Ko Samui or simply Samui is one of the most frequented island destinations in Thailand. Located off the eastern coast of the Kra Isthmus, approximately 80kms from the mainland city of Surat Thani, Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island. Tourism estimates indicate that more than a million visitors head to the white sand beaches of Koh Samui year round for various relaxing pursuits like sun-seeker breaks, dive holidays and yoga retreats.
Getting to Koh Samui
Getting to Koh Samui is infinitely easy as the island hosts an international airport that welcomes domestic and regional carriers. Abundant and regular ferry services also connect the island to the mainland.
Tourism development has not run rampant on Koh Samui, in fact; there exists a restriction on the construction of tall buildings in Koh Samui, so the island’s plentiful accommodation options consist of low-rise bungalows, villas and resorts.
Various theories abound as to the origin of the inhabitation on the island. While one school of thought suggests that the island was first settled by Malay fishermen, other theories claim that the island was settled by Chinese fisherman. The island continues to host various Chinese temples and shop houses until today. Also, it is said the Koh Samui is named after the ‘mui’ tree found in abundance on the island. Another theory however states that the name ‘Samui’ originated from the word ‘saboey’ meaning ‘Safe Haven.’
Best time to visit
Like various other destinations in Thailand, Koh Samui is a year round destination. There is no particular season deemed to be ‘the best’ to visit the island. The Northeast monsoon brings rain to the island between the months of October to January while the Southwest Monsoon heads to the island between the months of May and October. The weather on the island is usually a balmy 30C (86 F) all year round though temperatures rise even higher in the months of March and April.
Koh Samui sights
As an island destination, Koh Samui is famous for its many white-sand beaches. The island’s most developed beach enclave is Chaweng, which heaves with tourist activities. Located here are many bars, nightclubs and upscale resorts. Nearby Lamai beach is no less scenic but a trifle more peaceful. While Maenam beach is a favorite with backpackers and budget travelers, Bophut, which is located close by is dotted with many upscale, boutique resorts and also hosts a charming Fisherman’s Village dotted with quaint, old-world Chinese shophouses. Another upmarket beachfront of Koh Samui is to be found on the northeast corner of the island in the form of a small, rocky bay Choeng Mon.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
This picturesque marine park served as a backdrop for the Hollywood movie the Beach. The park consists of an archipelago of about forty small stunningly beautiful islands home to tall, craggy limestone cliffs, pristine beaches, hidden lagoons, caves and coves and lush, green enclaves. Several tour operators on the island conduct day trips to the National Park from the island.
Hin Ta and Hin Ya
Hin Ta and Hin Ya are two unusual rock formations located on Koh Samui’s craggy southern coast. These natural rock formations resemble female and male genitalia and thus named Hin Ta (grandfather) and Hin Ya (grandmother). These fascinating formations form a source of much mirth amongst amused onlookers.
Dive sites near Koh Samui
Many visitors to Koh Samui specially come to the island for its abundant diving options. It is said that Koh Samui gives out more PADI certificates per annum than any other island in the world.
Sail Rock is the perhaps the best known dive site on Koh Samui. The rock is a large promontory that juts out of the depths of the ocean and rises to a height of 10 meters above the surface. The rock offers a ‘swim-through’ area beneath the water’s surface, which makes for an awesome sight when light filters through the opening in the rock. Divers can expect to spot fish such as batfish, barracuda, mackerel and even whale sharks at Sail Rock and the adjacent site of Samran Pinnacles located nearby.
Shark Island is a dive site located off the neighboring island of Ko Tao. The island is so named for it is the abode of leopard and reef sharks as well as other fish like snappers, stingray, angelfish and turtles. The island is also known for its plentiful hard and soft coral reef formations.
Other much-frequented dive sites in the vicinity include Ko Ma, Ko Pha Ngan and the Chumphon Pinnacle.
So if you enjoy 'sun, sand and sea' holidays or are a scuba diving enthusiast, the beautiful island of Koh Samui should definitely feature on your visit Thailand bucket list.