A Hidden Gem in Koh Samui’s Backyard
For our anniversary on Koh Tao, we chose to celebrate in two ways. The first, was to get our scuba certification and the second was to have a nice romantic dinner. Unfortunately, the first got in the way of the second in the form of a killer migraine. Carolann was struck by a severe migraine shortly after our first two dives and our romantic dinner turned into a very quick meal where all she could stomach was toast. It wasn’t until we got to Koh Samui that we had the opportunity to make up for it and have a romantic outing together.
Our romantic outing came by way of Island Gem Picnic Tours and a day excursion snorkeling followed by a picnic lunch on a secluded area of a small gorgeous island nearby. As soon as the booking was finalized we were rife with anticipation for the tour and for finally having a romantic day together.
A romantic day on our own piece of paradise
We weren’t too sure what to expect. We knew that we would be picked up by Gavin, the owner and operator of the tour, at 10am and that we would be going snorkeling followed by a picnic. Gavin was early and so we had time to sit with him, have a coffee and chat. It had been a while since we had an opportunity to really relax and since we weren’t being rushed for the day’s activities we were both able to start doing so.
We were driven to the other side of the island to where a long tail boat was waiting for us. Although Island Gem Picnic has the option of either a long tail boat or a speed boat, we definitely wanted to ride in the more traditional means of transportation. Long tail boats, as we’ve brought up before, are popular wooden boats in Southern Thailand powered by automobile engines attached to a long drive shaft with a propeller at the end. Our tour boat was called the Island Hopper and had an Isuzu engine and a captain named Chud. Friendly and efficient, Chud helped Gavin load the picnic baskets quickly before we all hopped on board and set off.
One of the best spots for snorkeling in Thailand
Although it was a slightly overcast morning (Chud assured us it wasn’t going to rain) the water was calm and we were at our snorkeling location off the small island of Koh Tan in about 10 minutes. Although there was another boat nearby, we anchored far enough away so as not to be interrupted by their relatively large group.
While talking to Gavin on the boat ride we found out that he was a certified diving instructor so we asked him to join in on the snorkeling and the three of us jumped in the warm, calm water. Having Gavin with us was great as he found and pointed out creatures we would have missed had we been on our own. He found two blue-spotted stingrays, one of our favourites to see, a black and white nudibranch and he was able to name the other fish we saw for us. The water is very shallow so at many points you are incredibly close to the coral and able to see so much up close and in the full colour, that would not typically be seen in deeper waters. The area is pretty large and very much alive with fish and sea creatures and is now one of our favourite places to snorkel. If you aren’t able, or don’t want to, scuba dive in Thailand, this spot will allow you to see a vast array of underwater life.
After about an hour of snorkeling we headed back to the boat. We had noticed that another tour group had anchored after we had gotten in the water and had already left before we climbed aboard and asked Gavin how long the snorkeling usually lasts on his tours. We found out that he completely tailors his tour so that the guests basically decide the ratio of time split between the snorkeling and the picnic. If you only want to spend a half hour snorkeling, you can do so and spend the rest at the picnic. There is no rush and no pressure and we were extremely grateful for that.
Once aboard, the anchor was lifted and we were on our way to the small island of Madsum for our picnic.
A secluded picnic under a banyan tree
Another couple minutes boat ride and we were anchoring again – this time on the shores of a small, secluded beach on Koh Madsum. While we could see several boats and sunbathers in the distance, anchored at another beach on the island, our area was left empty and unspoiled. The clouds were gone by this point and the sun had come out so we were left with a beautiful view on a private beach on a gorgeous day.
Gavin and Chud set up a wonderfully laid picnic under a large banyan tree complete with a mat, triangular pillows to lean and rest against, and two place settings for us. Offering us beer and wine, Gavin left us to relax comfortably and enjoy our drinks while he heated up the food (he had brought a table, an element and several cooking instruments in order to serve the food hot). The spot was perfect and the banyan tree provided shade and a little added privacy.
We were served Thai fare (although there were other options to choose from) and there was quite the spread. We were served papaya salad and a lettuce salad, fried chicken, pork skewers, rice with chicken and squid, and larb gai. The food was delicious and plentiful. After taking our time on the main course, Gavin then served us dessert – Watermelon, kiwi and pear slices and some coconut jellies and a dessert of sticky rice and taro. We learned that there was such a thing as yellow watermelon which tastes pretty much like the red kind. From start to finish, the entire meal was so filling and tasty and we took our time enjoying the food, the wine and the beer.
While the dishes were being put away, we went for a quick swim in the water and a stroll along the beach before returning and getting in the boat. When Gavin dropped us back off at our hotel, we noticed that it was not too late in the afternoon which allowed us the rest of our evening to ourselves. It turned out to be a one-of-a-kind day and we were finally able to spend some relaxing, romantic time together.
If you’re in Koh Samui, don’t forget to check out Island Gem Picnic for groups, couples, families, wedding parties and even individuals looking to meet new people!
Have you ever been snorkeling? If so, comment below and let us know where your favourite place to snorkel is! If not, where would you want to start?