A host of companies offer tours of Samui that allow visitors to explore the natural environment, local culture and rural way of life. There are also several options for visiting other islands on day trips by boat to enjoy their natural attractions. Koh Samui tours are sometimes the best way to see the island in a timely, hassle-free manner to match your relaxing beach stay.
A popular introduction to Koh Samui is a one-day island tour, which are ideal for those with limited time. These Samui tours carry passengers in converted Land Rover jeeps, taking around five hours to include the main highlights and attractions, such as: Big Buddha temple, Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks, Namuang waterfalls, and Nathon town. It’s also possible to hire a songthaew (or pick up taxi) for this trip, although the drivers prefer not to venture off the beaten path.
An elephant ride is one of the most entertaining ways to take in the natural beauty of Samui. The biggest operator is Island Safari, located north of Chaweng, while the Living Thailand tour includes a ride through the jungle and a demonstration of elephants and monkeys at work. It also offers the option of a ride on the back of an ox-cart through a traditional village hidden amid coconut palms.
For a combination of spectacular scenery above and below the water, a trip to Koh Nang Yuan combines time on pristine beaches with swimming and snorkelling on the area’s coral reefs. This privately-run island is just a few minutes boat ride from Koh Tao – another scenic place for diving and snorkelling in the Gulf of Thailand. Some Samui tours combine the two locations for the maximum marine experience. Aow Leuk and Leam Tien beaches on Koh Tao offer particularly fine snorkelling possibilities, but they can get quite crowded during the high season.
One of the most rewarding Samui tours is to the Ang Thong National Marine Park, which is also reachable on a day tour by speedboat or ferry. Most tours include snorkelling, hiking to the inland Emerald Lake, and lunch on a deserted beach. If the sea is calm, it’s also possible to kayak around some of the most unspoiled islands in the Thai Gulf, exploring caves and serene beaches.
There are plenty of tour agents operating around the island. Most are located in hotel lobbies, along the main roads near the popular beaches, and sometimes even on the beaches themselves. Generally, they all book for the same limited number of tour companies, meaning prices seldom vary – the main decision is which tour suits you best. A transfer will pick you up and take you to the assembly point, which can waste an hour of time, but, on the whole, these tours are a great day out.
More expensive personalised tours and boat charters, like those offered by 100 Degrees East to the Marine Park, allow for flexible departure times and include attractive additions, such as free drinks and quality food.
The cheaper tours can sometimes use suspect means of transport, however – think poorly maintained boats and vague organisation. You should check safety standards and make sure the guide is experienced and speaks English.