Ao Phang Nga National Park
Ao Phang-Nga Marine National Park covers 400 square kilometres of breath-taking mangrove forests, limestone karsts and emerald green waters. The park was established by royal decree in 1981 to protect the area, 80% of which is covered by the Andaman Sea.
There are over 40 islands that can be accessed on one of the tours available, or by hiring a canoe and kayak and exploring the area’s craggy edges. Paddle through hidden hongs – or ‘rooms’ – in the limestone rock formations, that can be accessed at low tide. Keep an eye out for prehistoric the rock art painted or carved onto the surfaces.
Many tours boast trips to James Bond Island, known as such because it was immortalised in The Man with the Golden Gun. Thai locals prefer to call it Ko Phing Kan – or Leaning on Itself Island – referring to the flat limestone cliff that appears to be leaning up against its neighbour.
If possible, choose a tour that includes a stop at Ko Panyi. Experience the fresh Thai seafood on offer at this small Muslim fishing village, which stands on stilts. Friendly locals offer beautiful handcrafted souvenirs to take away.
Despite the crowds that flock here, the rugged scenery offers so many corners to explore that those seeking solitude are able to locate a deserted beach or stretch of island on which to relax and recharge, or even to moor a canoe or kayak while experiencing the depths of what Ao Phang-Nga National Park has to offer beneath the surface. There are over 80 species of marine life said to be found in this area, as well as snakes, lizards and frogs.
Temperatures here are generally high all year round, with the monsoon season between May and October heralding high rainfall and choppier waters.