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Phuket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side

Phuket’s probably best known as a place to enjoy a lazy tropical holiday, but those with a taste for adventure will find plenty to do here, too. Beyond the beaches are a host of action-packed activities that not only offer excitement, but great ways to keep in shape and connect with nature, both on the water and inland.

  Phuket City

Phuket's shoreline has seen some added colour with more and more kiteboarding enthusiasts seen racing across the sea. Kiteboarding, or kite surfing, offers a great test of endurance and strength to those who learn how to harness the winds using the distinct crescent-shaped kites to power their way across the sparkling waters.

Most Phuket kiteboarding activity takes place off Friendship Beach Resort in Rawai and at Nai Yang Beach. Those seeking to learn or improve their skills in the sport can take lessons and rent out kite surf gear at shops located there. Nopparat Thara beach in Krabi is another popular kiteboarding spot.

Further offshore, more adventures await both for those who yearn for an Ernest Hemingway 'Old Man and the Sea' type of battle against feisty fish on a game fishing excursion and for those who wish for a more Jacques Cousteau kind of adventure exploring the ocean's depths.

Marlin, the species that eluded the old man in Hemingway's tale, is just one of the types of fish that the Andaman Sea yields to game fishers. Sailfish, wahoo, barracuda, tuna and giant trevellay are other exotic species that fishing fans can expect to reel in on their trips.

Those hoping for a more local style fishing experience can arrange a trip on a long-tail boat, while the long-running Wahoo Luxury Yacht Charter team provides a way to explore Phuket's fishing destinations in style and comfort with top-notch equipment. Fishing hotspots include the Racha islands while those with more time could organise multi-day trips to the Similans or Koh Ha and Koh Rok.

Phuket is a prime launching point in Asia for exploring the depths of the sea, and there are many scuba diving choices for divers of all abilities. Several PADI-certified shops around the island offer instruction and trips to sites near Phuket and on liveaboards out to some of the world's best diving spots, including the Similan and Surin islands. From the tiny clownfish made famous by the 'Finding Nemo' Disney cartoon to gigantic whale sharks, the Andaman is home to some of the world's most fascinating marine life.

Marc Francis Partiti of Sub Aqua Dive Center said, "The most appealing trips for diving adventure seekers are to the King Cruiser wreck, Shark Point and Koh Doc Mai, each of which are by far the richest in terms of diversity and quantity of marine life."

Cable wakeboarding and cable ski are other water-based activities that action fans can easily enjoy in Phuket, at both Phuket Wake Park in Kathu and the new Anthem Wake Park in Cherng Talay. The sport is straightforward: strap on some skis or a wakeboard and be pulled by a moving cable around a course on a lake. Those with more advanced skills can test their mettle on built-in obstacles. Pro wakeboarders from around the world come to train in Phuket - and they can often be seen performing their truly gravity-defying stunts - but beginners are also welcome to come and have a go.

Some might say that driving Phuket's hectic roads provides enough of an adventure, but a more fun way to explore is by ATV on an offroad trip, some of which take you into lush jungle terrain. More ATV operations are popping up all the time across the island but some of the more popular ones are along the road between Nai Harn and Kata beaches, in Chalong on the way to the Big Buddha and in Bangtao within the Laguna Phuket resort grounds.

Go karting offers another behind-the-wheel adventure using specially designed vehicles to race around a track. Kids especially love the thrill of becoming a mini F1 driver for the day, while children not ready to take the wheel may ride along with an adult on a two-seater go kart. The most elaborate go cart track is at Phuket Go Kart Speedway in Kathu, while another track may be found next to Phuket Shooting Range in Chalong.

Those looking for a less frantic, though certainly challenging, mode of travel may wish to trade in their four-wheeled vehicles for a two-wheeled mountain bike. Cycling is not an easy sport to pursue in Phuket generally due to the lack of bike lanes and safety awareness on the roads, but an outfit called Amazing Bike Tours has been taking cyclists to off-the-beaten track places that provide healthy doses of fresh air and beautiful sights. A day trip to Koh Yao Noi offers a peek into the region's quiet, rural side along a 30km route that includes magnificent views across Phang Nga Bay, while an overnight tour to Khao Sok gives cyclists the chance for some bird and wildlife spotting as they explore the area's lush rainforest.

Ziplining is another way to zoom through a tropical landscape, but with a view from the treetops rather than on a trail. Flying Hanuman in Kathu offers a 28-station course with a wilderness walk and sky bridges as well as several zipline flights, including one that's 400 metres long. In Chalong, Jungle Xtrem Adventures Park has a total of 72 stations with different circuits for varying skill levels. The journey around the treetops involves not only zipline flights but suspended bridges, walkways and nets.

Taking a flying leap is an activity certain to get the heart racing and Jungle Bungy Jump in Kathu has been providing some bungee jump thrills for more than 20 years. Diving off a platform at a height of 50 metres and plunging towards a small lake doesn't seem like the most sensible thing to do but that's the point - the aim is to rev up the adrenaline and for just one moment know what it feels like to fly free like an eagle. Jump!

  Photo gallery : Phuket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side

Phuket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side

Phuket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side

huket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side

huket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side

huket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side

huket Adventures, Discovering the island's wild side