Known by its current name since 2004, Seatran Discovery was actually started in 2002 and is one of the most popular ferry services in Thailand. In 2004, the Seatran Discovery yacht was launched offering a more luxurious option for those wanting to travel out to the world-famous Thai islands. It has a 100-person capacity and even includes outdoor showers!
The rest of the fleet has a maximum capacity of 300 people with routes serving 18 destinations across Thailand from 13 departure points including Bangkok, Krabi, Phuket, Suratthani airport (and town) and Nakhon Si Thammarat airport with prices starting from THB300. Most routes have several services a day so there's usually a good choice of departure times.
From Donsak there are 2 ferries a day to each of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, departing at 11am and 2.30pm daily, with journey times of 1 ½ hours, 2 ½ hours and 4 hours respectively. Tickets are priced at THB350 for trips to Koh Samui and THB450 and THB700 for Koh Phangan and Koh Tao respectively.
Two of the most popular routes from Koh Samui are the services to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, which take 30 minutes and 2 hours respectively. The departure times for both destinations are the same with 3 services daily departing at 8am, 1pm and 4.30pm, priced at THB300 to Koh Phangan and THB600 to Koh Tao.
As mentioned, there are also longer trips available from Koh Samui, too. There are two departures each day to Koh Lanta, leaving at 9am and 11.30am, taking 8 ½ hours. Priced at THB900, this trip includes a ferry to Donsak, a 3 ½ hour bus to Krabi and transfer to Koh Lanta.
There are also daily departures at 9am to Koh Phi Phi and Phuket costing THB900 and THB1,050 respectively, which include a combination of several buses and ferries.
From Phuket, Seatran Discovery offer packages to take you to a range of destinations including Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, priced at THB1,150 and THB1,350 respectively. There is one departure per day at 8.30am with a journey time of 8 ½ hours to Koh Phangan and 10 hours to Koh Tao. As with all of Seatran Discovery’s packages, the price includes all ferry and bus transfers and is usually a cheaper alternative to flying.
For those flying into airports such as Krabi, Suratthani and Nakhon Si Thammarat, it's of course possible to arrange transfers to islands including Koh Samui (4 ½ hours), Koh Phangan (5 ½ hours) and Koh Tao (7 hours).
There's two services per day (8am and 11am) from Krabi to each of these islands costing THB650, THB750 and THB900 respectively.
There's slightly more choice from Suratthani and Nakhon Si Thammarat airports with three services a day to each of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, priced at THB600, THB700 and THB900 respectively.
Finally, Seatran Discovery offer a daily service from Bangkok to Koh Samui (16 ½ hours), Koh Phangan (17 ½ hours) and Koh Tao (19 hours), with one departure per day at 8pm. Affordably priced at THB900, THB1,000 and THB1,200 respectively, this includes a 14 ½ hour VIP bus to Donsak and a ferry to the islands.
One of the main advantages travelling with Seatran Discovery is the sheer scale of options that they offer. This is why it is one of the most popular companies across Thailand. The packages taking you from destinations such as Bangkok or Phuket to islands including Koh Samui save travellers a lot of hassle and planning. In many instances these packages are also cheaper than arranging the travel independently.
As the company was founded more recently than many of its competitors, the ferries on its services are often newer than most. Therefore, you can usually expect a higher level of comfort than offered by other transport providers.
Another advantage is that these ferries are often less busy than those on other services, especially departing from Donsak to Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, this is mainly due to the fact that it is slightly more expensive than some of the other options covering this route, although you can usually expect better quality boats and customer service here.
Seatran Discovery high-speed ferries are always a better choice than Lomprayah high-speed catamarans when the seas are rough as they cut the wave rather than ride it.
Like the majority of transport across Thailand, journey times can be unpredictable with late arrivals. However, the same can be said for their competitors!
Another disadvantage is that many of the ferries in Seatran Discovery’s fleet are only passenger ferries. Therefore, you will have to bring your luggage onto the ferry yourself, this can cause problems if you have brought a lot with you! This is especially an issue on services departing from Donsak and those on this route with a lot of luggage might want to consider a car ferry as if you're travelling by bus you can keep your biggest bags on the bus whilst keeping your valuables close by.
Seatran Discovery has one of the best websites that you'll find from a Thai travel provider, it is very easy to navigate and has clear options allowing you to plan your trip easily. Online booking is simple but if your departure time is within 12 hours then you'll need to contact them directly to ensure you can travel at your chosen time.
They also offer a far wider range of travel options than many of their competitors, allowing you to travel from as far as Bangkok easily and for a very competitive price. Another handy offer is the hotel transfer when you reach Koh Samui, if you book this through Seatran Discovery you can be dropped from the ferry port to any hotel on the island for just THB150, a very good price especially if you're arriving on the last ferry of the day as you won't have to haggle with taxi drivers.
Reviews of Seatran Discovery tend to highlight the variety of options that they offer and the ease of which it is possible to travel long distances. Many also like the fact that the ferries are often less busy than those on other routes, so it is more likely you'll be able to get a good seat.
Those with complaints usually criticize the fact that you will have to carry your bags aboard even if you are part of a package as there are only passenger ferries available. This is particularly problematic if you're a solo traveler as you will have to keep a eye on your belongings.