For travellers looking for thrills, or those with a need for speed, Thailand’s diverse array of activities and outdoor pursuits make it one of Asia’s ultimate adventure travel destinations
"Southern Thailand has become a go-to destination for keen climbers from across the world"
While the Land of Smiles is famed for its idyllic beaches and azure seas, not all travellers head to the Kingdom with day-long sessions of lazing by the pool in mind. Those that want to get the blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing find that there’s plenty to keep them occupied, along with a superb selection of ways to get off the beaten track and enjoy some of the country’s remote, unspoilt corners. The range of activities available will vary depending on where you’re based, although coastal destinations tend to offer the best of both worlds in terms of exploring both land and sea. Here are some of Thailand’s finest offerings for those with a sense of adventure.
Ride like the wind
Kite surfing combines the best of wake boarding, windsurfing and paragliding
In coastal hotspots like Koh Samui and Phuket, jet-skiing is a classic choice for holiday-makers keen to get their speed buzz on without too much physical effort. You’ll find that in popular tourist resorts like Phuket’s Patong or Koh Samui’s Chaweng, the beaches offer plenty of places to rent out jet skis. Some of the Kingdom’s private villas even come with their own exclusive craft, so you’ll be able to zip up and down the shoreline without worrying about what time you have to return the jet ski. Depending on your location, you might even be able to take your craft a little further and explore hidden coves and bays further afield.
Plenty of other water sports options exist for those keen to rely on natural forces to feel the wind in their hair. Kite surfing is an exhilarating new activity that unites the best attributes of wake boarding, wind surfing and paragliding. Koh Samui and Phuket are each home to specialty training schools where you’ll be able to master all of the basics and rent the necessary equipment. If extreme water sports simply aren’t your thing, then perhaps an afternoon of smooth but speedy sailing appeals. Exploring the coast aboard a Hobie catamaran is an ideal way to get off the beach, as these lightweight craft were specifically designed for people to enjoy the the surf. The fibreglass design of these boats revolutionised the sailing world and once again, Phuket and Samui are home to an array of training centres that will cover all the basics you need to know.
Adventures on dry land
Going off road on an ATV or open-top four by four will reveal another side to Thailand’s dramatic forested interiors
Thailand has plenty to offer when it comes to inland adventure. Islands like Phuket and Koh Samui feature lush, forest hinterland areas that are ripe for exploration, whether on the back of a speedy all terrain vehicle (ATV) or as part of an white-knuckle tour in a four by four. A selection of centres and tours are available for those that want to book onto an adrenaline-charged ATV excursion, from X-Squad and Quadrophenia ATV in Koh Samui to Phuket’s ATV Company. These venues tend to offer a selection of quad bikes that you can choose from, depending what speed you’d like to travel at. Tours offer a brilliant snapshot of the inland areas, and routes will usually take in coconut plantations, thick stretches of jungle as well as local Thai villages far removed from the well-trodden tourist track. Some ventures will even take you from bump off-road tracks through fords and streams, so be prepared for a splash.
Booking onto an open-top jeep tour of the island interiors will generally take you on a similar kind of route, although some visitors keen to explore independently can hire their own vehicle and discover the forest. Thanks to the lofty peaks scattered across most of Thailand’s forested areas, this type of vehicle is well-suited to this type of discovery journey – just remember to drive carefully hold on tight.
Don’t look down
Discovering Thailand from a lofty vantage point offers a whole new perspective, as well as excellent photo opps
For some people, it is great heights rather than great speeds that get their adrenaline pumping. If that’s you, then heading to one of Thailand’s fascinating canopy zip line exploration centres could be the perfect way to get your fix. Koh Samui’s Canopy Adventures Centre and Phuket’s Flying Hanuman Centre provide visitors with the chance to discover the forest from up high by whizzing between tree platforms on a zip wire. This eco-friendly mode of exploration also provides a golden opportunity to get up close to some of the Kingdom’s most fascinating natural ecosystems.
Likewise, there are few experiences that match the exhilaration of climbing up a craggy rock wall that projects out over the ocean. Over the years, southern Thailand has become famous for its coastal rock climbing opportunities. The towering craggy limestone rock faces in this part of Thailand attract keen climbers from all over the world, and Railay and Ton Sai are hotspots for the sport. Bouldering opportunities are also available, but most people tend to try climbing where metal bolts and ropes connect you to a safety harness, allowing you to attain greater heights.
IN FOCUS: WILDLIFE
"The black and red broadbill is just one of the colourful winged creatures that calls Phuket home"
Thailand’s velvety stretches of emerald green jungle home provide a habitat for some fascinating creatures. If you’re exploring the forest, then it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife. The tropical birds in Thailand are particularly fascinating, and keen bird watchers will often pack a pair of binoculars as well as their camera if they’re venturing into the jungle for exploration. Animals such as wild monkeys, snakes and lizards also call the forested areas home, however, they tend to avoid contact with humans to you’ll have to look carefully to catch a glimpse of one of these illusive creatures.