The Tip of the Trunk

by Wayne Burns
(Bangkok, Thailand)

The four most southerly provinces of Thailand, Satun, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, are unique, because, unlike in the rest of the kingdom, the predominant religion here is Islam and 80 percent of the inhabitants are Muslims. As a result they have strong associations with Malaysia, and cross-border contacts and trade are thriving.

The small, mountainous province of Satun with its multitude of offshore islands is on the west coast, and only a few kilometers from the Malaysian border. Satun town has little of interest to visitors, but Tarutao Island National Park, about 30km offshore, is another paradise. Many tourists are visiting the island, enchanted by its untouched beauty, crystal clear waters and coral reefs. For many nature lovers, this island is a find. Tarutao and its neighbors, Rawi, and Adang islands are beautiful gems of paradise.

There are more than 60 islands in the Marine Park, the first to have been established in Thailand. Tarutao is the largest in the group and is reached by boat from Pak Bara Wharf, north of Satun town. During the last war, this island was a penal colony for political exiles, and remnants of the old prison can still be visited at Talo Udang and Talo Waew Bay. Visitors may spend days in the dense forest with its spectacular waterfalls and wildlife.

The park headquarters are at Phante Bay, where some bungalows are available for rent. There are several campsites around the island but you have to bring your tent and camping gear. Reservations for the bungalows can be made at the park office at Pak Bara pier.

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