Swimming with horses is so 2008. And besides, who would want to when you can hang out with these guys instead? Such an opportunity is on hand at the Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa, a new hotel that borders the pristine Had Chao Mai National Park in the Sikao district (that’s right, sea cows in Si Kao!) of southern Thailand. The upscale, rural resort looks onto the turquoise Andaman, which is populated with all manner of coral, fish, and yes, the friendly, lumbering (and vegetarian) 1,200-pound endangered creatures known as sea cows, or manatees.
For those looking to cozy up, the resort has a PADI dive center, a dive boat, and certified dive masters, who will lead private excursions to nearby sites, including the famous Koh Rock Nok island; the resort caters to all levels of experience from entry -level divers (who train first in a fresh-water pool) to those looking to get their advanced open water certification; snorkeling is readily available too.
Aside from diving, the Anantara Si Kao also offers yacht charters and day trips to its private beach club on a remote island; trips through the rainforests, caves, and mangroves of Had Chao Mai; a cooking school specializing in traditional Thai techniques, and a top-notch spa with an on-site Ayurvedic doctor.