Koh Chang (Elephant Island) is Thailand’s second largest island and the primary destination for those visiting Koh Chang Marine National Park, which includes dozens of unspoiled islands. Located in Trat Province, about 300 kilometers East of Bangkok and not far from the Cambodian border, Koh Chang is 70% covered by unspoiled rainforest and the island’s 5000 permanent residents are only gradually becoming more involved in tourism as development has increased in the past decade.
Now serviced by an airport just 15 minutes from the ferry terminal in Trat, Koh Chang is more easily accessible than ever before. Drawn to Koh Chang’s pristine beaches and sparkling water, more well-to-do Thai and international travelers have been discovering Koh Chang and numerous luxury spas and resorts have sprung up to cater to them. Nonetheless, the island is still a dream destination for budget travelers and families, with a wide variety of affordable accommodation options and numerous gorgeous and tranquil beaches surrounded by crystal clear water.
While the number of tourists has increased, particularly among middle class Thais, Koh Chang is still predominately unspoiled forests and pristine beaches. In addition to natural beauty, the island is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including native birds, snakes, deer, and even a number of elephants. As for activities, Koh Chang and the nearby islands that make up the national park are great for snorkeling, diving, camping, and jungle hiking.
The majority of tourists stay at Haad Sai Khao, Haad Kai Mook, Haad Ta Nam, and Laem Bang Bao, all of which are linked by a single road running down the west coast.
Access to the island is via Bangkok Airways service to Trat or buses that connect to shuttle service to the ferry docks at Laem Ngop near Trat.
Once the quiet refuge of backpackers in the know, Koh Chang (Elephant Island) has grown in popularity as a tourist destination since 2000, when the Thai government hoped to develop the island as the next Phuket. Fortunately, as Koh Chang is nearly as large as Phuket, a decade of development that has seen the construction of an airport in Trat and numerous hotels and restaurants has done little to sully its appeal as an island of spectacular natural beauty.
Koh Chang, the largest island in the Koh Chang Marine National Park, is a beach lover and nature enthusiasts dream come true. While recent development has led to the opening of some nightlife on the island, the primary attractions on the island are the beaches, waterfalls, and neighboring islands. However, several fishing villages, a number of naval battle sights, and some opportunities for diving and snorkeling make Koh Chang both an interesting and relaxing place to visit.
Koh Chang is approximately 30 km long and 14 km wide: a total area of roughly 217 km². The Koh Chang National Marine Park covers an area of 650 km², of which 70 % is offshore. Koh Chang is the largest part of Koh Chang Marine National Park, which contains more than 50 islands.