By Jo Gardner – May 2019 – 5 minute read
The Thai landscape may remain timelessly spectacular, but with more and more toe-curling activities on offer, the way we are enjoying it is changing. Thailand has much to offer active visitors who want to go beyond the beaches, jump on bikes and hotfoot it up mountains.
“One of our favourite experiences is a sunset kayak in Phang Nga National Park, exploring hidden caves as the sun sets”
James Wilmshurst, India & South East Asia Expert, Experience Travel Group
Stand-up Paddle Boarding: Most of Thailand’s islands offer stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). Start by determining the kind of experience your client is after – a first-time session on a calm sea or something a little less tame? Phuket has a number of companies offering SUP while even the smaller islands often offer sunrise, sunset or night-time paddles.
Diving: With the Gulf of Thailand on the east and the Andaman Sea on the west, there are chances to dive all over Thailand. Choose from reef diving, wreck diving or open ocean seamounts. Once down, divers can see manta rays and whale sharks in the open waters, and seahorse, frogfish and crustaceans around the reefs.
Surfing: The west coast of Thailand gets swell from the southern monsoons, making it a great area for surfing – Nai Harn Beach, Kamala Beach, Kalim Beach and Nai Yang Beach on Phuket all have swells of up to three metres. Surfing has become so popular on the island that it hosts an annual surfing competition.
National parks and nature
Hiking: From pristine rainforests to towering, mist-enveloped mountains, Thailand’s landscape is ripe for exploring on two feet. The country can also point to over 100 national parks. Visit Sri Phang Nga to hike past cascading waterfalls, swim through lakes and navigate untamed undergrowth using a bamboo cane.
Cycling: Bike tours are a popular way to see hidden parts of Thailand while getting fit in the fresh air. Organised cycling tours are easy to find and can be a four-hour excursion or 14-day trip on wheels and range from road trips to mountain biking, cycling coast paths or jungle tracks.
Kayaking: With its calm, shallow (and warm) waters, kayaking is the perfect activity for soft-adventurers. Most islands have operators offering kayaking tours, be it a one-hour beginner’s lesson or a full day on the water. For the more adventurous, choose a jungle tour – where you will kayak through rapids – or a sea.
Whitewater rafting: With differing grades of difficulty and framed by stunning scenery, Thailand’s fast-flowing rivers offer plenty of opportunities for whitewater rafting. The majority of tours take place around Chiang Mai – which is hilly – but other areas are beginning to attract adventure operators. Suggest Nan on the border of Laos, Phang Nga between Phuket and Krabi or Chanthaburi in the south.
Bungee jumping: Activities don’t get much more extreme than jumping headfirst off a cliff with a rope attached to your ankles. Visitors looking to bungee should head to the islands of Ko Samui, Phuket, Pattaya – which offers the highest jump in the country at 60-metres – or the X-Centre in Chiang Mai.
Skydiving: Pattaya is also home to the only full-time skydiving zone in South East Asia, making it a popular spot for adrenaline junkies. Participants take a 20-minute scenic flight up to 13,000 feet and then jump with an instructor, falling at 125mph for approximately 60 seconds until the shoot is pulled at around 5,000 feet. Scenery on the way down includes beaches, The Gulf of Thailand and Pattaya city.
Rock climbing: Bangkok – with its hot, humid climate and polluted air – isn’t ideal for outside exertions. Instead, suggest active clients visit an indoor climbing centre, the perfect activity for those itching to be active during a city stay. There are five climbing wall centres in and around the city, ranging from spacious outlets with cafes and kids’ areas to smaller centres for well-versed climbers.
Wakeboarding: Bangkok isn’t just about sights, food and shopping –adventure also awaits. For wakeboarding, head to Taco Lake in the Bang Nai district or Thai Wave Park in the Rangsit district. Rather than being pulled by a boat, cables heave willing boarders across the water at timed intervals.
Diving with sharks: Want to surprise your clients? You might not associate Bangkok with scuba diving, but at Sea Life Ocean World visitors can pay to get in a tank and dive alongside sharks with a trained guide. Swim beside a whole host of predators and other aquatic species – and no previous experience is necessary.
Where to book it
G Adventures has a 14-day round trip from Bangkok called Hike, Bike and Kayak, priced from £1,239pp. It includes cycling tours of Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya, a hill tribe trek in Chiang Mai and snorkelling and kayaking in Ao Nag and Ban Laem Sak.
Intrepid Travel offers a 12-day Hike, Bike and Kayak tour, priced from £1,152pp, It includes train travel, 11-nights’ accommodation, some meals, a two-day cycling tour, a three-day Hilltribe Trek and a two-day kayaking trip.
Hayes & Jarvis offers a seven-night B&B stay at the Haadtien Beach Resort in Koh Tao, from £1,069pp, including flights and transfers. The resort has its own dive centre where guests can qualify for their PADI.
On The Go Tours has a three-hour Experience Real Bangkok by Bike tour from £24.95pp, including hotel transfers, bike hire, a helmet, local guide, bottled water and snacks.