Samui Wining & Dining
Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo offers a great alternative to the beach.

Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo offers a great alternative to the beach.As much as you like spending time on the beach, you just know that Samui has more to offer than beautiful coastlines. There are trips to take, places to go and things to see. Sometimes they’re quite unexpected and if you’re looking for the distinctly unusual and memorable, a visit to Samui’s own aquarium will guarantee a special time: you can spend a wonderful few hours checking out a plethora of tropical marine life – a whole world awaits you. And not just undersea creatures... there’s a lot more besides. You can also see lions, tigers and an array of other animals.


Located in Hua Thanon, in the south on the island, the aquarium is easily to find. Drive though Ban Hua Thanon (heading towards Nathon) and turn off the ring-road just after the village onto Route 4170. This takes you a couple of kilometres further south, then just turn left at the signpost marked ‘Samui Aquarium’. If you don’t feel like driving; the aquarium offers several packages that include hotel transfers, which is highly convenient. Just phone ahead and you’ll be picked up at your desired location and afterwards, dropped off again.


If you have a car, though, you can continue on after your visit to the aquarium taking the extremely scenic road along Route 4170 and then 4174 as it takes you in a longish loop through the less developed south of the island and back up to Nathon and the north. It’s very beautiful and wins over even the most jaded of drivers. But this is for afterwards.For now, there’s plenty to see and do at the aquarium itself.


You go in through some doors into a world that’s suddenly dark apart from the tanks that are lit by natural light from above. It’s also a lot cooler here than outside and can feel like a real escape from the torpor of the day. The fish come in all shapes and sizes and are from the local regions. In other words, these are tropical fish; if you’re from the west, they may appear to be very exotic, but they’re all maritime locals.Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo offers a great alternative to the beach. You’re bound to see some fish that will amaze you with their size or strange features.


After the aquarium you can wander through to the animal section. You’ll find Royal Bengal tigers and young leopards in a zoo-like area. A caged walkway takes you through the tigers’ territory and you’ll be able to see them close-up, just metres away. Naturally this is one of those occasions where you’ll be glad you have brought a camera along with you. You don’t need to worry about security either, as there’s no chance of getting mauled – the staff have been careful to make 100% sure that their human and animal guests remain apart.


Once you’ve walked round both the aquarium and the zoo area, you’ll find yourself in a gift shop which then opens onto a cafeteria – a good place to stock up on a snack or ice-cream. You’re free by the way to go round and see the fish and animals again.


However, it’s not just a question of walking around the aquarium and going home. You’re also invited to see not one but two shows, each quite different. The first, starting daily at 1.30 pm, features sea-lions, who are remarkably versatile and perform some quite amazing tricks. Their trainers explain at breakneck speed what’s going on the entire time – keep up with them, if you can. There’s a fair bit of action. Afterwards you can take photos with the sea-lions. Even the coolest of older children will enjoy being close-up with these animals.


After the show, there’s time for a dip in the swimming pool and then you can enjoy the next one, starting at 2.30 pm, which features very large cats doing various tricks. (Don’t worry, they’re behind bars for this, and it’s only the trainers who have to face those long, bared fangs.) Immediately afterwards, a bird show starts with parrots, hornbills, sea hawks and eagles putting on some amusing displays for their audience, Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo offers a great alternative to the beach.flying low across the open-air auditorium in impressive swoops – if you’re close enough you can feel the wind from their wings.


You can also have your photo taken with a tiger. Eh? A tiger? Indeed. A real one. And it’s fairly massive too, about a hundred times bigger than any pet cat you might have at home. The tigers by the way are used to being around the public and will let you drape your arms around them. Even so, it’s a bit of an adrenalin rush. According to the management, the animals aren’t tranquillized or on drugs. Sitting quietly with a worldclass predator isn’t everyone’s idea of a holiday snap, but it’s surely something you’ll always look back on with wonderment.


By the time you’re on the way out of Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo, you’ll have seen a good many fish, animals and birds that you’d never otherwise see, even if you spent years in Thailand and the surrounding regions. For children, in particular, it’s a great way to get closer to animals. They’ll always remember what they’ve seen here, be it giant tropical birds winging their way through the air, or giant stingrays smoothly sweeping and undulating through the water – not to mention all the other sights from giant cats down to the tiniest and brightest of tropical fish.


Dimitri Waring



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