughing it, even if you camp near the beach in one of their spacious park tents (THB150). Showers and toilets are aplenty. Cheap but very good food is never far away. If you bring a tent it’s a mere 60THB. The park bungalows we used were quirky if a little tatty in spots, but never uncomfortable. We stayed at Mo lae beach for three nights – some 4km from the jetty and main office. The shuttle charged THB35 per person each way for a lift - fair enough. At THB600 a night (450THB M-Th two-person rooms) it is an absolute bargain. Our Tarutao bungalow had a large bed with a massive hanging mozzie net right out of an old B&W movie and some chairs outside. The bed was well-made and clean, but the bathroom was fairly tatty on Tarutao/ great on Adang. Incredibly, you might see an insect or two in your room if you look hard enough, so drama queens, tuck your ample mozzie net under the edges of the mattress. Adang was largely insect proof. Non-heated showers are refreshing considering the climate, and electricity is only on from 6:30pm to c.11:30pm, so charge phones/batteries accordingly and bring a light if you like to listen to the jungle at night or stargaze on the beach (both highly recommended). I wore long-sleeves and trousers after dusk as mozzies and sand flies can be irritating away from the beach, though insects on Adang are not as blood-thirsty, perhaps due to the nice breeze. Leaving your room windows wide-open at night may well ensure you have several adoring macaque monkeys gazing up at you when you awake. There is a large pack at Mo lae who make the morning rounds outside, and will peer into your window without the slightest hint of shame. Wonderful!

Ko Adang is, broadly speaking, like a smaller version of Ko Tarutao, except with bigger rooms and crystal clear waters with abundant corals in places. Our hillside bungalow was huge, clean and had a large porch with sliding door and fully screened windows. I could easily live there, no kidding. Snorkeling off the SE shore past the campground was simply incredible – the coral formations kept going and going. Be careful at low tide, especially when swimming out over the delicate corals near shore until you get to deeper water as swells may drop you right on to some reefs - both you and the coral will lose. Winds and waves may make for challenging conditions for less experienced snorkelers – the shore facing Lipe is typically much calmer and still enjoyable in rough conditions. The cliff walk (c.45min to the top) gives superb views for a considerable distance with three viewpoints – Tarutao is clearly visible, while Ko Lipe is far enough away that it gives the illusion of only being half-destroyed. Pirate Falls is a fairly rugged (in places) 2km walk and has a nice refreshing stream to sit in.

Food: The restaurants at Tarutao & Adang have meals priced between THB80 and c.THB150. Most dishes are with rice or noodles with choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, squid, etc. Salads readily available. Sweets in short supply - bring your biscuits. All food was quite good except some portions may be a bit small if you have been very active all day. Grilled fish is available and sold by weight I believe. The Tarutao food was not spicy, but if you request it on Adang, trust me, they will deliver! Beer & cokes, juice, tea, water available. Coffee is instant only. One urbane gentleman stammered away repeatedly in disbelief when told there was no freshly ground coffee, so again, if you need it, bring it.

Ko Lipe- if you find yourself drifting aimlessly c.70km off the Thai coast and desperately need a new pink iphone cover or enjoy the camaraderie of thousands of tourists, the sights and smells of mountains of plastic in the centrally located rubbish heap/open incinerator, and the grating sound of construction equipment clearing remaining pockets of jungle, look no further – you're in for a treat. As an added surprise, the ferry to Lipe doesn't actually go all the way Lipe. What- the ticket people didn’t tell you? Instead, it stops 100m short on a floating platform, where you are herded together with your bags, and frantically forced to hand over 20THB each for some new dubious 'save the corals' or Lipe tourist tax. I’d like to know a bit more about that, please. If the tax is going to the right causes, I'd charge everyone THB500 in a heartbeat. Seconds later, while still reeling with confusion, you will be brashly charged another THB50 to be taken the remaining 100m to the beach via long-tail. By the time you make the beach head at Pattaya (think D-Day with rolling luggage and mobile phones) you will be hitting yourself in the head, while those people now frantically dragging their luggage will take care of your lower extremities. Room rates we checked online were at least double those offered by the National Park, but hey, you came here for the wi-fi, didn't you?

Upside to Lipe (oxymoron): A wide variety of cheap cack for sale. Wi-fi. General supplies. Different types of western food, and at least one Mexican joint. So what? There is some nice snorkeling over the corals at Sunset beach, though I discovered two underwater holding pens with large tropical fish, located next to where the long-tail boats anchor. They are not edible fish species, and are likely going to private aquarium owners for top dollar. The pens are located almost directly in front of the marine fisheries management unit but are unrelated, I'm told. Incredible. They do have a poorly-promoted facility on the island to refill water bottles, and some inhabitants give the appearance of thinking about trying to improve environmental issues, but it’s like using a teaspoon to clear a landslide. I immediately felt shameful walking through Lipe, and judging by other people's expressions, they felt somewhat similar. It's a tragicomedy after time on Tarutao. The locals were nice enough, but one can't help to feel like you and all your mates just crashed someone's quiet family gathering, even if you drop your wallet on the way out.

Getting to TNMP: Relax and don't count on precision timetabling. The ferry operators from Pak Bara may tell you a departure time an hour off, and then perhaps hurry you excitedly onto another operator's vessel at the last second. Thais involved in the tourist transportation sector appear to thrive on chaos and uncertainty - they love it. One boat I was on was very overcrowded, left in a hurry, then realising the situation, stopped and tied up offshore to a bigger boat while everyone jumped across with their luggage in a rolling swell. Nuts. I would try and bargain on price a little, but keep you tickets open or just buy singles. We paid THB350 each to get to Tarutao on a packed speedboat sporting no less than five massive engines. Strong petrol fumes at the back, claustrophobia towards the front – your choice. The open bow provided the best seats in the house, if rough in less than calm conditions. Water transport to the islands needs some logistical triage, especially from an environmental or safety standpoint. Plainly priced, government-run boats would be ideal. If you are not a strong swimmer, I’d wear your life vest in rougher conditions, though this may be construed as an insult to the pilot’s abilities.

Bottom line: If you love the outdoors and dislike crowds, Tarutao and Adang excel while maintaining a reasonably sensible attitude towards this incredible environment – though recycling is dubious. Visitors (including myself of course) are both the problem and the impetus for change. Tourism is, of course, very big business here so polite questions may influence things. The Thai government should unabashedly charge more for visitors and park accommodation to ensure the continued survival of the parks from developer insanity. It’s still very affordable. No ATMs - take all the required cash for food & accommodation with you from the mainland, and any specific items you require. This may sound harsh, but I'd skip Lipe if you have a conscience, unless you need the pharmacy/chemist.

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
95 Thank r5076
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
71 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 61 helpful votes
“Excellent”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 4 December 2012

Probably some of the best and least populated beaches in Thailand. Rent a long tail, go around and you will sure find the perfect spot for you.

Visited November 2012
Helpful?
5 Thank tripdreamer1975
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“koh rawi”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 20 November 2012

just a small island, have a lunch at island and need to pay for THB200 for marine park. not much fish here

Visited November 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank Huijia07
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
12 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Koh Adang is one of the best beach experiences I've ever had”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 August 2012

I've been reading many not so great reviews, especially about Koh Lipe - which is understandable. But as far as Koh Adang is concerned, I was completely enchanted with this island. First of all, I have never seen crystal clear emerald green water like this, and I've never seen sand of quite the consistency before - like big rice kernels. I was there in April, so the sea was calm and lovely. The snorkeling was great, and there were no foreign tourists besides myself there. I stayed in a triangular tent that was set into a thai style platform, and enjoyed watching the rain from this vantage. I saw huge lizards, monkeys, snakes. The only drawback for me is that the hiking trails are not really developed enough, but I managed to explore the rest of the island anyway.

Visited April 2012
Helpful?
11 Thank garthastro
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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