As an expat who has only lived on the island for one year, it is always interesting talking to the ‘old hats’; those expats who have been here for more than a decade, and are truly entrenched in island life. There is no better person to tell you how Samui has changed than Kunta, owner of Samui Ocean Sports.
Kunta has been living on Samui for more than 15 years, having first come to Southeast Asia as a backpacker in his early 20s. Back then, according to Kunta, Samui was a backpackers’ dream, with none of the luxury resorts that now cling to the coastline. There were no luxury boats in the bay, and Kunta began exploring the coast and Marine Park, sailing with a friend on a small yacht. In those days, sea mammals such as dolphins were abundant, and Kunta is convinced that jet skis and unprofessional tour boat operators have chased them away by not keeping a respectful distance.
Kunta manages three boats in Samui Ocean Sports’ fleet. Viva 2, is a 26ft mono hull sailing boat that can take 4 passengers. For those that prefer the stability of multi-hull sailing, there is the 27ft racing catamaran Crazy Horse that can take up to 8 passengers, and the luxury 33ft catamaran, Dreamcatcher can take 18 guests for day trips, or 5 overnight.
Each year, Crazy Horse, with Kunta and his crew, competes in the Samui Regatta, proving that local sailors have what it takes to challenge the big teams from around Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Phuket
Kunta offers overnight sailing trips to the Anthong Marine Park and to the neighbouring islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Day trips and shorter sunset cruises are available for those who don’t have time to spare. Kunta has a wicked sense of humour, and always has a story to tell, be it from his travels through Africa, to funny anecdotes of things that have happened on the boat. Sense of humour aside, Kunta is serious when it comes to safety, and will not set sail when the conditions are not right, rather cancelling a trip than putting his guests at risk. Having sailed Samui’s waters for 15 years, no one knows this ocean better, including every hidden rock and current.
Depending on the time of year, Kunta’s vessels are either moored in Chaweng, outside Tradewinds Resort, or in Bang Rak, outside Samui Mermaid. Guests have the option of being collected from their resort, or meeting on the beach. Several resorts continue to support Samui Ocean Sports due to the positive feedback they get from their guests after each trip. One only has to read the overwhelming reviews on Tripadvisor to realise that Kunta runs a professional operation, aiming to provide a memorable trip each time he sets sail.
I recently had the pleasure of sailing with Kunta and a group of friends on Dreamcatcher. As we set off from the beach, our captain briefed us on safety and the dos and don’ts as there were several children in our group. The boat is spacious and comfortable and has ample shade and seating area both on deck and in the cabins.
We sailed towards Koh Phangan’s Haad Yaun beach, and enjoyed iced cold drinks and fresh fruit along the way. We moored about 100m from the shore and some of our party chose to swim ashore in the clear waters to cool down. Moms with small children and those not so energetic were transported to the beach in a rubber dingy.
Once ashore, Kunta took us to his farourite restaurant, Bamboo Hut. Be prepared to trek up a hill, over huge boulders and a rickety bridge, but this is all worthwhile. It is easy to see why Kunta takes all his guests to this restaurant, as everyone gasped and wowed over the view. When the food arrived, there was more praise and awe, and then suddenly silence as everyone tucked in to a perfectly prepared spread of Thai food.
Sailing back at sunset, it was easy to see why Kunta, as a young backpacker years ago, decided to stay on Samui, returning to his homeland Germany only for holidays. Seeing Samui from the boat, veiled in a rich orange halo, made me glad to have moved here too.
Kunta is happy to share his sailing knowledge with other expats and locals, enjoying any excuse to chat about boats. He can be contacted at 081 940 1999, or visit the website: www.sailing-in-samui.com.