From Koh Lanta to Tarutao covers 110 miles of coastline and islands, encompassing the three mainland provinces of Krabi, Trang and Satun at the Malaysian border. It includes Hat Chao Mai National Park, which covers 360 sq km and takes in 52 islands.
This area is popular for yachts travelling between Langkawi and Phuket − a regular run for non-Thai registered yachts checking out of Thailand every 6 months.
The closest airports are Trang and Krabi, which both have regular services from Bangkok; Krabi also has direct flights to Singapore. Overseas tourists and many Thai holidaymakers are now accessing the small resorts on the islands off Trang, which provide a wide range of peaceful protected havens set amid spectacular scenery.
The inshore islands south of Koh Lanta are characterised by a mix of steep limestone cliffs similar to the seascapes of Phang Nga Bay and Krabi and lower lying inshore islands. The larger island groups of Tarutao and Butang, on the other hand, are granitic outcrops similar to the west coast of Phuket and the Similan Islands.
Coral and small fish are plentiful and underwater visibility for snorkelling and diving ranges from 3 metres near the inshore islands, to 25 metres around the Butang group.
The islands closer to the mainland offer many protected anchorages in shallow water, similar to that of Phang Nga Bay. With its many secluded anchorages and protection in both seasons, the whole region offers itself for year-round exploration.
Kantang is the harbour for Trang, a major southern provincial town which has grown rich mainly on rubber and other agricultural products.
This fishing port has an excellent shipyard, though decidedly ethnic and only for the hardier yachts. The approach is marked; the entrance is south of Tali Bong Island. Use Chart #336 or follow a large fishing boat into the estuary and harbour. Favour the west side, as it is well buoyed in the channel. In the river there is a fast-ferry jetty at Taaverlarp Fishing Co. This is more a work venue than a leisure destination.
Koh Tali Bong has good anchorage all along its west coast, but beware of the reef extending at the southern end. On the mainland north of the island and facing south are picnic grounds and safe anchorage can be found in shallow water anywhere in the passage. This area is home to the Talibong Archipelago Wildlife Reserve because the sea channels are home to more than 40 rare dugongs that graze on the sea grass that flourishes in the north bay.
Using this passage to enter the river into Kantang from the west above Koh Tali Bong is possible with shallow draft boats at high tide. Do not attempt at night; lights from work barges can easily be confused with channel markers.
The Butang group, part of Tarutao Marine National Park, provides the clearest waters and most beautiful coral gardens in the area. In their efforts to keep the coral in prime condition, the Thai authorities are levying heavy fines for any vessels found to be anchoring on the reefs. Anchor well off the reef edge or pick up a suitable mooring.
These granitic islands are blanketed by rain forest and fringed with white sand beaches similar to those found in the Similan Islands.
Access from the mainland is via Pak Bara, 60 miles from Satun. Ferries run into Koh Adang, Koh Rawi and Koh Lipe, which offer basic accommodation.
Tarutao is the largest island of the 51-island National Park archipelago covering a whopping 152 square kilometres. Its southern coast lies only 4 miles from the Malaysian duty-free island of Langkawi.
Tarutao comes from a Malay word for “old, mysterious and primitive” – an apt description for this densely forested, former penal colony. In 1938, the government chose Tarutao to incarcerate 500 political prisoners as it was fairly remote and infested with crocodiles.
The island’s history is sketchy but, by 1946, the inmates were multinational and running their own anarchic society; some were referred to as pirates. The British army was invited to clean it up in 1946, and the penal colony was disbanded.
Tarutao was declared Thailand’s first National Park in 1972 – incorporating the neighbouring Butang group in 1974. Among its attractions, Tarutao offers lots of walking trails leading to waterfalls, caves, lookouts and isolated beaches and stories of early clashes between national park rangers, pirates, fisherman and poachers are the stuff of legend.
Although we mention only anchorages of special interest here, plenty more await discovery around Tarutao.
Access from the mainland is from Pak Bara landing at
Ao Pante, where onward
ferries to Butang and Lipe are available.
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While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.
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