Tarutao Marine National Park is the largest marine preserve in both Thailand and Southeast Asia. Founded as Thailand’s second marine national park in 1972, it comprises 51 islands in three distinct groups, located in the balmy waters of Thailand’s Andaman Sea.
Thailand has more than its fair share of picture-perfect islands and beaches but what makes Tarutao so special is that, with the exception of the tiny island of Ko Lipe, no private resorts or infrastructure developments are permitted. This regulation is very strictly enforced.
This makes Tarutao a model for environmentally friendly tourism. Great emphasis has been placed by the authorities on preserving the region’s natural resources. Moreover the park is officially closed during the monsoon between May and November. Consequently the park remains wonderfully pristine and unspoiled.
Tarutao is about experiencing the wildness of nature close up. Whether diving on coral reefs, exploring sea caves by kayak or hiking to hidden waterfalls, it would be difficult to find a more exquisite and tranquil marine idyll anywhere in the world.
The main gateway to Tarutao is the small port of Pak Bara on the Satun coast about a two-hour drive from the nearest airports at Hat Yai or Trang. Although little more than a one-street fishing village, this is the last place the traveller to Tarutao will encounter civilization in the form of banks, supermarkets or even ATM machines. Then it’s on to a speedboat for the 90-minute, 61-kilometre journey to Ko Lipe.