Saturday, October 31, 2015

Voyage to a secret lagoon; Ang thong Marine National Park

With the wind in my hair and the sand at my feet; I stood mesmerized by the panoramic view of the archipelago of over 40 islands that make up Ang Thong Marine national park. While Gulf of Thailand is revered for full moon parties at Koh Phangan; cheap diving courses at Koh Tao and honeymooning couples at Koh Samui, for those seeking tranquility, secret lagoon (not-so-secret-anymore!) and pristine beach, I highly recommend a trip from Koh Samui to Anthong Marine National Park, a protected marine park.


The voyage

As the high from hookah and many-a-pinacolada on new years’ eve at Ark’s bar was just was receding (yes, unbelievable but true, we did this day trip on 1 Dec 2015!), a minivan arrived to pick us up at our hotel (in Bophut) and take us to the Nathon pier (jetty).  


Upon arrival, we were greeted with chirpy bunch of photographers who clicked out solo and group pictures before boarding the double-decker boat.  Each of us was then assigned a wrist band to indicate the day-tour package we opted to (i.e. with our without kayaking!). We had just enough time for a quick breakfast of fruits, black coffee/ tea and croissants on board before our boat set sail.

We settled in on the lower deck, mainly to avoid sun-tan.  For those who prefer a tan, the upper deck is perfect to spread your towel and laze! Our boat moved swiftly cutting the greenish, blue waters as we left Samui behind.  


The next hour and a half we had azure waters, clear skies and the sound of wind and motor of our boat, fighting for prominence, for company.  We seemed to be in the middle of nowhere!

Suddenly the activity on board increased; faint outline of islands appeared in the distance.  Soon enough, almost everyone on the boat stood by the railings to get a front-seat view of the approaching archipelago.


The islands peaked above the sea-level to form interesting shapes – stout of a whale, plates of dinosaur’s back and even an impersonation of James Bond Island! The sheer limestone cliffs were mesmerizing!



Our boat anchored just off the beach at Ko Wua Talap island.  We strapped on our life jackets, secured our belongings in a waterproof bag (provided by tour operator) and got onto a long-tail boat. 


Riding the waves on a kayak

Ko Wua Talap island was one of the two-islands included as part of our day trip.  For those who had paid for kayaking, the tour guide quickly handed out kayaks (one person or two person rafts) and pedals while giving us basic instructions on how to kayak! We hopped into our kayaks and set sail. 


Half the fun of kayaking/ any activity is to have company! I choose a two person kayak and it turned out to be a good decision! Initially the waves were gentle, as we rowed away from the shore.  All the kayaks moved ahead as a big group to explore other side of the mountain over-looking out beach, so did we.  


At the very curve of the mountain the waves grew stronger and winds started blowing us astray in deep-ocean!  Luckily, two’s a company and we managed to kayak back to calmer waters along the shore.  We bobbed around, rowing alternatively (saves energy!) while enjoying the sound of the waves and silence of this place!

Yatch docked at the shore!
Forty five minutes into our session, we were back on the shore tending to our aching arms (lack of exercise, you see!).  We then briefly explored the island a bit.  It housed a small restaurant and 6 huts which are available to tourists to stay the night (wish we had!). 

After our fellow tour members got back from their kayaking escapades, we boarded the longtail, got to our boat and set sail just beyond the hill towards the next island.

Secret green lagoon

We got off at Mae Koh island and had plenty of time at hand. 


We decided to climb up the flight of stairs (fairly high metal stairs, with railing for support) Mae Koh Island view point for stunning panaromas of Anthong Marine.  

Half-way to the climb
During the climb we saw sign-boards guiding us towards green lagoon.  It so turned out, one side of the view point offered breath-taking views of the archipelago, while the other an emerald green lagoon!

Finding secret lagoon!
Funnily, we spent more time admiring the view from the view point than raving about the lagoon!  The viewing deck is a perfect place to chit-chat while enjoying the breath-taking views! And thats's exactly what we did!

Feast for eyes!
The climb itself was exhilarating. But being on a day trip we were pressed for time and soon enough began our descent to the beach. 

Not finding nemo

We had exactly 45 minutes to sit on the beach, and gather our thoughts or snorkel! I decided to opt for snorkelling as I find that itself very relaxing!  The snorkel gear/ life jacket is again provided by the boat operator.  There was an area adjoining the beach which was marked with bouys.  Tourists are allowed to only snorkel in this limited area. 


I was mighty surprised with the variety of fish in this small area.  There were also some corals (which I do hope tourists do not damage unknowingly!).  The water was greenish blue and glowed like a jewel in the afternoon sun.

Nope, I did not find nemo; but snorkeling in these islands was very calming. 

Picnic lunch

Soon enough it was time to head-back.  At that very moment I wished we were staying at Anthong Marine for the night. Imagine staying in a hut, with no electricity post sunset and just enjoying the endless lapping of waves on the shore and looking out at the dozen stars in the sky.  Someday soon!
We got onto our boat with mighty hunger.  The lunch spread was laid for us on the lower deck.  It almost seemed like a picnic lunch – tons of salad, fried fish, chicken curry and rice, potato veggie and some dessert.  The lunch itself was nothing to boast about, however, the non-vegetarian spread was better than the vegetarian one.

Snoozing on the ride back

The island day was exhausting.  I slept through most of the ride back.  


When we reached Samui I was not to perfectly tanned, my lips were salty but I had a moony smile pasted across my face.  The magic of ocean never fails to uplift me!

If you ask me, this day trip is way way way way better than the day trip we took in Phuket (Maya bay); majorly due to lack of crowds which makes you believe that you discovered the pristine shoreline and the secret green lagoon by yourself!


Details:

How to book Anthong tours?

Hop into any tourism shops and ask for costing and availability of day trips to Anthong.  There are plenty of operators offering this tour.  We bought out tickets at 7 PM the day before our trip.

Costs?

The tours cost seem negotiable.  One needs to pay on the spot. Our operator insisted on cash.  We paid THB 1300 (approx. INR 2,600) [prices during Jan 2015].

Which boat?

We took a large boat. But smaller yatch–like-lomprayah’s are faster, provide opportunity for more personalized trips and are more expensive.

Should you take this trip?

Absolutely!!!!

4 comments:

Soumyendu said...

Looks like you were having the time of your life! That hidden lagoon reminds me of a place behind our school in Rourkela, on the banks of the river Koel, which I thought I had discovered for myself when I was not yet ten, full of stories of adventure and discovery haha!

I see you have redesigned your page a bit, giving access to itemised stories. Keep it up Preeti

Preeti Datar said...

Dear Soumyendu, as always pleasure to have you visit my blog and leave honest comments. Yes, I have done a minor tweak to the blog for ease of access. On your recommendation, I have also decided to be judicious with the photos I post, yet keeping the post impactful.

As far as childhood days and discovering secret places go, yes, indeed, I'm sure for a 10-year old boy discovering a lagoon must be an amazing experience. I too remember discovering secret short-cuts through ber forest on the way home from school! Those were the good times :)

Nikita Raikwar said...

Lovely Post Preeti -
Reading more from these ^_^

#GTGITravelBloggers

Preeti Datar said...

Thank you Nikita :) you should totally go here!

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