Thailand’s third largest island after Phuket and Samui, Koh Chang is fondly known as ‘Elephant Island’ because of its mammoth size and elephant shaped headland.
Forming part of the Mu Koh Chang National Park, it is located in the Gulf of Thailand around 300 kilometres east of Bangkok in the province of Trat. Known for its dense, steep jungles and hiking trails with impressive waterfalls, as well as offshore coral reefs and a shoreline that is dotted with beaches and villages, its easy to see why Koh Chang is increasingly popular with tourists.
With 70% of the land mass covered in natural rain forest, the island is not densely populated and there are only about 5000 permanent residents, which gives an authentic and relaxed look at Thai living. A wide range of wildlife including a good selection of birds, snakes, deer and a number of elephants also call Koh Chang home, while the surrouding waters provide excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities to enjoy the abundant ocean life.
A look at the history of the island
Prior to World War II, Koh Chang was little known to Westerners and barely populated. The few resident families there made a living growing fruit and coconuts. In January 1941 during the Franco-Thai War, the Thai Navy fought against a French attack in the waters south of Koh Chang. It was years later in the mid-1970s that the first free spirited and rather intrepid tourists started arriving to the island on local fishing boats. By 1982, Koh Chang, along with the surrounds, became part of the Mu Koh Chang National Marine Park. It is only in the past decade that Koh Chang has turned into a major tourist destination, both for foreigners and local Thais. This has brought on a large amount of development aimed at providing visitors with all that they could hope for on their South East Asian holiday.
A bit about the geography
Koh Chang is the largest island in the Koh Chang Archipelago. The name means ‘Elephant Island’, named for the elephant shape of its headland, although elephants are not actually indigenous to the island. Koh Chang is approximately 430 square kilometres in size with high mountains and steep rocky cliffs. The highest peak is Khao Salak Phet which is 744 metres high and the main source of fresh water on the island. There are many waterfalls, beaches and impressive coral reefs in the west of the island to enjoy.
Where to stay on Koh Chang
Most accommodation is located on the western side of the island, where the better white sandy beaches are, making the eastern side of the island less crowded. More than two thirds of the island remains undisturbed rainforest, steep cliffs, waterfalls and wildlife. Catering to a wide range of travellers from independent backpackers, honeymooners to family groups, you will find everything from budget-friendly chalets to five-star pool villas, whichever your preference – and budget. The most popular areas are around White Sand beach and Lonely beach, while Klong Prao and Kai Bae beaches are the best options for families and home to some of the island’s best resorts, such as Emerald Cove Resort. Tucked up in the hills are numerous health resorts, that blend beach with wellness and yoga retreats.
Read our Spa Koh Chang Resort post https://blog-thailandsa.co.za/spa-koh-chang-resort
Getting to and around Koh Chang
With an airport located just 20 kilometres away from the ferry terminal in Trat, Koh Chang is easier to get to than ever before and there are three daily flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Bangkok Airways. Alternately, look to taking a bus to the ferry terminal and cross from there. On arrival you can either make use of a private transfer or shared mini-bus to your accommodation.
Getting around the island is fairly easy. The main mode of transport is by songthaew, they also run from the ferry terminal stopping at all the beaches along the West Coast of the island. Another option is to rent a motorbike, there are literally countless places to rent scooters and all at very reasonable prices.
When best time to visit Koh Chang
The mild season runs from November to the end of February. This is when the island is at its busiest, with guaranteed daily sunshine, blue skies and calm seas. If you don’t mind the crowds, this is the best time to visit and you can expect an average temperature of between 27C and 30C, with the occasional refreshing thunderstorm. The hot season follows and runs for 3 months, from March to April. During these months the temperature is over 30C most days and along with high humidity can get sticky. That said, Koh Chang is a year round destination and you can always dip into a pool or the ocean, to cool off.