Kayaking and rafting
Thailand’s rivers and seas are the perfect places for some paddle power. Kayaking trips often venture inside caves glittering with stalactites and stalagmites, visit limestone islands or pass through mangrove forests. Many companies run trips around Krabi and Phuket while in Kanchanaburi you can power your way along the famous River Kwai.Some of the country’s wildest and wettest white-water rafting can be found in the north and west of the country. In Chiang Mai, for example, you can take on the fierce Mae Taeng River, which has grade three and four rapids, with Siam Rivers outfitters.
For more upmarket adventure, learn how to sail your own yacht. Sailing Thailand runs courses around Phuket for those who wish to learn the ropes through to those who want to race. Phuket also has some reasonable rips for surfers, while kiteboarding is starting to take off, literally, in Ko Samui and Hua Hin.
Diving and snorkelling
Peer into the crystal-blue seas that surround Thailand’s 3,200km (20,000mi) of coastline and a whole new watery world appears. Snorkelling is the simplest option and nearly every island runs day-trips out to nearby coral reefs. All you need to do is grab a mask, pull on some fins and jump in.To get a closer look at the range of marine life, scuba diving in Thailand is an incredible experience. Day-trips typically include at least two dives, or you can join a liveaboard and spend several days diving.The best places to plunge are on the west coast, which includes the Similan Islands. Set in the Andaman Sea, these islands are rated among the top dive sites anywhere in the world. Along with red and purple soft corals, the marine life includes yellow boxfish, triggerfish and octopus.Ko Tao is one of the most popular places to learn to dive, thanks to its shallow waters and abundance of coral. Dive centres run courses that will teach you the basics in a few days, and after that the undersea world is your oyster. Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock) are remote sites that are off Ko Lanta but are worth seeking out as sightings of manta rays and whale sharks are common.The best time to dive is from November to April, when the waters are at their clearest.
Think you’d make a great Tarzan? Then check out the high-flying, high-speed jungle adventures in the heart of Thailand’s stunning countryside.Several resorts in Kanchanaburi have specially built courses that offer visitors the chance to fly from tree to tree while attached to 500m (1640ft) ziplines, then scramble across rope bridges and over spider nets while surrounded by dense jungle. Tree Top Asia runs a Flight of the Gibbon experience that includes up to 26 platforms stretching over 3km that lets thrill-seekers whizz, crawl, fly and swing through the forest canopy. It has bases near Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
If ziplining isn’t enough altitude for you, learn to fly at the Nok Aviation Flying Club near Chiang Mai or try a spot of hang-gliding and paragliding in the eastern province of Rayong with the Thai Gliding School.
Biking and cycling
By far the best way to see Thailand’s mountain ranges and lush countryside is to jump on a motorbike. An area to the west of Chiang Mai is known as the Mae Hong Son loop and in biker circles it is said to be one of the ultimate routes thanks to endless hairpins, corkscrew twists and awe-inspiring views.Cycling tours are also available, with the best routes running from Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi or Hua Hin. Organised trips can be arranged with companies such as Spice Roads, and these often include sleeping overnight in a homestay with villagers.
Trekking and camping
Meeting ethnic groups and experiencing life in their villages is a highlight of any trip. Trekking tours range from short strolls in a forest up to challenging stomps through thick jungle accompanied by expert guides who are often able to spot hidden creatures that you’d otherwise walk straight past.Thailand’s national parks are filled with dragon-toothed mountain peaks, tumbling waterfalls and dense vegetation. Camping out at designated sites means you are utterly immersed in nature. One of the best parks is Khao Yai in the northeast, which includes a giant monsoon forest, dozens of elephants and excellent trekking options.
Riding through the jungle on the back of an elephant is a memorable, if somewhat jolting, experience. For those who want to understand Thailand’s national animal better, it’s possible to spend time training as a mahout. The Elephant Palace in Ayuthaya runs special courses that teach guests how to respect and care for the pachyderms.
If you’re planning to visit Thailand’s beaches rather than its jungle, some of the more remote, rugged islands are ideal for quad-biking. Ko Samet is virtually filled with dirt tracks and so these machines are the best, and most enjoyable, way to get from beach to beach.
Clambering up a rock face delivers the ultimate vertigo-enducing buzz. If you’re a beginner, head for Ko Phi Phi which has relatively simple ways up, but if you are more experienced, then Railay beach in Krabi is rock-climbing nirvana – and has one of the best beaches in Thailand. Andaman Adventure runs rock-climbing, fishing and kayaking packages around the southern islands.