Mu Koh Ang Thong National Marine Park, now an ASEAN Heritage Park
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recently announced that two of Thailand’s National Parks have been recognized as the ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHPs) in the 15th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment that took place recently.
By this, now Thailand has six total number of ASEAN Heritage Parks.
While the meeting was going on, named as the 15th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on the Transboundary Haze Pollution, the parks were nominated and the ministers approved the nominations of two protected areas that are Hat Chao National Park and Mu Ko Libong Non-hunting Area in Thailand.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park was listed as 45th and 46th ASEAN Heritage Parks this year.
There are already four national parks in Thailand that are allocated as the ASEAN Heritage Parks in the previous years.
They are named as Khao Yai National Park (also as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Tarutao National Park, Mu Ko Surin-Mu Ko Similan-Ao Phang-nga National Parks Complex and Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex.
About the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
If you already do not know about this one, then it is located in the Gulf of Thailand. The Mu Ko Ang Thong is an archipelago that consists of 42 limestone islands, along with the mesmerizing steep cliffs.
There is nothing else, but beauty there. When you will be visiting there, you will notice the combination of beauty that it has.
The clear water and the white sandy beaches are not something one should miss.
The biological diversity that one can witness on the land and in the sea is something that contributes to the beauty of this National Park.
It is one of the most famous and magnificent places to be visited by tourists in the Gulf of Thailand.
Paphiopedilum godefroyae var. Ang-Thong or Ang Thong Lady Slipper is an endemic orchid species that is known as a native to Thailand because it grows over there. Especially it grows alongside the coasts of Mu Ko Ang Thong, and it also grows and found in the cavities of the rocks.
These can also be found on the ground on Ko Wua Talap, Ko Phi and Ko Sam Sao. As it is a native to Thailand, you must know that when you will witness it, you will see that its flower stands erect with a sort of hair cream white dotted brown-purple with a stalk which is of green color.
Another thing that contributes to its beauty and should not be ignored is the Chancharas cliffs, they are outstanding and are visible in the scenery of this National Park. They are one of those things that contribute to the island’s beauty. It also islets within the archipelago of the National Park Mu Ko Ang Thong.
All you need to know about the ASEAN Heritage Parks
In case you are still thinking that what it is all about, first of all, you need to know is the importance of ASEAN Heritage Parks and what it is all about. Basically, the ASEAN Heritage Parks are referred to as “protected areas of high conservation importance, it preserves the complete spectrum of the ecosystem representative of the ASEAN region”.
If you are still trying to find the objective behind this, then when a national park is recognized as an ASEAN region it is done for the purpose of creating a lot of awareness, appreciation, pride, conservation, and enjoyment of the ASEAN heritage.
It is done by the establishment and support of the reserved region, it also establishes a collaboration between the countries that are members of ASEAN Heritage in order to preserve nature. One can say that the basic purpose of adding regions to the list of ASEAN is to preserve nature, by all means.
The protected or reserved areas are to be designated as ASEAN heritage parks will be then nominated by the member state’s government of every country and then an evaluation takes place by the ASEAN member countries.
Obviously, there is a criteria that identifies a region to be added in the list of ASEAN heritage.
The criteria of identifying a national park or place as ASEAN Heritage is that the place identified by the government should be natural, its ecosystem must be in abundance, the place must be well-reserved by the authorities, most important thing is preservation which means the efforts that are done in order to preserve it and it must be well-preserved.
The boundary should be clear of the border, the place must be unique and is important for biodiversity. It must be culturally and biologically diverse.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park was established back in 1980 as a marine national park, as we have already mentioned that it is an archipelago of a total of 42 islands and those islands are covering 102 kilometers at the shore of the Province Surat Thai situated in the Gulf of Thailand.
This park is registered as a Ramsar site by the Ramsar Convention, if you are unaware of it then it at is an international treaty for the purpose of recognizing the important wetlands.
There are many sources that declare the islands as “Ang Thong” which is not actually right because the actual spelling is “Ang Thong” and the meaning of this is “Golden basin”.
More information about the Island
More information about the island is that it covers the 18 kilometers of the National Park, some of the major ones are Ko Phaluai, Ko Wua Ta Lap, Ko Mae Ko, Ko Sam Sao, Ko Hin Dap, Ko Nai Phut and Ko Phai Luak.
Another important thing is the highest peak that is located on the Ko Phaluai which is at 396m above the level of the sea.
The Islands mainly consist of steep and rugged limestones, sinkholes, hills, caves, and inland marine lakes, all of these combine to make it look beautiful and breathtaking.
There is only one nomadic village which is at Ko Wua Ta Lap and then there is another one situated at Ko Phaluai. All of the other islands are uninhabited.
Ang Thong forests
Then comes the forests which mainly consists of the dry evergreen forest situated on the large islands, then there are limestone forests and the minor planted mangrove forests that you can witness around the bays and beaches. Among all these plants, Ang Thong Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum Ang Thong) is an endemic species that are found in the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park.
Animal species in the National Park
If you are concerned about the animal species present there, then they are limited. The identified ones are 16 mammals, around 50 species of birds, 14 reptiles and around 5 of the species belonging to amphibians.
Some of the mammal species that you might see there on the islands are dusky lea monkeys, fishing cat, wild boar, long-tail macaque, leopard cat, and the smooth-coated otter.
Birds are one of the species that you will be witnessing there most of the time, these include the collared kingfisher, white-bellied sea eagle, black baza, brahminy kite, eurasian woodcock Eurasian, oriental pied hornbill, common hill myna and pacific reef heron.
Ang Thong Diving sites
Then we can talk about diving sites, which are also a few on the northern islands. These sites are the ones ideal for snorkeling activities.
You might be concerned about the depth of the sea which is around 10m and the visibility is low due to that fact that there is heavy sediment from the Tapi River towards the mainland, diving on one of the coral gardens will be giving you an opportunity to witness the marine species such as the marine turtles, yellow-spotted trevallies, hawksbill sea turtle.
If you are concerned about the best time for diving there then I would suggest February to October and the best visibility in the water is in the month of March.
Cost of headquarter facilities
There are headquarters and some of the basic facilities provided to the tourists at Ko Wua Ta Lap.
The entry fee over there is 300 Baht for the foreigners and whereas the children will be costing around 150 baht. For the local tourists, it is 40 baht and for children, it is 20 Baht.
There is no doubt that a place is not a miss, but you need to keep in mind that only licensed tours are allowed to be entered in the National Park. We would recommend you to hire a boat in order to visit the park and Ang Thong is around 28 km from Ko Samui and 32 km from Ko Pha Ngan.
Let us discuss some of the attractions of Mu Ko Ang Thong
Ko Wua Ta Lap
It is the island where you will be seeing the headquarter and some basic facilities, the headquarter is near the Kha bay which is situated in the northeast of the island. The best thing to see there is two white beaches situated on the island. One is at the headquarters and the other one is on the opposite.
You can access it by making 700m through the forest.
The HQ consists of bungalows, grounds for camping, center for the visitors, shops/restaurant and a station of rangers. If you are concerned about the cost of two people’s tent then it is 250 Baht. You can book it in advance from the Department of National Parks, wildlife and Plant Conservation’s website.
There are not many but 5 bungalows that cost 500 Bhat for 2 bedrooms.
Wua Ta Lap Viewpoint
It is known as the main attraction of the whole national ark, you can access this place by a trail which is 500m long and steep from the headquarters. Not suitable for a faint-hearted and you will have to walk for 20-30 minutes. There is a rope for support and showing the way up.
Bua Bok Cave
This is a beautiful cave, which consists of stalagmite and stalactite formation and you can access it by a hike of 1 kilometer from the HQ.
Ko Mae Ko
This means the mother Island, Ko Mae Ko is the island which is blessed with the emerald saltwater lake that is known as Thale Nai, this is also connected with the sea through the caves that are underwater.
You will have to go by a trail which takes around 20 minutes to walk and you will reach the viewpoint. This lake is surrounded by the limestone cliffs, you will witness the white beaches as well.
Ko Sam Sao
It is situated on the east side of the Ko Mae Ko, this is the island that is blessed with several beaches and many coral reefs and grounds for camping.
You can get the tents from the headquarters on rent, no shops or facilities on the island are available. Most of the time there is no water because there is water in rainy seasons only.
By reading all about the National Park, you might be of the same point of view that it deserved to be at the list of ASEAN Heritage. If you are planning to go over there, do not forget to share your experience in the comments section below.