Thailand is a top destination for tourists of all kinds, all around the world. There is truly something for everyone in “the land of smiles”. With so much tourism sustained – about 11 million people every year, and growing – there are few relatively untouched areas left in the country.
Few of the islands in the southern portion of the country still offer an off-the-beaten-path view of the unspoiled beauty of Thailand. Here is a list of those still remaining, for the tourist seeking a truly enjoyable Thai experience.
1. Koh Yao Noi
A small island located about an hour off the coast from tourist-heavy Phuket, Koh Yao Noi is something of a local secret. It is an island full of lush jungle, pristine, sparsely occupied beaches, and lots of wildlife – a perfect getaway for adventurous visitors. Part of the reason this island has remained cut off from the influence of tourism is perhaps the self-sufficiency of the 4,000-strong native community who live on rice paddies, fishing, and rubber factories.
The island cannot offer as many tourist thrills and activities as the mainland, but that is part of the charm – you can find utter bliss just relaxing, or perhaps venturing into the mountainous, forested interior and find yourself face-to-face with gibbons, scarlet macaws, geckos, and all kinds of colourful birds.
Other outdoor activities include sea kayaking, scuba diving, and rock climbing. There are only a couple of bars on the island, and accommodations consist of simple beach huts. Thanks to regulations prohibiting the building of anything over two stories tall, the low-key atmosphere of Koh Yao Noi is guaranteed to last for years to come.
2. Tarutao Island – Tarutao National Park
Tarutao National Park is the first and largest marine park in Thailand, protecting a special area of the Andaman Sea. Koh Tarutao is one of the fifty-one islands contained in the marine park, and is a place of natural splendour. Guest facilities include bungalows for rent, as well as several campsites, many of which allow you to set up camp in the shade of a palm tree right on the beach.
Tents are available for rent from the park personnel. The calm, warm, and clear waters of the marine park, filled with tropical marine life and coral reefs, make it idyllic for snorkelers and scuba divers. The best time of year would be outside of monsoon season (May through November).
3. Islands of Trang
This province includes 47 small islands located in the lower Andaman Sea. Thanks again to a strong community supporting itself without influence from the mainland, many of the islands remain off-the-beaten-path. It is likely to remain as pristine as possible, as around two-thirds of the island, filled with lush inland forest, waterfalls and cave systems, has been designated as a national park. April is the best time of year to visit, thanks to the ideal climate.
Ko Muk is the most well-known island, thanks to its special natural formation – a lagoon surrounded by steep cliff faces framing the sky – known as “Emerald Cave”. Ko Libong is a natural preserve that is an important stopover for migrating birds – making this island a favourite amongst bird watchers. If getting back to basics, and enjoy primitive travelling like it was done decades ago, then the Trang islands are your perfect destination.