KOH SAMUI ISLAND HOPPING
About Koh Samui Island, Thailand
Koh Samui is the largest and most developed island in the region, but there are also several other islands close by. The most visited of these are Koh Phangan, home of the famous full moon party, and Koh Tao, a Mecca for scuba divers.
Smaller islands are scattered off the coast of all three of of these popular destinations, and it is also possible to visit the impressive Ang Thong National Marine Park archipelago located in the oceans south of Koh Samui.
In fact, for those who feel like a bit of island hopping, the choices are vast and varied.
Koh Tan is just off the south western coast of Koh Samui near Thonkrut fishing village and is a tiny island treasure known for it's coral and marine life.
The inshore reef here is home to several fascinating and endangered species including the giant clam, fan corals and a wide variety of fish species.
The island can be reached by fishing boat, and as well as snorkelling on the reef there are also some interesting caves to explore.
Koh Tan is famous in local folklore because there are no dogs on the island. Apparently, any dog that has been taken to live there has quickly gone insane, but fortunately people seem not to befall the same fate. Mr Sid (0 1892 2944) is a local fisherman in Taling Nam with an excellent knowledge of the island and a commitment to the conservation of the reef. He can help organise boats and tours to Koh Tan.
Koh Matsum is next to Koh Tan and also an interesting spot for a day trip with a long sandy beach. Local Thai holidaymakers favour this island as a place for a picnic, and there are often groups of students camping on the beach or singing songs around the campfire.
There is also a pearl farm here and it may be possible to have a look around with prior permission.
This is Koh Samui's sister island located about half an hour North by boat. When Samui began to develop into an international resort destination Koh Phangan took over as the cheaper, quieter alternative. Nowadays it is fast catching up with Samui and has developed its own form of mass backpacker tourism.
The monthly full moon party is the biggest example of this with an average of eight thousand young revellers descending on Haad Rin beach to dance until dawn. Beyond the party beaches it's still possible to find that desert island feeling on Koh Phangan with swathes of untouched beaches and isolated natural attractions.
Take care when travelling by road on this island as the infrastructure is yet to reach the standards available on Koh Samui.
Once just a small fishing community, Koh Tao is now one of the premiere dive destinations in South East Asia with International and local operations offering courses from beginner to instructor level and trips to the many spectacular sites in the region (see separate section on dive sites).
This island also boasts some quiet little bays and beaches, but the principle attraction is definitely under water, with snorkelling also possible for those without a dive certificate.
Various resorts and restaurants and bars have sprung up to cater for the large number of divers who now visit Koh Tao, and there is some quite sophisticated nightlife on offer in the main port town of Mae Haad.
Koh Nangyuan is also part of the marine park, but situated a little further away from Samui near Koh Tao. This fabulous white sand beach sits alone out at sea and is connected to two small offshore islets.
With just one dive resort in operation there it's a beautiful secluded spot for a day trip to go swimming, snorkelling and even picnicking.
National Marine Park
The Ana Thong National Marine Park is a world renowned archipelago of small islands off the coast of Koh Samui that can be reached in less than an hour by speedboat. The snorkelling and diving there is excellent, and there are also several pristine beaches as well as hiking options up to a spectacular inland lake and some large cliff side caves.
Sea Kayaking is perhaps the best way to explore the many inlets and reefs around the park, and you can arrange a full day trip with one of several agents and operators that run boats to the park and organise activities there throughout the year.