Koh Samui's Neighbor Islands
Koh Samui may be the biggest and most populated island in the region, but there are also a number of smaller islands in the archipelago. The most popular of these are Koh Phangan, home of the word-famous full moon party, and Koh Tao, the regionís largest dive destination. There are however, many more options scattered around the coast, not to mention the forty islands that make up the impressive Ang Thong National Marine Park in the azure oceans to the south of Samui. For those who feel like island hopping, thereís certainly no shortage of day trips to choose from.
Koh Phangan is located about half an hour North by ferry from Samui and is widely tipped to become the next big Thai holiday destination. As Samui developed into a full-scale international resort location, Koh Phangan took over as the budget travellersí alternative. Nowadays it is catching up with its big sister and already boasts a number of upscale resorts, although the roads and infrastructure remain basic. The monthly full moon party attracts an average of five thousand revellers, many arriving several days beforehand on Haad Rin beach to build up to the big event. Beyond the party beaches, itís still possible to find a more secluded island feeling on Koh Phangan, with swathes of untouched sand and some isolated natural attractions. Itís also possible to travel by boat from Samui in the morning, have a look around and return in the evening. Most of the boat operators are based on Big Buddha beach, which also has the main pier for Koh Phangan, but travel agents in Chaweng can also arrange tickets and pick ups.
Koh Tao was once a small fishing community, but is now one of South East Asiaís most popular dive destinations. A large number International and local companies offer courses from beginner up to instructor level, and trips can be arranged from Samui to visit the many spectacular dive sites around the island. (See Watersports and Diving section). Koh Tao still has a few secluded bays and beaches, but the main attraction is definitely under the water with snorkelling also a fabulous experience for those without a dive certificate. Various resorts, restaurants, and bars cater for the large numbers of divers who now visit Koh Tao, and there is some quite sophisticated nightlife on offer in the main port town of Mae Hat.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
The Ang Thong National Marine Park is a protected reserve spreads along the Thai coast and is located just under one hourís speedboat ride away between Koh Samui and the mainland. Day trips generally include snorkelling and some time to swim or laze on one of the pristine beached. You can also venture off in kayaks into shallow caves and follow trails to visit the famous ĎEmerald Lakeí.
Koh Nangyuan is also part of the marine park, but is located about an hour and a half north of Samui just off Koh Tao. This fabulous strip of white sand beach is actually out at sea, connected to two small offshore islets. With just one dive resort on the island itís a beautiful secluded spot for a day spent swimming, snorkelling and eating. Speedboat operators and the large Lomprayah catamaran offer such trips, as well as ferry services to and from Koh Tao.
Koh Tan is a few hundred metres off the southwestern coast of Koh Samui from Taling Nam fishing village (Koh Samui map C6). It is a small, largely unspoilt island, known for its coral and marine life. Giant clams, fan corals and a wide variety of fish species live in and around the protected reefs. Koh Tan can be reached by local long tail fishing boat, and several local fishermen in Taling Nam have an excellent knowledge of the island and a commitment to the conservation of the reef. Trips generally include snorkelling on the reef, a stop at one of the islandís fine beaches, and a walk along the wooden platform that was built by the locals to view the mangrove forests. Koh Tan is known throughout the region as the island without dogs. According to local folklore, any dog that has been taken to live there has quickly gone insane, but luckily the local population seem not to suffer the same fate.
Koh Matsum is just south of Koh Tan, opposite the beaches by the Laem Sor Chedi (Koh Samui map I2) and it is also a popular spot for a day trip. A long sandy beach is a favourite with local Thai tourists for picnics, and there are often groups of students camping on the beach or singing songs around campfires. Itís a good place to join the locals on a Ďtioí, Thai for day out.
Koh Som is the tiny island that protects the Big Buddha temple from the sea. There is a fine sandy beach here, but as yet no resorts. Itís possible to hire a fishing boat from Big Buddha Beach to visit Koh Som, or even to reach it by kayak, but watch out for strong currents between the islands. Parties and camping are occasionally advertised on this island, but proximity to several large resorts on Samui means that noise must be kept to a minimum.