Samui Wining & Dining
STAR ATTRACTION
Since 1995, Blue Stars Kayaking has been wowing visitors with their tours to the Angthong National Marine Park.


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Every holiday has that one special day that you remember. One that stands out from the rest, set deep in the memory bank forever. You add it to the list of special moments you draw on when you need to think ‘happy thoughts’ or take yourself back to that ‘special place’ when you’re having a bad day.

      Well Blue Stars Kayaking has been creating those special memory-making days for visitors to Samui since 1995. And considering that they’ve taken guests to the Angthong National Marine Park four times a week for the past 18 years, do the maths – that’s a lot of happy memories!

So what’s so special about the day? Well, perhaps a little background is required first… The Angthong (Golden Bowl) National Marine Park is located northwest of Koh Samui, and is within sight of Samui on clear days. It covers an area of 102 square kilometres, 18 of which is landmass in the form of 42 islands and limestone massifs, reaching up to 400 metres above sea level. Previously a hide out for pirates, the area is now patrolled by the Royal Thai Navy, and was established as a national park in 1980.

        The islands of the park are covered in beach forest, mangrove forest and limestone forest areas, and are home to abundant bird life as well as Asian long-tailed monkeys, sea turtles, lizards, pythons and a plethora of sea life in the crystal waters. And it’s here that you’re headed on your Blue Stars trip.

          Guests are collected from their hotel between 7:15 and 7:30 am, and transported to the pier in Nathon, where the Blue Stars boat departs at 8:00 am. As the boat heads to the marine park, passengers help themselves to a light breakfast and tea and coffee. At around 10:00 am, the eager explorers arrive at their first kayaking stop of the day, Koh Mae (Mother Island). This will include a short but relatively strenuous hike up a wooden path to an amazing view across to the Emerald Lake (Thale Nai). The park, and in particular this lake, was the inspiration for the book and movie ‘The Beach’, starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

          The boat takes up to 44 passengers, so groups of more that 22 are split into two, with half hiking and the other half kayaking, and then swapping, so that all get the full experience without crowding each other or feeling like they’re on a cattle run. With Blue Stars Kayaking, it’s all about the experience, and the team is keen to have everyone enjoy the trip – they don’t see their guests as numbers, which is evident when you read their reviews on TripAdvisor.

          As all that hiking and kayaking builds up an appetite, a delicious lunch of Thai food is served back on the boat just before noon. Blue Star’s guide, Marcus, has been with the company for over ten years, and to ensure guests are happy with the meal, his wife prepares all the food, which he of course tests too. Rumour has it her chicken massaman curry is the best you’ll find.

          After lunch the boat heads to its second kayaking location of the day – Koh Thai Plao. Here paddlers explore a bay with various small islands. They enter caves and tunnels carved out of the limestone cliffs by erosion, creating strange rock formations that beckon them to investigate further. Bending low in their kayaks as they just make it under a jagged rock overhang, through to a hidden lake, which you could just imagine as being a perfect pirate refuge. Located in the far northern reaches of the park, Blue Stars is one of the few tours that actually ventures here.

          Aside from kayaking, there’s plenty of time for swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing and just having a bit of fun jumping off the boat. Although the park can seem a bit crowded at times, Marcus and his team have planned their trip well, and know how to find that quiet stretch of beach or snorkelling patch not packed with other explorers. And it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway), that as important as fun is, safety always comes first. Occasionally the well-trained crew may deem it necessary to change the itinerary due to weather or water conditions for the safety of all on board. But there’s never a need to worry, as the 23-metre boat is fully equipped with safety equipment and life jackets, and should you need them, seasickness tablets are available too.

          Aside from breakfast and lunch, all water, tea, coffee and soft drinks are included in the price of the trip, as well as the use of the kayaks and snorkelling equipment. Those not up to a hike, can relax on the beach and look out for Leonardo hiding on the cliffs. The boat leaves the marine park around 2:45 pm, and on the return trip guests can relax and enjoy the view over fresh fruit and banana muffins. The trip ends back at the pier in Nathon about 4:15 pm, where the minibuses will be waiting to take tired, yet happy guests back to their hotels.

          The park is good to visit most of the year, except in November at the height of the monsoon season, when seas can be rough and visibility poor. Generally, Blue Stars operates trips to the marine park on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but during the peak season, extra days may be added to the schedule. Due to Blue Star’s reputation, trips are often fully booked, so it’s advisable to book in advance to avoid missing out on that special memorymaking day.

 

 Rosanne Turner


 


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