In theme with our recently launched holiday photography competition we have compiled a useful guide to the best local locations to take beautiful photographs. We hope you find the information useful and that it helps give you a bit more ‘relax’ time whilst enjoying your holiday on Koh Samu island.
Why do so many photographers love Koh Samui?
- Crystal clear azure seas?
- Spectacular sunsets?
- Untamed natural seascapes?
- The smiley, happy locals?
- The uniquely designed airport?
Whatever the attraction; there is no doubt that Koh Samui leads the way in Thailand’s high end hospitality destinations. For those who have strolled along Koh Samui’s shores and enjoyed the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand we welcome you and hope you will contribute in our comments below.
If you still haven’t experienced Koh Samui’s exotic allure, take a few minutes to see what all the fuss is all about from the comfort of your home. Furthermore, when you do take the plunge, You’ll have some great local knowledge of where to take the best holiday snaps and wow your friends on your return!
So without further ado – in true ‘Top of The Pops’ style counting down to number 1… here are the top 7 photography locations on Koh Samui!
#7: Big Buddha, Bo Phut
A classic Koh Samui landmark, the Big Buddha sits 15 meters tall and looks out over Koh Samui island from Bo Phut beach on the North East coast of the island. The Big Buddha was built in 1972 by the local society to give visitors a place to pay respect to The Lord Buddha.
This time-honored Thai style monument is surrounded by a variety of stalls selling Thai craft-wares and other ornaments – a great place to pick up some gifts for your friends back home.
For photographers, this is a classic Thai hero shot, but offers some challenges due to the well lit location. There’s just too much light on clear days! Because of this I’d strongly recommend sunset or sunrise as the best time to photograph here.
If you cannot fit that into your schedule this would be an excellent time to use High Dynamic Range photography techniques so you can realistically capture the big difference in light levels between the clear blue sky and the darker details within the Big Buddha landmark.
Please note: You will need a more advanced digital camera to with ‘auto-bracketing feature’ to take advantage of this feature. Check the image accompanying this article for an excellent example of this technique from Welsh photographer – Adrian Evans
Also it’s worth exploring around the back of the statue – you will find a small gate that leads to a path down to a rocky beach, which could make for interesting composition with the Koh Phangan seascape behind them.
#6. Bang Por
High up in the hills on the north west coast of Koh Samui island there are a number of real estate developments that have built quality roads allowing the landscape photographer an easy way to reach high up on the hillside and offering an excellent opportunity to take panoramic vistas of Koh Phangan.
I would recommend taking Bang Por Soi 4 which is a 2km uphill ride and takes you to the highest elevation.
The view over Koh Phangan is beautiful but #3 on this list in my opinion offers a slightly better aesthetic. Of course, Bang Por is easy to reach in comparison because all the concrete roads here are in good condition. Still one should take care if the road is wet as the incline is as much as 1:2 in places.
#5. Naam Tok Na Muang
Nam Tok Na Muang is the highest waterfall on Koh Samui. It’s 80 meters high and 10 meters wide and it’s name means ‘ Purple Waterfall’ in Thai. This might seem surprising when you see the picture to the right… surely the waterfall’s rocks are pink? Well, I would agree with you but I believe the purple comes from the darker looking rocks which certainly glisten a beautiful purple colour as the sunlight dances over them.
Nam Tok Na Muang is easily reached from everywhere in Koh Samui by taxi or motorbike. Follow the ring road and you can’t miss the large signs dotted at regular intervals along it.
There are actually two waterfalls with quite different characters within a couple of kilometres of each other – unoriginally named Nam Tok Na Muang 1 and Nam Tok Na Muang 2.
Na Muang 1 is the one shown above and is the more conveniently reached on foot. It’s a short 5 minutes walk from the nearest parking. Unfortunately partly due to this convenience, partly due to the fact that the pool underneath makes a great swimming pool – this waterfall gets busy during the day – serious photographers should get her early in the morning when it’s quiet to compose your shot without the hassle of photoshopping local swimmers out later.
Nam Tok Na Muang 2 is reached from the Safari Park of the same name. Park your vehicle in the car park where the ever accommodating staff will offer you a ride to the waterfall on the back of a small van for 100 THB – they will say it’s 30 minutes walk uphill if you decline. Unless you really hate walking I would recommend you ignore them and head up the hill – in reality the waterfall is around 15 minutes away by foot.
This waterfall is not very clearly defined and covers quite a large area, you’ll need to scramble around the rocks to find the best angles for your photos but there is a lot of potential for nice composition.
Finally, do bare in mind that the amount of water will change a lot depending on the time of year. November is usually the rainy season on Koh Samui so the waterfalls will be at their most impressive in December and January.
For photographers who appreciate a challenge – photography on a boat certainly presents one. Leave that tripod home and meet the challenge of creating awesome pieces based on some of natures finest artwork – you’ll definitely see the benefits of using the more expensive image stabilization lenses when shooting in this environment. No long exposures, no high f #’s, just enjoy the view and hope the weather is kind to you.
If you travel to Koh Samui by boat from the mainland, you’ll most likely leave from the SeaTran ferry port at Donsak. There are two boats – a fast Katamaran that takes 45 minutes and a traditional ferry which takes cars, buses and lorries. Photographers are recommended to take the slow boat because this offers a more stable platform to take images – especially if your taking the boat at 4pm which is ideal for capturing the sunset. This boat which leaves every hour takes 90 minutes to reach Koh Samui.
#3: Koh Samui Mountain Viewpoint
For adventurous souls who appreciate a good old fashioned rush of adrenaline and don’t mind getting a little dirty. Your reward; friendly conversation and spectacular views over Koh Phangan. Taking a small 125cc moped up and down dirt paths around Koh Samui is really fun – and a little bit scary – especially if it starts to rain.
Take the Koh Samui ring road around to Nathorn Town. The best road to take up is found just to the south of Nathorn’s main town area.
If your coming from the North take the first left after the right turn to the beachfront road, it’s about 200 yards past a big temple on the left.
If your coming from the South take the second right after the big crossroads formed from road 4169 and 4172. If you see a temple on your right you’ve gone too far!
Once your on this small road follow it up the mountain – you will need to take the second turn on the left to head up the mountain road. Follow this good quality, twisty road for 2.5km and then you will reach a small plateau where some trees have been cleared away and offers a nice view over the south west of Koh Samui island. There is a turning to the right which takes you to Hin Lad Waterfall.
This area is quite good for taking some nice photographs the main problem is getting enough height so the palm tree jungles don’t dominate the frame. Cropping is an option but ideally you’d have a nice set of step ladders. If your driving a car that would be feasible but on a moped not really. So the best I can do for you to give you an idea of this point is show you the mediocre image below.
From here the road quality takes a distinct turn for the worst. I’d strongly recommend looking around for signs of rainclouds and if it looks like rain – just enjoy the view and headback down. If the skies are clear prepare for some classic Koh Samui dirt roads. Unfortunately for me, it was already raining, but being a slightly crazy explorer I was determined to keep going…
Continue along this twisty road for another 2 km and after passing through a cleared plateau area – (another reasonable location for photography), and going up and down some ridiculously awful mud roads – finally you go down a steep and very narrow road and arrive – at civilization!
A Thai style house is perched on what must be one of the highest points on the island. The view, overlooking Koh Phangan is quite magnificent. Although quite surprised to have a foreign visitor quite early in the morning, the owner was very friendly. I think he felt a bit sorry for the rather wet, bedraggled foreigner who had made it up here through the rain and he offered me a free Coke. I insisted on paying, sat down and enjoyed getting to know the locals and of course the gorgeous view over Koh Phangan.
The only downside for me was the mother of all storms was blowing in and the sky was about as grey as it gets at 9am in the morning in Thailand. Not ideal for photography but the image below gives you a teaser of the potential.
So now you have the lowdown on what is definately the most challenging to reach location of all these photography locations on Koh Samui. I do hope the weather and the view is better for you than it was for me!
#2. Laem Yai Beach
Arguably the most beautiful sunset beach on the island of Koh Samui. Kao Laem Yai beach, as it is known locally, offers magical skies, breathtaking sunsets and the perfect backdrop that presents an unforgettable chance to create the photographic composition of your dreams.
There are two locations I would recommend for photographing Laem Yai Beach – the first is high up above on the hill overlooking the bay; this viewpoint offers stunning panoramas and a birds eye view of the sunset. (It was used for the HDR image shown above). The second is at sea level on the beach itself, this is nice for getting creative with composition, getting very low to the mirror like surface of the calm sea and getting some interesting reflections, using a overhanging tree or palm to frame the image etc.
How to get there:
Hilltop viewpoint: Find the entrance to the Four Seasons Resort on the main ring road in the north west corner of the island. Opposite the entrance is a steep road leading upward, take it, the viewpoint is at the top of this road, there is a small parking area and a few good spots for setting up ones tripod.
Laem Yai Beach: The beach itself can be seen clearly on this map by zooming in on The Passage Samui take the turning from the ring road signposted for The Passage and Mai Samui, you can park in the car park and go take a drink at Bar Sunset or The Terrace Seafood Restaurant . For the more adventurous photographer you may be able to use one of the resort’s kayak’s to head out and take photos on the Gulf of Thailand itself.
#1. AngThong National Park
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park is an archipelago 20km to the west of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand; it consists of 42 separate islands. The park covers a total area of 102 sq.km of which about only 18 sq.km is land and was established on 12th November 1980.
Ang Thong in Thai means ‘bowl of gold’, aptly named indeed, for this spectacular group of islands is a veritable treasure trove for photographers. You could easily spend a week around these islands and still not capture all the possibilities for stunning images offered by these emerald islands in a sea of azure. Do not miss the opportunity to capture this work of art from Mother Nature.
How to get there
Most tourists take a tour boat, leaving Nathorn town around 8am in the morning and costing around 1,500 THB. It arrives back at Nathorn Pier around 5:30pm in the evening. If you’d like to stay a little longer you can take a tent and camp or rent a bungalow and take the boat back the following day. The regular day tour takes in two of the most breathtaking features of the islands. The lagoon inside the island and the island of Ko Wua Talab which offers the highest viewpoint over the islands and is shown in the picture below:
For those who demand more flexibility hiring a speedboat for around 15,000 THB per day will allow you to explore the islands at your own pace and find the very best angles for creating photographs that you will treasure for a long time.
For more details about these two great spots for photography please read these two excellent articles on this Ko Samui Guidebook - SamuiSpy.com
The Lagoon Inside an Island: Amazing Angthong Part 1
Koa Wua Taleb: Amazing Angthong Part 2
Enjoy your visit to Angthong and remember: let’s keep these beautiful islands for our children’s children by taking all our rubbish back with you when you depart the Angtong islands.
So there you have it… the complete lowdown on the top 7 locations for photography on Koh Samui island. I hope you found this article useful, if you did please put a link to this article on your blog or share it with our friends on Facebook. I read all feedback in the comments so if you spot any errors or would like to add updates please add a comment below. .
Finally, if you’d like to see the exact locations or download the precise latitude and longitude for your GPS please review this useful interactive map of Koh Samui photo locations. Happy photographing!