Samui Wining & Dining
A look at what Sa-ard’s Watersport Center has to offer in the wide wilderness of water around Samui.


We’re an island. We’re in the tropics. We’ve got sun, sand and sunset cocktails. We’re one of the best places in the world to take a holiday break. And for some that means delighting in doing nothing – beach, book, great food and sleep until you wake. For others it means a leisurely drift around the island by rented jeep or motorbike. But, whatever Samui’s got going for it, there’s a lot more square mileage that’s not made up of real estate. We’re a tiny piece of land in the middle of a great big sea. And so, for a great many people coming here, a holiday on Samui also means taking full advantage of all the water-based sports and activities that there are on offer.

      There are jet skis and water-skiing, windsurfing and parasailing, not to mention the perennial scuba diving and snorkelling. There are boat trips galore – with or without fishing thrown in. There’s even big game fishing in one or two selected spots. You can hire a boat, ranging from a tiny laser dinghy, right up to an ocean-going 6-berth catamaran with crew and onboard chef. You can choose between a sunset cruise or a five-day run up the coast. There are so many possibilities and options that it’s almost confusing – where to go, who to ask, what to go for?

       Enter a man who is at home on the sea, a champion windsurfer who has represented his country many times in this discipline at the Olympic, Asian and South East Asian (SEA) games (becoming a gold medallist at the SEA Games in Singapore in 1983 and again in 1985, 1987 and 1989). He’s taken part in both the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles and the 1992 games in Barcelona. His name is Khun Sa-ard Panyawan, although he’s more usually known by his nickname of Khun Lek. And he and his brother run the very successful company known as Sa-ard’s Watersport Center.

          At Sa-ard’s, you’ll find just about every watersport activity all under one roof, as it were! With the exception of scuba diving, that is, of which there is a plethora of established companies already specialising in this area. (Although it has to be said that if you’ve maybe been out on a boat with Sa-ard’s, liked the people and the set-up and fancy some scuba diving, then they’ll happily arrange it for you.)

          Khun Lek began his career here on Samui back in 1993 when he came to work in Maenam as the activities manager and watersports instructor at the 5-star establishment that, at that time, was known as the Santiburi Dusit Resort. Later, he clubbed together with his brother to buy his first speedboat, which they used to run charters to and from the neighbouring islands. Over time the business expanded, another boat was added, then several more of different specifications. Charter trips turned into charters plus boat hire. Windsurfer hire and courses of instruction (naturally!) were quickly knitted into the fabric. Charters and boat hire expanded into a range of tours also. And, just for fun, water skiing, laser dingy hire and a bounce around the bay on a big inflatable banana-boat were added into the mix. But the pride of Saard’s stable is his fleet of ocean-going boats.

          Today there are four of these, ranging from the luxurious 43-foot catamaran ‘Kindred Spirit’ to an 85 HP speedboat, ‘Panyawan’, that seats five people. (And with a draft of less than two feet, this boat is the one to go for when opting to explore the little hidden or inaccessible coves on Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan.) And in the middle of these comes ‘Natalie’, a 38-footer which will carry 25 people in comfort. Between them, they can cater for just about any event you can imagine, from 25 people on a sightseeing daytrip to three couples or a family on a five-day cruise. ‘Kindred Spirit’ is luxuriously appointed and kitted out to a level that’s on a par with a 5-star hotel, complete with full bathroom and kitchen facilities (including an oven and fridge-freezer) sumptuous seating, air-conditioning and a big flat screen TV. And the crewmembers who will accompany you are all handpicked and highly experienced. All of the boats have added non-slip sunbathing decks or webs, usually a diving/swimming platform, and remote beach or island dining can be easily arranged with an attendant BBQ chef to do all the hot work!

          But, quite honestly, it’s not really the luxurious trimming which are the priority, much as you’ll appreciate them. It’s partly Khun Lek’s awareness and knowledge of the seas, coves and islands around Samui, together with the associated tides and currents. But it’s more to do with safety and state-of-the-art equipment. This is absolutely the priority. Not only is there a strict limit on the numbers each boat may hold, but the navigation equipment is linked to Satnav and internet mapping. Not only the company itself, but all of the boats are Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) licensed, and also insured to international standards. It’s most reassuring to know that at Sa-ard’s you are in competent and experienced hands.

           But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many certificates you have, or how glossy your advertising brochures are. Khun Lek is aware of this. He knows that a reputation is earned and not created. And he’ll readily tell you that he’s pleased to acknowledge that it’s mostly been the word of mouth and personal recommendations of his many pleased and satisfied customers that has stood him in such good stead. Because most certainly when it comes to reliable, trustworthy and safe ways to be wet and feel wonderful, the name on most people’s lips is normally ‘Sa-ard’s Watersport Center’!


 Rob De Wet



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