Tarutao, the largest island in the park wasn’t always associated with beauty.
In the late 1930s, the Thai Department of Corrections began surveying the nation’s islands for a place to set up a penal colony to alleviate overcrowding in Bangkok’s prisons.
They decided on Tarutao.
By 1939, the island was inhabited by several thousand hardened criminals and political prisoners.
When World War II reached Southeast Asia in 1941, Tarutao stopped receiving food and medical supplies from the mainland.
Prisoners and wardens turned to piracy to survive.
In 1948, Tarutao was all but abandoned until 1974, when Ko Tarutao Marine National Park was established.
Despite jungle encroachment, remnants of the penal still pepper the island.
The prison site at Talo Wao Bay on the island’s east coast is accessed by a paved road, with rental bicycles available to visitors.
A small museum and visitor centre detailing the history of Tarutao has been built at Talo Wao.
Much of the island remains undisturbed.
No commercial development is allowed with the exception of a few bungalows