The Surin Islands
The wonder and beauty of Khao Lak’s lesser-known archipelago.
Most visitors to Khao Lak condition of this unique and beautiful are familiar with the Similans’ legendary reputation as one of the premier diving destinations on the planet. But fewer people are aware that about 60 km out in the Andaman Sea off the shores of Phang Nga, there is another group of stunning islands offering what many enthusiasts consider to be the best snorkeling in all of Thailand.
As luck would have it, Khao Lak happens to be the premier starting point for day-trips and overnight live-aboard trips to this amazing natural treasure.
Established as Mu Ko Surin National Park in 1981, the untrammelled, pristine ecosystem is why the Surin Islands were slated for protection even before the Similans were.
Two large islands, Ko Nuea and Ko Tai, and three smaller ones, Ko Kai, Ko Klang and Ko Ri, cluster closely together to form numerous protected bays, coves and inlets ringed by coral reefs.
From a snorkeler’s perspective, these shallow, clear waters are simply perfect.Although known as a top snorkeling destination, there are scuba diving options on the deeper western coasts of the islands. Scuba addicts can also visit the famous Richelieu Rock, which lies within the 1402 km territory of the National Park.
Above the water, visitors are often more likely to see troops of macaque monkeys frolicking on the beaches than the hordes of visitors who descend upon other marine parks.
There is also a chance of seeing monitor lizards, flying foxes, one of over ninety bird species and all kinds of wildlife that finds refuge in the dense rainforest covering all of the islands.
The biodiversity of the Surins’ ecosystem, both above and below the water, is astounding.There are over 200 species of living coral here and the undisturbed white sand beaches remain a critical nesting site for four species of sea turtle.
The Surins are also considered your best bet at getting a chance to swim with a turtle, see a whale shark, manta ray, clownfish, ghost pipefish, baby blacktip shark, and many other rare marine species.
While outsiders didn’t start visiting the Surin Islands until recently, these islands have supported the sustainable and low-impact way of life of Moken “Sea Gypsies” for centuries.The islands were once a seasonal stop in the annual migration routes followed by these friendly and shy people. There is now a small, permanent settlement of about 60 Moken families living at the southern end of the islands.
The Park Service and many diving operations now employ many of these Moken as guides and in other jobs, while most of the others still derive a sustainable, low impact subsistence living from fishing like their ancestors.The Surin Islands could scarcely find a better steward of the environment here to ensure everyone’s grandchildren might get the same chance to experience this special natural wonder.
How to Visit the Surin Islands
It’s possible to visit Mu Ko Surin National Park from the beginning of November to early May. By the end of May, the arrival of the monsoon makes the sea too rough for pleasure boating, swimming and snorkeling. Even the hardy Moken fishermen dry-dock their kabang within their bamboo boathouses. By the end of October, however, the rainy, windy weather subsides.The waters clear up beneath clear blue skies, making conditions perfect for snorkeling and boating. If you would like to visit the Surins, there are several companies in Khao Lak offering both day trips and two and three-day liveaboard trips. While most of these companies are oriented around snorkeling and to a lesser extent, scuba diving, swimmers, beach lovers, and nature lovers find the Surins’ scenic beauty well worth the visit.
Most companies will pick you up at your hotel.Their boats operate out of Khura Buri, an hour north of Khao Lak.Transport from your hotel to the pier is normally free.The boat trip out to the islands takes between two and three hours, depending on the type of boat the company uses.
A Snorkelling Daytrip to The Surin Islands with Love Andaman
One of the largest and most well-equipped specialist island tour operators in the region is Love Andaman – who invited us to try their 2014/15 season Surin Island day trip package.
The tour begins with a free early-morning pick- up from your hotel and includes the 1.75hr speedboat trip each way, returning to your hotel shortly after 17.00hrs.
As well as 3 snorkelling stops during the day there’s also the chance after lunch to visit the small Moken ‘sea gypsy’ village on the main island.
Take a look at the photos and you’ll see just what a fantastic experience this trip is – amazing scenery, a cool speedboat ride, awesome snorkelling and a gourmet lunch – they even have coconut ice-cream for dessert!
If you get the chance to go, don’t hesitate to take it.We did!
To find out more or to make a booking call Love Andaman direct on 088 765 4678