Apr 11 2012
Many who come to Thailand are still looking for one thing and one thing only: that idyllic, isolated, unspoilt island. I’ve been to more than a few of Southeast Asia’s pristine islands, but none have quite had the sparkle of Ko Surin.
While it lacks the creature comforts of more developed islands, Ko Surin, which actually consists of two islands — Ko Surin Tai (south) and Ko Surin Neua (north) — has remained a safe place for wildlife of all kinds both on land and in the sea, and is protected as part of Mu Ko Surin National Park.
Green sea turtles are regularly seen around the islands, small reef sharks are found every day hunting in the shallow surf at low tide, and vibrant tropical fish and crustaceans, including angelfish, parrot fish, and spiny lobster, dwell in the extensive coral around the islands. Even the mighty whale shark is often sighted near tiny Ko Satok, just off the coast of Ko Surin’s northern island.
Make no mistake — Ko Surin and its surrounding area is Thailand’s premier diving and snorkelling destination.
On land, it’s common to see monkeys strolling casually through the jungle, and Surin is home to countless birds, snakes and a healthy population of monitor lizards.
While a small number of people are usually found enjoying Surin’s stunning white sand beaches, they’re far outnumbered by a colourful and rather quirky community of small crabs. Especially after dark, the beach can feel like a metropolis for the crustaceans.
Apart from a tiny village on Ko Surin Tai, the southern island is strictly off limits to anyone other than park rangers. Ko Surin Neua hosts the national park headquarters and campsites, but even here most of the island is covered in dense jungle and is only passable on foot via a rugged path, or around part of the coast during low tide.
Longtail boat is still the main means of transport around the two islands, and unlike nearby Ko Similan there is little speedboat traffic around Ko Surin. Despite a steady number of visiting tourists, Ko Surin retains a quiet, natural atmosphere. It’s the perfect place both to forget the world for a while, and to experience the nature and wildlife of the Andaman Sea firsthand.
Ko Surin lies some 60 km off Thailand’s west coast and is reached by daily speedboats from the town of Khuraburi. Many choose to visit on a day trip as part of a tour, but if time allows we’d suggest paying the minimum 1600 baht for an open round-trip ticket (this still must be booked through a tour company) and take advantage of longtail shuttles around the islands. These are arranged both by the national park and a handful of tour operators, and are a relatively cheap way to see the islands without giving up the freedom to spend a full day or two just lounging on the beach.
Along with a handful of comfortable cottages, camping tents on a couple of Ko Surin Neua’s beaches are the only options for accommodation. Between the two sites, we found the more secluded Mai Ngam Beach to be the better choice for camping. Tents cost 400 baht per night, but act fast if you want to get here this season: the islands close to visitors between April 30 and November 1 each year.
*Photo credit for third photo down (sea turtle and snorkellers): Chinnapatt Chongtong.
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