Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ko Tapu, James Bond Island, Thailand

PD Photos: Ko Tapu islet, 40 meters west of Khao Phing Kan (James Bond Island), a part of the Ao Phang Nga National Park, on the west coast of Thailand, in the Phang Nga Bay, Andaman Sea.

Ko Tapu is a limestone rock formation (an islet), which is about 20 meters (66 feet) tall with the diameter increasing from about 4 meters (13 feet) at water level to about 8 meters (26 feet) at the top. It lies about 40 meters (130 feet) to the west from the northern part of Khao Phing Kan, popularly known as James Bond Island, which is actually a two-island pair located on the west coast of Thailand, in the Phang Nga Bay, Andaman Sea. The island is a part of the Ao Phang Nga National Park.

In the Permian period, the entire area was a barrier reef, which ruptured due to tectonic plate movements, dispersing the broken reefs over the area flooded by the rising sea. Strong winds, waves, water currents and tides gradually eroded them partially, and the remaining portions formed islands, sometimes forming peculiar shapes, such as Ko Tapu. Erosion by tides is clearly visible at the bottom of Ko Tapu.

In Thai language Ko Tapu means ‘nail’ or ‘spike’ island (named after its shape). The island was selected as a location for the 1974 James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, starring Roger Moore, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland in key roles. The island was filmed as the hideout for Bond's antagonist, Francisco Scaramanga (the titular ‘Man with the Golden Gun’, played by Christopher Lee).

After the movie was released, Khao Phing Kan Island, and sometimes Ko Tapu, became popularly known as James Bond Island, and it rapidly became a very popular international tourist destination in Thailand. Now the original name of the island is rarely used even by local Thai people.

Since 1998, it is forbidden for tourist boats to approach Ko Tapu, to stop further erosion of the limestone due to waves on and near the islet that might eventually result in its collapse.

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