An island of natural beauty and variety, Koh Samui is home to about 50,000 full-time inhabitants, 90% of whom are Buddhist. The palm-fringed shoreline and coconut and fruit cultivation of the coastal lowlands rise to a central granite massive, the slopes of which are cloaked in virgin rainforest.
At 247 km² Samui is the third largest island in Thailand and the largest island in the Chumphon Archipelago of over 80 (mostly uninhabited) islands which form the Ang Thong National Marine Park, a kayaking and snorkelling paradise. At 25 km long and 21 km wide, Koh Samui is big enough for serious exploration by the adventurous and fit, but can be circumnavigated in just a couple of hours by motorbike or car.
The island was probably first inhabited about 15 centuries ago, settled by fishermen from the Malay Peninsula and southern China. It appears on Chinese maps dating back to 1687, under the name Pulo Cornam. The name Samui is mysterious in itself. Perhaps it is an extension of the name of one of the native trees, mui, or it is a corruption of the Chinese word Saboey, meaning “safe haven”.
Until the late 20th century, Koh Samui was an isolated, self-sufficient community, having little connection with the mainland of Thailand. The island was even without roads until the early 1970s, and the 15 km journey from one side of the island to the other involved a whole-day trek through the mountainous central jungles.
In the early 1970s the pioneer travelers to Koh Samui were backpackers who first discovered it’s hidden delights – its scenic powdery white beaches and seductive coconut plantations. Now the island offers a lot of pleasures ranging from relaxing on the beach to exciting sea canoeing and boat trips. Koh Samui is also famours for it’s wellness retreats and beautiful day spas.
When the sun goes down, the main tourist area Chaweng beach is turning into an exciting lifestyle destination, with many market stalls selling all types of designer goods for you to haggle over. Threre is an excellent choice of restaurants, bars and night clubs to choose from.
The geography of Koh Samui consists typically of flat coastal areas backed by a mountainous hinterland. Thw-third of the island is mountainous with the highest point at 656m above sea level.
Koh Samui’s weather patterns are a little different from the rest of Thailand. In April through September, when most of the country has its monsoon, Samui stays fairly dry, but from the middle of October to December, it’s wet in Samui and drier elsewhere. The driest season is from January to March.