Samui for adrenalin junkies

By Mark Bentley

There's fun to be had all over

Though Koh Samui is undoubtedly one of the finest among the islands in the Gulf of Siam in both coastal scenery and tourist infrastructure, for many visitors it’s the island’s commitment to outdoor pursuits that also makes it attractive as a holiday destination.

This tropical paradise is more than just pretty beaches and stunning seaside panoramas; it’s a destination with a burgeoning sporting infrastructure that encompasses both regular well-known activities and those of an extreme nature. Pursuits such as mountain biking and paragliding, plus a variety of newer activities such as bungee jumping, kiteboarding, zorbing and quad-biking, are all available.

Local companies provide the equipment and the know-how to ensure that all visitors, irrespective of their level of experience, can take part in extreme sports and activities. Though Thailand is not renowned for it dedication to enforcing safety regulations, many of the businesses offering adrenalin-charged pursuits on Samui are owned or part-owned by westerners and have stringent approaches to safety.

Although the island’s mountain biking gurus, Red Bicycle, are closed for the time being, there are plenty of places to hire bikes for pottering around the island, though they might not be suitable for finding the excellent trails in the hilly interior. It is worthwhile exploring the unspoilt, undeveloped south part of the island which retains it’s original character of coconut farming.

If four wheels sounds like more fun than two, then you might want to give quad-biking a go at Samui Quad Motor in Mae Nam (phone: +66 1 371 0744). Quad-bikes, otherwise known as ATVs (‘all terrain vehicles’) are robust vehicles with tractor-like tyres that are capable of tackling most off-road settings. The business is owned by Rick Ortiz and partner Francoise, a former expat with extensive motocross experience.

Quad-bike tours give you the chance to thunder through the jungle with 200ccs of four-wheel drive power beneath you, taking on challenging inclines and splashing through shallow streams en route. At the summit of some of the hills you climb are fantastic views across the island.

The jungle zipline of Skyfox is a unique experience

For those not afraid of heights and searching for something with an unbeatable element of adrenalin, bungee jumping is the activity to go for. This thrill-packed pursuit, which is in fact extremely safe, is offered by Samui Bungy (phone: +66 77 414 252), located close to the popular Reggae pub off the Chaweng beach road.

Brave participants get to leap from a lofty 50-metre height from a point situated immediately above a swimming pool, while those fancying an extra thrill can opt for the bungee rope to be lengthened slightly so that they get a brief dunking in the pool before the tension drags them airborne again. The company also offers a free hotel collection service.

For lovers of heights, canopy riding with Skyfox Super Ride (phone: +66 77422 667) is an activity guaranteed to get the adrenalin flowing. Suspended high above the ground, riders get a true Tarzan-like experience as they swing between seven separate treetop stations. The pursuit is entirely safe, with the equipment used imported from France and subject to strict checks every three months. Canopy riding is also offered by Samui Canopy Adventures (phone: +66 77 414 150 1), located not far from Bophut beach.

For sheer heart-pumping thrills and spills, not much comes close to zorbing, a relatively new activity that began in New Zealand and was first introduced to Thailand by Samui Waterball (phone: +66 872 671 042). Also known as sphering, this crazy pursuit sees participants climb inside giant inflatable balls, after which they are launched down a 10-metre high ramp and allowed to roll down a 200-metre long hillside track.

If you think this sounds like fun, you’d be right and though it might also feel like there’s an element of danger, it’s entirely safe as the ball provides complete cushioning against any lumps or bumps it might encounter on its route down the hill. For added fun, the ball is partly filled with water so you get a good old-fashioned soaking in the process.

Newer still than zorbing, and again giving partakers the chance to get wet, is the aquatic craze known as kiteboarding. The sport is a combination of surfing, wakeboarding, sailing and waterskiing and is a fast-paced pursuit that’s guaranteed to test the nerves of even the most hardcore adrenalin junky.

The Koh Samui Kite Centre situated at the Samui Orchid Resort in Laem Set provides enthusiastic boarders with both equipment and training, allowing even complete novices to try their hand at what is quickly becoming the hippest extreme sport available.

Note! There is little public liability responsibility in Thailand, nor standards of safety inspection, and although these activities are safe and professionally managed it is imperative to ensure you have insurance before signing up. Backpacker Travel insurance should be purchased before travelling in Thailand.

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