Tarutao National Park

ASEAN Heritage Parks
Tarutao National Park - Old, mysterious and primitive
Old, mysterious and primitive"", which in the dialect of Southern Thailand means Tarutao (Rainat, 1999; P. Tongsom, pers. comm. 2002), describes this island that has been the home for centuries of the Chao Lay, more commonly called Sea Gypsies. Gray et al. (1994) added: ""These islands have long been hidden from the rest of the world, denied peace or prosperity because of a curse imposed by a beautiful princess of Langkawi who was wrongly executed for adultery. Perhaps the curse was a real one: for hundreds of years, few vessels ventured into the area. During World War II, it became a pirates' haven, until a 300-man volunteer group from the Royal British Navy landed in March 1964 and quelled these pirates, who preyed on the cargo, fishing and passenger ferryboats that plied the Malacca Strait (Gray et al. 1994). The island later became a penal colony and place of detention for political prisoners.

Tarutao National Park, which has a major marine component, was declared a national marine park in 1974 (DNP, 2007). The Park encompasses a land and sea area of about 149,000 hectares in Tambon Ko Sarai, Amphoe Muang (Suksawang, 2007) in the province of Satun. It lies just 26 kilometers off the southwest corner of peninsular Thailand in the Andaman Sea, a short distance from the Malaysian Sea (Rainat, 1999), and extends over an area of 1,490 square kilometers at the mouth of the Straits of Malacca, in the Indian Ocean (Gray et al. 1994). Tarutao National Park covers 51 islands and can be divided geographically into two main parts: the Tarutao Archipelago, located 30 kilometers away from the coast, and the Adang-Rawi Archipelago, another 45 kilometers to the West. There are several large islands in the Tarutao/Adang-Rawi archipelagoes: Tarutao, Klang, Lek, Adang, Rawi, Lipe, Batuang and Bissi. In the Adang Archipelago, the small island of Lipe is the most important. With water available year-round, it is the home of the largest permanent settlement, of approximately 800, and the gateway for boat transportation in and out of the Adang group (DNP, 2007).

The largest of the islands is Ko Tarutao (Ko means island), which is 26.5 kilometers long and 11 kilometers wide. Ko Tarutao's highest point is over 2,000 feet (609.6 meters). Semi-evergreen forest covers over 60 percent of the island. There are only few plains on the island, like at Talo Wao Bay and Talo U-dang Bay, which were used for planting seasonal crops and coconut plantations. Important beaches are at Phante Malacca Bay, Chak Bay and Son Bay that are all located on the western coast (DNP, 2007)."