Diving and Snorkelling
Samet’s rather shallow eastern bays are most suitable for open water diving. Night dives are also popular among experienced divers, as there’s a lot of nocturnal happenings beneath the waves. Discover an abundance of porcupine pufferfish and manta rays just off Ao Phai’s coast, swim among the black-tipped sharks, stingrays, barracudas, multi-coloured ferns, corals and star fish at the southern tip near Ao Kiu and Shark Point, or explore the depths of the uninhabited western coast.
Although there are only two qualified PADI centres, at Ao Phrao and Ao Kiu Na Nok, several others along Sai Kaew Beach and Ao Vong Duen are more than happy to arrange a customised tour or a morning drop-off and afternoon pickup service.
Boat trips are the best way to visit all the hidden beaches and coves on Koh Samet, with an island-hopping trip thrown in if that’s what you prefer. Most speedboat operators on Sai Kaew Beach and Vong Duen can help you arrange your trip, which can include a lunch barbecue, snorkeling and an excursion to nearby fish farms or the islands of Kudi, Kruai, Kham and Plai Tin. Slower-moving boats offer a more relaxing experience and will take a whole day. You can choose to visit Samet’s 11 most popular beaches on the eastern and western sides. Always agree on a price before stepping on board.
Motorised Water Sports
Generally speaking, you can rent water sports equipment at popular beaches like Sai Kaew, Ao Phai and Ao Vong Duen, which is also the best place to go for sports like jet-skiing, wakeboarding and parasailing. Thrill-seekers beware, though, that jet-skis are both noisy and environmentally damaging. Also watch out for widespread scams perpetuated by the jet-ski owners, who have every inclination to either rip you off – it’s not an exaggeration to say that to carefully photograph your jet-ski before using it as a wise thing to do, especially if they claim that you put the scratch down the side that will cost thousands to repair. Better to opt for non-motorised water sports, such as sailing, kayaking, or swimming, to save on environmental impact and a huge ‘repair’ bill.
Canoe and Kayak
What better way to discover Samet than via your own paddle power? Canoeing and kayaking are two eco-friendly ways to explore the island’s picturesque coastline and remoter beaches further south. The waters off the eastern shores are more calm and paddle-friendly than the rough and rocky west coast. The best time to do it is late afternoon, when you can also catch the gorgeous sunset – but play it safe – stay close to shoreline at this time of day.
Sailing, Windsurfing and Catamaran
Setting sail doesn’t require much planning on Samet. Nearly every guesthouse and resort on the island can help you arrange the necessary equipment. The area north of Sai Kaew Beach is particularly good for sailing and windsurfing, as the strong currents and offshore winds offer a challenge. Catamarans are also available at the high-end resorts at Ao Phrao and Ao Kiu
Sunset Cruise or Sunset Experience
Whether on the beach, on the rocks, or on your room’s west-facing balcony, watching the Koh Samet sunset is an experience not to miss. You can make no effort at all or, with a little planning, splurge on a sunset cruise and make it a memorable event. If you plan to watch the ocean sunset from the beach or your resort’s balcony, though, make sure that you stay at one of the hotels on the west coast (Ao Phrao and Ao Kiu).
Deep Sea Fishing and Squid Fishing
Home to a rich diversity of fish, Koh Samet is a great place to try your hand at deep-sea fishing. Step aboard a fisherman’s boat and set out. If you are lucky, you might catch one of the more exotic fish – grouper, parrotfish, dorado, trevally, to name just a few. Alternatively, a squid fishing expedition will keep the night owls busy until dawn.
While the haphazardly paved roads on Koh Samet can be extremely dangerous for motorcyclists, they serve as an ideal playground for ATV riders. Swerving turns, bumping dirt roads, forking paths and a lush wilderness backdrop combine to make this a fun and thrilling experience. But do exercise caution as you will be sharing the road with songtaew drivers, who won’t stop or make way for any other vehicles in their path.
Koh Samet takes the art of traditional Thai massage to another level. Rather than going to the masseurs, they come to you. Just find a shady space on the beach and flag down one of the passing hawkers carrying a low stool and beach blanket, and you are ready. Do agree on the price and massage style before you begin a session. But don’t expect anything more than basic kneading and stretching, because these are not certified professionals – and sometimes not even properly trained.