Koh Tarutao is one of several islands in Thailand’s southernmost maritime National Park. Compared to neighboring Koh Lipe, which is only about one hour by boat further to the west, Koh Tarutao is still a silent and unspoiled place with few visiting tourists. It has a National Park visitors’ center and few small and simple bungalows, where tourists can stay overnight. Life is simple and far from the busy coastal strips that dominate Koh Lipe. The bungalows on Koh Tarutao have running water, but it is cold, the electricity is only on between 6 pm and midnight and two restaurants serve delicious Thai food. Transport is on foot, by boat or with the small lorry of the National Parks office. There are no real roads either, just a small strip of concrete at some places. Dirt roads and paths are most common.
Staying on Koh Tarutao means listening to the waves on the beach and to the rustling leaves in the dense tropical forest; enjoying the songs of the birds, of the frogs and geckos; watching the sun rise and set and being attacked by small tiny jelly fish. Altogether it is an excellent escape from the outer world.
Koh Lipe on the other hand has lost all its former charm. Loads and loads of tourists embark here, small hotels and guesthouses are distributed all over the island, two bakeries sell bread and ‘real’ coffee, most of the Thai food does not taste Thai, and the walking street is lined with restaurants, with shops selling tourist stuff that no one needs, and with places offering Thai massage. Koh Lipe is probably a good place for tourists who want to experience a bit of Thailand’s beaches, because people are very friendly, the beaches are perfect for snorkeling and the hotels and guesthouses melt well into the landscape. However, many tourists also means that a lot of freshwater is needed, that trash is all over the place and that everything except basic food needs to be transported by boat from the mainland. Exploitation of the island only started a few years ago and one can wonder how it will look like in a few more years.