White coral sands, emerald green seas, copious sunshine and fresh, briny salt air: truly a perfect three days. A little more wind would have been nice, especially as we were trying to sail, but really – you can’t have everything!
Whenever we are on one of Thailand’s many islands, we try to spend some time on the water: whether that be a romantic sunset cruise, a busy island- and beach-hopping trip on a speedboat, a slow snorkelling trip on one of the fishing boats outfitted for tourists, a kayak paddle through limestone caves, or a quiet sail around one of the many bays. On our most recent trip to Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, we decided to practice our nascent sailing skills, and chartered a small (26′ Mac Gregor) sailboat and skipper for three days.
Our experiences of boats and skippers in Thailand have been patchy: we’ve sailed with some excellent and knowledgeable people, young and older, from around the world. But we’ve also had trips where the dinghy has been lost, the motor has refused to work, the water has run out and the food has spoilt. We’ve slept aboard in stiflingly hot berths over noisy motors or under dripping hatches where we fight off mosquitos. So, I was really pleased when I found out that Armin Kundke (Kunta), the owner-operator of Samui Ocean Sports & Yacht Charter, rather than one of his staff, was to be our sailing and island guide. I’ve no doubt that the staff are excellent, but it’s always better to deal with the boss!
The Samui archipelago must be one of the safest, most pleasant places to sail: the surrounding Gulf ensures that the waves virtually never exceed ten feet in height, the waters are warm enough for swimming and clear enough that you can easily see the coral reefs and other underwater obstacles, and a safe, secluded shelter is never far away. Ideal for us. And the dearth of wind just meant more time for me to take pictures.
Even with low winds, we reached our first coral reef and snorkel-spot off Haad Rin Nok in less than two hours. After a splash around in the water, we climbed back aboard our boat, the Viva 2, for the short cruise around the next point before anchoring at our lunch destination.
A backpacker haven, Koh Phangan attracts a lot of budget travellers who come in from the mainland on the regular ferry runs. It featured in the 1996 novel “The Beach” (although the movie of the same name was filmed on Koh Phi Phi, quite some distance away) and is probably best known for its riotous all-night Full Moon parties which draw young Westerners to the island in over-crowded boat-loads.
So, it was a pleasant surprise to see quiet beach after quiet beach on the less-populated east coast as we sailed north, and to find charming little resorts nestled into the hillsides. For the most part, big-money developments haven’t made it here yet, and the parts of the island we saw retain the beach-castaway feel – but with the modern comforts of hot water, air conditioning, and wifi.
At Haad Than Sadet, where we stayed overnight in modest bungalows, we had the added bonus of a superb breakfast – an absolute treat in Thailand where “American Breakfast” is the one meal that small “resorts” generally ruin – before setting sail and motor again for points north.
On our third morning, after another excellent breakfast at the Dolphin Bungalows, we set off south for a short walk and jungle swim in COLD water before returning to Koh Samui.
What a perfect place!
We’ll be back one day ~ hopefully with a bit more wind.