Apr 11 2012

Photo essay: Wild Ko Surin

Published by at 9:35 pm under Andaman Sea islands

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.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

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.

Thailand's most picturesque island?

Thailand’s most picturesque island?

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.

Making friends in the water.

Making friends in the water.

Make no mistake — Ko Surin and its surrounding area is Thailand’s premier diving and snorkelling destination.

At low tide, a wade in the water reveals dozens of these harmless small sharks.

At low tide, a wade in the water reveals dozens of these harmless small sharks.

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.

A large monitor lizard swims in an inland lagoon; think I'll stick to swimming in the ocean.

A large monitor lizard swims in an inland lagoon; think I’ll stick to swimming in the ocean.

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.

Can I just say...you have the most stunning eyes.

Can I just say… you have the most stunning eyes.

Late night beach roamers.

Late night beach roamers.

Lovers or fighters?

Lovers or fighters?

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.

Inland water lillies; just watch out for that monitor lizard.

Inland water lillies; just watch out for that monitor lizard.

Now this tree has personality.

Now this tree has personality.

No shortage of colour in Ko Surin's forests.

No shortage of colour in Ko Surin’s forests.

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.

Yes, I'd say this is a good place to relax.

Yes, I’d say this is a good place to relax.

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.

Heading out for another 200B snorkeling trip via one of the national park's boats.

Heading out for another 200 baht snorkelling trip via one of the national park’s boats.

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.

A new moon rises over wild Ko Surin.

A new moon rises over wild Ko Surin.

*Photo credit for third photo down (sea turtle and snorkellers): Chinnapatt Chongtong.



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5 Responses to “Photo essay: Wild Ko Surin” ...

  1. Sliceon 11 Apr 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Great, now you’ve told everyone! Hahaha! Very nice photos of an amazing island.

  2. Rosanne Turneron 12 Apr 2012 at 8:11 am

    Looks great David! Will try head there in my next break.

  3. SBEon 15 Apr 2012 at 1:24 am

    “Along with a handful of comfortable cottages…”

    Ha ha, the cottages may be comfortable but beware, the beds in them are rock hard! Mind you, so is the sand under the tents if you don’t bring a mattress. The last time I was there the bungalows cost 2000B/night, not particularly cheap and they were usually full. (Best to reserve in advance) If I remember right the tents were 300B for the smaller ones (still quite roomy) and 450B for the larger ones. If the small tents now cost 400B then does that mean that the bungalows are more expensive too?

    How’s the coral??? There was a major bleaching event in 2010. I decided to skip the Surins in 2010 and 2011 because of this so I can’t confirm how bad it was but some reports said almost all the coral was dead. I’ll maybe go and have a look see next season though. Did you notice any signs of regrowth?

  4. LAbackpackerChickon 24 Apr 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I LOVE the Surin National Park! It’s one of my favorite places in Thailand.

    Thank you for sharing your pictures.

    I am also curious about the coral. I went in April 2010 and apparently the coral was destroyed at the end of the year. How bad was the damage?

  5. Davidon 24 Apr 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Hi guys, sorry for the late reply here. I’m no expert on coral but from what I could see it was still bleached and pretty lifeless. From what I understand it’s not actually dead, just dormant, but if the sea water temp doesn’t go down it will die eventually. That said, I’m not a huge diving/snorkeling enthusiast but the marine life I did see was still fascinating to behold, bleached coral or not. By the way, the coral I saw at the Similans pretty much looked the same — bleached — but I just did casual snorkeling and I’ve heard there are still areas of live and vibrant coral there.

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