Anyone for a Paddle? – Explore hidden caves and lakes with Blue Stars kayaking and snorkelling tours.

blue stars kayaking

Established as a marine national park in 1980, Ang Thong National Park is an archipelago of 42 islands covering 102 square kilometres, and is situated between the Thai mainland and Samui island in the Gulf of Thailand. The islands themselves cover 18 square kilometres of the park, and consist mainly of amazingly rugged and steep limestone hills, sinkholes, caves, inland marine lakes and forests. There are two nomadic villages, one at Koh Wua-Ta-Lap and the other at Koh Phaluai, all other islands are uninhabited. Best visibility for snorkelling is around March and April, lucky you!
blue stars kayakBlue Stars have been organising and running kayaking and snorkelling tours to Ang Thong like a well-oiled machine for over 20 years. They know all the best seasonal spots around the islands, and how to stay away from the potentially busy areas in peak seasons. You get picked up from your hotel or resort around 7.15 am, and whisked off to Nathon pier, board the boat and depart around 8:00 am. From here you have the shortest distance to the marine park.

Your full day tour includes your pick up and drop off, a light breakfast, full buffet lunch, an afternoon snack of fruit and banana cake in case you get peckish and unlimited tea, coffee, water and soft drinks throughout the day. Also included are full insurance, national park fees, lifejackets in varying sizes (which must be worn for insurance purposes), kayaking instruction, snorkelling equipment and waterproof dry-bags for cameras and small personal effects. The boat is officially licenced to carry 96 passengers, but a fully booked Blue Stars tour will only take a maximum of 50 people, and more often less than that, providing a roomy and spacious environment. The tours go out four days a week, every week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays. At peak times, there may be additional days added to cope with demand.

blue stars boatThe fully-equipped boat is 23 metres long, meaning it is very stable and safe, and it has three levels. The lower deck houses the kayaks and has plenty of sheltered seating in the event of bad weather. There are two toilets also located on the lower deck. The main deck provides comfortable and shady seating, and is where food and drink are served. For those who like to catch the fresh ocean breeze, there is open-air seating at the front of the boat, where you take in the view with the wind in your hair. Upstairs there is a large sundeck with plenty of mattresses and beanbags, so you can sprawl out and do a bit of relaxed sunbathing.

During the hour and a half journey out to the marine park, you can stroll around the boat, enjoy a cuppa or a soft drink and enjoy the gorgeous views as you head out west towards the cliffs and peaks that start to become visible as you get closer to the many islands in the marine park.

blue stars marine parkThe great thing about having the kayaks on board is that the boat has the total freedom to go where it wants. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, the crew have the experience and flexibility to change their destination, and divert to a more suitable and sheltered spot for the kayaking and snorkelling. If you do start to feel a bit seasick, don’t worry, the crew carry sea-sickness pills, just ask.

If the weather report is bad or the water already too rough for a safe journey, the boat will not go out. In this case, all guests will be informed either personally or via their hotels. And if rescheduling is not possible, a full refund of any money paid will be offered. But don’t worry, March and April normally provide good clear weather.

kayaking marine parkOnce in the park, you will have the opportunity to participate in the two kayaking sessions at different locations. Don’t worry if you have never been kayaking before. The guides are very good with beginners and are excellent instructors. The first stop is along the coastline of Koh Mae Ko which translates to ‘Mother Island’. This is the island with an emerald saltwater lake, fully enclosed by immense limestone cliffs and connected to the sea through underwater caves. After kayaking you get an opportunity to walk the trail that leads from the beach to a great viewpoint high up on the cliffs overlooking the sparkling green lake. It’s about a 15-minute uphill walk, steep in places but not overly difficult. Swimming in the lake itself is not allowed.

Lunch is served on the boat as you journey to the more northern islands. The second kayak session involves exploring a number of small caves, hidden lagoons and beaches on the island of Koh Tai Plao. The kayaks allow you to visit areas you would never normally see. You also get the opportunity to do a bit of snorkelling here in the crystal-clear waters. Or if you fancy it, jump off the sundeck of the boat, yelling and shouting as you make a big splashy entrance into the turquoise blue! Alternatively, just relax on the boat and catch some rays.

angthong marine parkAfter a leisurely journey back to Samui, enjoying your afternoon tea or an ice-cold beer (which can be purchased on-board), you arrive back at Nathon pier around 4.30 pm. The efficient and careful drivers then transport you back to your hotel or resort, arriving around 5.00 to 5.30pm.

Judging from the many positive reviews on TripAdvisor, this is clearly a day trip which Blue Stars have perfected. “A great day out.”, “Great scenery, a must try when in Koh Samui”, “Awesome experience”, “Best trip ever” and “Worth the money, good tour operator”, are just a few. Blue Stars have an administration office on the lake road that runs between the roundabout at Central Festival and the traffic lights on the ring road near Tesco Lotus in Chaweng, but most bookings are done through their website.

These tours are very popular at busy times and are often fully booked, so it’s definitely advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. So dust off your paddling skills or try something new. Go and explore the limestones cliffs, mystical lakes, caves and beaches that abound in the amazing Ang Thong National Marine Park.

Karan Ladd

For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7730 0615.
www.bluestars.info