Phang-Nga is a gorgeous province filled with majestic mountains, jungles, gleaming rivers flowing to shimmering bays and limestone karsts. Many of the most beautiful underwater treasures of Thailand are found in Phang Nga. This is also where some of the most sensational national parks in Thailand are located, including four amazing conservation. Divers and snorkelers head to the Surin and Similan islands due to the legendary dive sites.
One of the oldest rain forests exists is the Khao Sok National Park with rare species, magnificent waterfalls and unique caves here. You can visit the beaches surrounding Khao Lak or a few rarely visited islands if you want to relax and enjoy the sand. Phang Nga is seasonal with the area attracting visitors from the middle of October until mid-April due to the colourful reefs, snowy-white beaches and crystal clear waters. There are fewer visitors during the monsoon season from May through October, which is a good time to visit and avoid the crowds.
1. Similan Islands Marine National Park
This national park encompasses 740 sq-km. Divers from all over the world are familiar with this marine park. The park is located 70km from the province of Phang Nga. The smoothness of the granite islands is just as impressive as the beautiful aqua waters flowing below. The area is covered with lush rain forests, coral reefs and startlingly white beaches. Unfortunately, a lot of the hard corals have been killed due to coral bleaching, but you can still enjoy the beautiful soft corals. This is one of the most popular parks for diving.
The park was expanded in 1998 from the initial nine islands. Both Ko Tachai and Ko Bon are now included. These islands have not been touched by coral bleaching. If you are interested in snorkelling or diving, these islands are an exceptional choice. Of the 11 islands, there are ranger stations on two, Ko Similan and Ko Miang. You will find the majority of activity centres and the park visitor centre on Ko Miang. The word Similan was taken from sembilan, a Malay word. The actual translation is nine. This refers to the islands commonly referred to by numbers despite the actual names.
You will find most of the dive schools based on Hat Khao Lak. This is the starting point for the park. Just 12km to the south, you will find the mainland national headquarters for the park and the pier on Thap Lamu. To see the visitors centre, go to Ko Miang. The national park has avoided the masses of tourists coming to the snorkel and dive sites or the beaches. This can result in long waits to enjoy the numerous viewpoints. As of 2018, tourists were no longer allowed to spend the night in the Similans. You can spend the night on a live-aboard if you are a diver.
During specific periods, Ko Tachai is closed to tourists. This is a part of the yearly environmental review. The number of tourists allowed to visit the islands has been restricted with a new quota system. To make certain you are able to get on a boat, you should book in advance.
2. Ao Phang-Nga National Park
Ao Phang Nga National Park was founded in 1981, and encompasses 400-sq-km. The park has become famous worldwide due to the karst scenery. The 42 islands are dominated by enormous vertical cliffs. Some have caves leading to hidden horngs. This is a lagoon with solid walls made of rock surrounding all sides. There are both small and large tidal channels comprising the bay such as Khlong Bo Saen, Khlong Phang-Nga, Khlong Bang Toi and Khlong Ko Phanyi. The channels run through mangroves from north to south, functioning as aquatic highways.
These are the biggest mangrove forests left in Thailand. The marine limestone environment of this park conceals a wide variety of reptiles including two-banded monitors and Bengal monitor lizards which resemble crocodiles when they are swimming, banded sea snakes, Malayan pit vipers, flying lizards and shore pit vipers. The mangroves provide homes for many mammals on the islands including dusky langurs, crab-eating macaques, serows and white-handed gibbons. There are a lot of tourists visiting the bay during the high season.
Your best option is exploring Ko Yao Yai or Ko Yao Noi during the early morning or remaining a little later than the other visitors. This is a good way to find a limestone karst or a small section of sea or beach just for yourself. You will have a lot of fun if you explore the park on a kayak. An advanced e-ticketing feature is expected to become available for the park shortly.
3. Surin Islands Marine National Park
The park is located 5km from the marine border of Thailand and Myanmar, just 60 km offshore. This is where you will find the five magnificent islands of the marine national park. The granite-outcrop islands are characterised by areas of sandy white beaches, rocky headlands making their way into the ocean, sheltered bays and a healthy and beautiful rain forest. You can easily spot marine life due to the crystal clear waters. Outside of the monsoon season, the visibility underwater is a maximum of 30m. If you are a snorkeler or a diver, you will have the time of your life here.
This is considered one of the best spots in Thailand for both activities. Due to the shielded waters, small numbers of sea gypsies or chow lair are attracted to the area. This is an ethnic group living on Ko Surin Tai during the monsoon season from May until November. The sea gypsies are referred to as Moken locally. The word oken translates to saltwater. The flaxen sand is breathtaking, the depths a gorgeous purple, with shimmering bays in shades of both turquoise and jade. The peninsulas are sheer granite, creating a never ending geological avalanche.
The result is the formation of points resembling arrows in addition to natural breakwaters. The scenery of this park is exquisite. The two biggest of the islands are Ko Surin Neua to the north and Ko Surin Tai to the south. You will find all of the visitor facilities, the information office and the park headquarters at Ao Chang Khad. This is located on Ko Surin Neua, to the southwest. The starting point of this park is Khuraburi, Go northwest 9km from the town to see the pier. You can even arrange to stay overnight or take a spectacular day trip.
One of the islands located in the Similan National Park is called Ko Tachai. Twin Peaks is considered one of the most fantastic dive sites on the islands. The site is usually reserved specifically for experienced divers due to the strong currents. You will see big fish including leopard sharks and manta rays in addition to turtles. Due to environmental concerns, Ko Tachai is sometimes closed to tourists. You can still dive from offshore dive boats. Both Ko Bon and Ko Tachi were included in the Similan Islands in 1998 during the expansion of this beautiful park.
Prior to the 1998 expansion, Ko Bon was an uninhabited island. The west ridge of the island is considered the best place in Thailand for viewing manta rays. The good condition of the coral is attractive to a lot of different fish. If you are an experienced diver, Ko Bon is a good choice. The currents here are often very strong.
4. Khao Sok National Park
The world’s oldest evergreen forest can be found in the Khao Sok National Park. You can find the park by heading approximately 50km to the northeast of Khao Lak. The park is part of the Surat Thani province. This is considered a low mountainous area with the highest peak at roughly 950m. The oldest evergreen rain forest on the globe covers this point beautifully. One of the most breathtaking areas of southern Thailand is located in the centre of this park. This is the Cheow Lan Lake. Ratchaprapha Dam contains this man-made lake.
Cheow Lan Lake encompasses 165km of the sea. The characteristics are identical to Phang Nga Bay. This world-famous bay can be found about 100km to the south. The karst formations are tall and made of limestone. The formations reach out from the lake’s emerald waters, and are surrounded by mudstone and sandstone hills. The vegetation covering the area has more diversity than the Amazon forest. This is an incredibly popular area to visit that you do not want to miss.
Khao Sok National Park offers an incredible variety of flora and fauna. More than five percent of the animal species found all over the world live here. This includes tapirs, wild boars, tigers, elephants and white-handed gibbons. You will also discover exceptionally rare plants including the Rafflesia. In Thailand, the flower is called bua phut or the extremely big stinky flower. Due to the topography, this is one of the wettest areas you fill find in Thailand. During the high monsoon season from November to April, monsoons come from the Bay of Thailand.
During the low season from May until October, monsoons reach the area from the Bay of Bengal. You should still come to visit because you will always see the sun shining in between the downpours. You can visit the Khao Sok National Park all year long.
5. Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park
Khao Lak is located by the west shoreline, with the park encompassing 125sqm. Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park includes sections of the Phang Nga, Takua Pa, Kapong and Thai Muang Town districts. You can reach the area by taking Route 4 approximately 33 kms to the south of Takua Pa. If you are a nature lover, the sightseeing opportunities at this park will take your breath away. You will see a lot of wildlife and exotic plants, beaches, mountains, estuaries, mangroves and forested valleys. One of the most popular area is Kao Lak mountain. The mountain is right next to the sea with a temple.
This temple has been dedicated to the mountain’s wizard, and is near the district of Thai Muang. You will find the Khao Lak Park headquarters on the Leam Hin Change headland, about 50 metres from Highway 4. Once you enter the park, you have several sensational choices. There is a path on the left that will take you to a viewpoint. If you keep following the path, you will reach a little sand beach called Lek. This is a long walk, so you should wear comfortable shoes, and bring insect repellent and a lot of water.
Your efforts will pay off as soon as you reach the delightful seclusion and see the lovely coral of the beach. Just a couple of metres from the main park gate is a delightful restaurant. The view of the Andaman Sea and the hills are stunning. If you want to see even more of the park, simply head inland.
6. Thai Muang National Park
This area was once used for mining tin. The park is located about 25kms from Khao Lak. You simply take Highway 4 in the same direction as Phuket. The most popular attractions in the park include Tohn Prai, Turtle Beach or Hat Thai Muang and Tohn Prai Falls. Every year in March, there is a seven-day festival to release the turtles. The Fisheries Department raises the turtles to be released into the sea by the participants.
7. Sri Phang Nga National Park
This park is located approximately 60 km from Khao Lak in the Takua Pa and Kuraburi districts. You can enjoy hiking, visit the virgin forest or even spend the night in the camping grounds provided by the park. Depending on how much time you have and your fitness level, you can walk to several waterfalls from the park headquarters. The Sri Phang Nga offers some of the most beautiful scenery in Thailand. You can have a lot of fun camping here overnight.