Ko Adang is the largest of the islands which make up Tarutao National Park in Thailand. It is uninhabited with smooth white sand beaches, waterfalls, hiking trails, and gorgeous views nearby island. The solitude provided on the island has made it a unique tourist destination for foreigners seeking time away from the hustle and bustle of life. The island can be accessed from the smaller neighboring island of Ko Lipe, traveling by boat to Ko Adang’s western beach. Most visit the island on a day trip though bungalows and tent campgrounds are made available by the national park headquarters on the island.
The island’s shallow waters were once filled with shrimp and so the name given to the island comes from the Malay word for these crustaceans. In 1974 the island was declared a conservation site, barring local fishermen from using the area, in an attempt to stop the rapid degradation of the island’s ecosystem. Thai authorities found the illegal dynamite fishermen less than willing to give up their prime fishing spots. The fishermen even held police hostages until the government gained control of the area. Ko Adang has a history of illegality surrounding it as pirates were said to have used the island to hide their loot in the 1940s. Though the island is officially uninhabited, the Urak Lawoi, a small sea gypsy settlement, has lived on the island’s east coast for over a century.
Tourism and Tarutao Park
Tourism on the island is minimal which makes it attractive for the visitors that travel to Ko Adang. The park facilities are closed from April 15 to November 15 each year but day trips can still be made during these dates. A fee of 200 Thai Bahts (or $6 USD) is required to enter the park and is valid for five days on all Tarutao Park islands. There is the park headquarters and visitor center along with a restaurant, bungalows, and a tent campground on arrival at the island. Things that most attract tourists are the 150-meter high Chadoe Cliff, the Pirate’s Falls, Kinaree Waterfall, the jungle treks, and the amazingly clear snorkeling. Tourists should be aware that there are no ATMs on the island and plan to have cash on hand prior to arriving on Ko Adang.
Habitat and Biodiversity
Ko Adang has beautiful mountain peaks that can be seen from as far away as Malyasia, and these provide breathtaking views of the surrounding islands. The island waters are home to 25% of the world’s fish species including shark, eel, carp, salmon, and angelfish. The wide variety of colorful tropical fish among the reefs makes snorkeling a veritable feast for the eyes. The island also has monkey, egrets, and white-bellied sea eagles, langurs, macaques, mouse deer, and wild pigs. The tropical forests on the island allow for a unique variety of animals. The island also has a black sand beach on its north coast. Due to monsoon winds from May through to October, visitors are encouraged to be safe and plan accordingly.
Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
The reefs surrounding Ko Adang are experiencing degradation due to natural and human causes. The dynamite used by illegal fishermen especially destroyed some of the reefs and so disrupted the fragile ecosystem. There has also been a decline in the number of migratory birds. However, the park authorities claim these have not significantly affected the ecological integrity of the park.