The most obvious active pastime on Ko-Sichang is swimming. The water quality does vary, but it's ususally a lot clearer and cleaner than on the mainland beaches in the northern Gulf of Siam. Waves are very seldome high enough to discourage anybody who can actually swim. Jetskis, parasailers, speedboats and other motorized irritants are rare--on the outer islands, just about unheard-of..
There are also no lifeguards, and no beaches where even partial nudity is a matter of course. The local womenfolk most often swim in shorts and t-shirts plus standard underwear. Visitors who go topless WILL attract attention, and the only places where total nudity has any hope of privacy are the outer islands, to which you'll have to hire a boat.
Ko-Sichang offers a tremendous variety of walking experiences for such a small place--everything from a stroll through the sea-level portion of the Old Palace to some seriously challenging (we broke our leg) bushwhacking. There's not a lot of climax forest, but there are beautiful savannahs, and shady limestone hill forest in plenty.
The photo above shows the little-frequented stairway down from the Buddha's Footprint to the Chinese Temple, an exceptionally good route for early risers, who can catch the sun rising over the mainland hills.
The Gulf of Siam isn't the Andaman Sea, and even in the Gulf, we have to concede that places like Ko Tao outshine Sichang. But where else can you see many varieties of coral, squid, sea anemones, plenty of fish (including some occasional big ones, and the rare sea turtles and dolphins) so close to Bangkok?
There are plenty of good places along the cliffs around the island, but the favorite area is Ko Khaangkhaao and neabry Koh Thaai Taa Muen. You'll need to hire a boat or rent a kayak to get to these places; we've always felt it was very worth it.
If you can manage a canoe, a windsurfer or a small sailboat, chances are you're ready for sea kayaking. At Haad Tham Phang you can rent sturdy, hard-to-capsize craft that will give you a good workout, and a chance to see many parts of the island just as they appeared to the first fisherfolk centuries ago.
Do wear a life preserver, and bear in mind that it's easy to go farther than you mean to with the wind behind you. Ask Juk, the proprietor of the rental operation, before you try anything ambitious.
Not the most obvious to Western visitors, but by far the commonest activity for Thai and Chinese tourists to the island is sitting in one of the "Skylab" three-wheelers for a tour of important sites. There are two basic tours: everything but Thamphang and the south end of the island for B150, or the Full Monty for B250. Your driver will wait for you at each place, or come back to pick you up if you mean to stay awhile, for example to climb up to the Chinese Temple or carry on to the Buddha's Footprint.
Whatever your plan is, agree on a clearly defined itinerary and price before you set out.
Thanks to the large areas of savannah, some moderately mature forest, and plenty of seacoast, you can expect to see a large variety of birds on Ko Sichang, particularly during the months from about November to April when many northern species migrate down for the warm winters. Egrets, bulbuls, terns, swiftlets, gulls, harriers and doves are all plentiful (There's also interesting non-bird wildlife.)
The photo above is of a nesting Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus). You can see it clearly enough here, but in the field we spent five minutes within three meters of the nest before we could relocate it, despite two previous visits.
With a little planning, or a little more patience, a boat trip can make your visit to Ko Sichang an outstandingly memorable holiday. Choices range from open skiffs with room for no more than two passengers, to 15-meter fishing boats or even a cabin cruiser or sailing sloop with bunks and a head (nautical bathroom).
Some of the most popular trips are to Ko Khaangkhaao, with or without a circuit around Ko Sichang, and the all-day trip to Ko Phai a further thirty or so kilometers out in the gulf. Costs range from about B500 for a half-day in a very small boat to over B2,000 for a long outing in a substantial vessel. Advance reservations are highly advisable..
Fishing is still the economic mainstay of Ko Sichang,and there are plenty of fish and squid to be found in the waters around the island. The key to a successful fishing expedition is knowing where to go, and what bait and tackle to use. Squid are so common, and so voracious, that it takes some doing not to catch one from just about anywhere on the shore, including the new pier in front of the Sichang Palace Hotel. The big mackerel and grouper that run up to 20 kg need a boat, some luck and a good guide. Here again, advance reservations will make a big difference.
Ko Sichang is a great place to rent a motorcycle--as long as you're more interested in scenery than speed. There are some spectactular views, and some very little traveled back roads. You can enjoy the wind-swept vistas from Tham Phang or Laem Nguu headlands, or make your way down lanes overgrown with bamboo in the area just south of the Chinese Temple. Since we don't have a gate (yet), we regularly get explorers driving down to the water's edge through our front yard. There are some challenging dirt roads (to Samroong Leuai, for example, or through the municipal dump to the southwest coast), but genuine off-the-road driving is not recommended.
This island abound in challenges for the road or mountain biker, and is a frequent choice for outings by bike clubs nationwide. If you don't want serious exercise, a bike can still be a good way to get around the market and the lower areas of the Old Palace. If you can make it across the hill from Wat Tham Yai Prik to Haad Tham Phang, and then on down the badly eroded dirt road to Samroong Leuai, you're fit enough to join the island's own club. Bikes are available for rent at rates of no more than B120 per day from several sources along the main landward road, Thanon Asdang.