Thailand is fast becoming one of the world’s top destinations for diving and snorkelling holidays, with the surrounding waters of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand rich with coral and an array of marine life.Situated just north of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, the tiny island of Koh Tao now issues the second highest number of PADI diving certifications in the world after Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.
As well as being a diving mecca, Thailand is also becoming well known for its on-land water attractions, which include a vast array of lakes, waterfalls and hot springs. The waterfalls on Koh Samui, for example are popular with tourists as a day trip destination.The Namuang falls are the most spectacular on the island, with 20m and 80m drops and ease of access make the site particularly popular with families. Koh Samui’s slightly more secluded Hin Lad waterfall is also popular, especially with local Thai visitors who flock to the waterfall on weekends and holidays.
Phuket it also home to several waterfalls, including Bang Pae Waterfall, which is a popular swimming spot for visitors. Bang Pae Waterfall is located in Khao Phra National Park, just north of Phuket Town. Other attractions near the waterfall include a network of hiking trails that run through the surrounding jungle terrain. Tonsai waterfall is also gaining popularity with tourists. However, it is necessary for visitors to employ the services of a guide to reach the waterfall safely due to its remote location. The many-levelled Kathu Waterfall on Phuket is also a popular destination during Thailand’s wet season between June and November, when a torrent of water rushes down through the fall’s many pools.
On the mainland, Khao Sok National Park is known for its water-based attractions, including the manmade Cheow Lan Lake. Surrounded by mountains and dense rainforest, the freshwater lake is a major draw with visitors on nature cruises and fishing day trips. The abundant wildlife in the area surrounding the lake, including wild elephants, monkeys and leopards, also means the lake is establishing a strong reputation as one of the premier water-based eco-attractions on the Thai mainland. Khao Sok is also home to eight waterfalls, all of which are located within 10km of the park’s headquarters. The Bang Hua Raet waterfall features two levels of water flow coming from the Sok waterway and Tang Nam waterfall, located 6km from HQ, and has carved a large gorge through the rock to form a deep pool which is home to many species of freshwater fish. It is possible for visitors to arrange tours that take in the highlights of the stunning Khao Sok natural scenery, including some of the waterfalls. Other activities available within the park include elephant trekking, hiking, canoeing and jeep safaris.
Thailand’s government is also promoting the country’s many hot springs. According to a recent report in the Bangkok Post, the Kingdom currently has tourist facilities at 123 springs scattered across its 27 provinces. Some 20 percent of the facilities are operated by the private sector, and the rest by state agencies.
According to Preecha Phoonpokphol, coordinator of the country’s Hot Springs Club, a number of private sector businesses are pinning their hopes on hot springs becoming a popular new tourist attraction. A number of entrepreneurs have observed the popularity of onsen hot springs in Japan and believe that water-based tourism in Thailand could benefit form the boost provided by the country’s hot springs.