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Tarutao National Marine Park
Located in the Andaman Sea, 40 km from the town of Satun or 22 km off the shores of Pak Bara, and close proximity to Lipe and Langkawi in Malaysia. To the north, the park borders the Muko Phetra National Park, and to the south, it borders the boundary waters between Malaysia and Thailand. Part of the Tarutao Marine National Park of Thailand. Tarutao is renowned for its history and natural beauty.
The word ‘Tarutao’ was gradually changed from ‘Talotrao’ in Malay, which means having many bays.
The National park covers an area of about 1,500 sq km, including islands and sea. Of the 51 islands, there are 7 large islands; namely, Ko Tarutao, Ko Adang, Ko Rawi, Ko Lipe, Ko Klang, Ko Batuang, and Ko Bitsi. These islands have been formed into two major groups; Muko Tarutao and Muko Adang – Rawi. The area was declared a national park on 19 April 1974, and ASEAN Heritage Parks and Reserves by UNESCO in 1982.
The best time for a visit is during November to April but can be reached at all times of year.
Ko Tarutao is the largest island of the National Park, covering an area of 152 sq km. Most of the area is mountainous with a moist evergreen forest and interesting species of plants and wildlife, such as wild boars and hornbills.
There are many bays, both small and large, with beautiful beaches. In the sea, various species of fish, including 4 endangered species of sea turtle, can be been.
History of Koh Tarutao
Apart from an abundance of nature, Koh Tarutao has a remarkable history. In 1936, the government set up a reformatory estate and a prison on the island. Being a remote island having natural elements which pose obstacles against escape, Tarutao was, therefore, chosen for this purpose. An office building, houses for wardens, a sleeping hall for prisoners, and an occupational training centre, were built at Ao Talo Wao and Ao Talo Udang.
In 1938, the first group of 500 prisoners was sent to the island. The number of prisoners gradually increased to a maximum of 3,000. In 1939, the government sent 70 more political prisoners resulting from the Bowondet and Nai Sip rebels, to be detained at Ao Talo Udang.
In 1941, World World II caused an impact on the Tarutao prison and it quickly became short of food and medicine. As a result, a great number of prisoners died of illness and starvation. The wardens and some prisoners decided to attack commercial ships sailing in the sea in the Straits of Melaka and rob goods from them. Therefore, the area become known as 'A sea full of pirates".
In 1946, the British government who ruled Melaka at the time successfully suppressed the pirates of Tarutao by force upon permission from the Thai government, later, the Department of Corrections announced the dissolution of the Tarutao Prison. After that, the island was left mostly deserted for next 26 years.
On 19 April 1974, the Royal Forest Department declared the establishment of the Tarutao National Park, the first-ever marine national park of Thailand. The headquarters of the Tarutao National Park is located here. There is a tourist service centre where an exhibition has been held about the nature and history of Ko Tarutao.
From Ao Phante Melaka, visitors can walk up to a viewpoint on Pha To Bu (To Bu Cliff). Ao Chak, this small bay is next to Ao Phante Melaka. Ao Mo Lae, it is 4 km from the park’s headquarters. The bay possesses a clean white sandy beach. There is a beautiful grove of coconut trees amidst tranquility, as well as bungalows.
Ao Son, is 8 km from the park’s headquarters. This curve-shaped bay has sandy beaches which are interspersed with rocky beaches. It is also an egg-laying ground for sea turtles. A camping and food services are available. There are small waterfalls: Namtok Ludu and Namtok Lopo. This is an ideal place for forest trekking and a nature study.
Ao Talo Wao is a bay located to the east of the island, and provides another viewpoint for a beautiful sunrise. The Park’s Ranger Station To To 1 (Talo Wao) is situated here. It is a historical area where the reformatory estate for detention and critical prisoners was established. Nowadays, the park has imitation buildings of the past, such as houses of the warders, a sleeping hall of prisoners, an occupational training centre, a cemetery of 700 corpses, etc., constructed in the area.
Ao Talo Udang is a bay located to the south of the island, 8 km from Ko Langkawi. The Park’s Ranger Station To To 2 (Talo Udang) is situated here. In the past, it was where political prisoners from the Bowondet and Nai Sip rebels were detained.
Namtok Ludu is a small beautiful waterfall, around 3 km from Ao Son. There is a nature trail from Ao Son to Namtok Ludu. Tham Chorakhe is a cave of 300 m in depth. Inside, beautiful stalactites and stalagmites can be found in different forms. To visit the cave, take a long-tailed boat for around 20 minutes. The boat cruises along Khlong Phante Melaka (Phante Melaka Canal) where numerous mangrove trees grow all along its banks. About an hour is needed to explore the inside of the cave. Visitors should bring their own torches.
Pha To Bu is a cliff 60 m above sea level. A 20-minute-walk up to the viewpoint passes by a dry evergreen forest. The viewpoint is behind the park’s headquarters, overlooking the beach of Ao Phante Melaka, Ko Bulon, Ko Klang, Ko Khai, Ko Adang, Ko Rawi, and Muko Phetra.
Tarutao Adventure Tours
Other Activities on Ko Tarutao
Tarutao Nature Trail, from the park’s headquarters in Ao Phante Melaka, a nature trail goes through an evergreen forest to Ao Talo Wao. This 12-kilometre path is flanked by dense woods and shady plants. Wild animals such as common wild pig, mouse deer, and many interesting species of bird, particularly hornbill, can be often seen along the way.
Another nature trail is to Ao Chak, Ao Mo and Ao Son. The 8-kilometre walk takes about 2 hours to pass through a virgin rain forest, and is suitable for bird-watching; for example, hornbill and drongo.
Cruising and boat tours
In order study nature as part of eco tourism, the park provides boats with guiding officers for a visit to the beaches. The one-day boat trip will take visitors to see birds at Ao Chak; the white sandy beach at Ao Son which is the longest one on Ko Tarutao; historical traces at Ao Talo Udang; and nature at Ao Talo Wao; dive on a coral reef, and visit a mangrove forest.
Accommodation on Tarutao National Park
Guesthouses for visitors are available on Ko Tarutao and Ko Adang, ranging from simple bungalows to tents on the beach.
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