Ko Surin

Ko Surin

Breathtaking above and below the water

If Thailand’s tropical islands are the country’s crowned jewels, Ko Surin could be the brightest of them all. Protected as the Mu Ko Surin National Park, Ko Surin actually consists of two relatively small islands — Ko Surin Nuea (north) and Ko Surin Tai (south) — as well as a handful of islets and some magnificent underwater seascapes.

More on Ko Surin

Though many choose to visit on a daytrip, Ko Surin really warrants spending a night or two in order to adequately absorb the unspoilt natural beauty both on land and underwater, including some of the finest white sand beaches and shimmering emerald waters to be found anywhere in Asia.

Along with Ko Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Surin and the surrounding area (including Richilieu Rock) is considered to be one of Thailand’s (and Asia’s) very best diving and snorkelling destinations. Whale sharks are often sighted off the north coast of Ko Surin Nuea, and angel fish, butterfly fish, moray, surgeon fish, sharks and sea turtles, to name just a few, are consistently seen in the coastal waters.

Sadly, Ko Surin’s precious coral reefs were hit hard in 2010 by bleaching caused by unusually high ocean water temperatures blamed on global warming. Although much of the colourful algae within the coral has died off, some of the coral has held on to its colour and Ko Surin is still an excellent place to dive and snorkel. There is a seemingly endless selection of diving operations throughout the Ranong, Phang Nga, Khao Lak and Phuket regions that offer trips to Ko Surin and Richilieu Rock. A few tour companies and the national park also organise daily boat trips for snorkellers.

Though best known for its marine wildlife, Ko Surin is also home to healthy populations of monkeys, snakes, monitor lizards, crabs of countless varieties, and abundant bird life. Untouched jungle covers most of the islands, and though one rugged trail runs over the mountainous interior of Ko Surin Nuea, most of Ko Surin is not only virtually impenetrable but also officially off limits to visitors.

Long before the Thai government declared it a national park (or even claimed it as their territory at all), Ko Surin was a centre of Moken sea gypsy life. While some of the Moken have become Thai citizens, many are still "stateless beings" who are a nomadic people speaking a unique language, which is a descendent of Malay. A small Moken village is found on Ko Surin’s southern island, and evidence of Moken culture — including their signature thatched roof boats and mystical wooden pillar statues built as dedications to ancestors — may be found throughout the islands. If visiting the Moken village, which has become something of a tourist spectacle in recent years, please be respectful of their traditional culture.

Aside from the Moken village, all of Ko Surin Tai is off limits to visitors, and apart from the Mai Ngam and Kong Khad camping areas on Ko Surin Nuea it’s not permissible to set foot on most of the northern island either. Sea turtles still nest on the southern island, and overall Ko Surin is truly a haven for plants and wildlife, so these regulations are solely in place to protect the ecosystem. If found breaking the rules and hiking on restricted ground, expect to be fined 2,000 baht and kicked off the islands. It is however still possible to explore the waters around all parts of the islands and enjoy a glimpse of Ko Surin’s untouched beaches and bays, rocky coastline, and mangrove forests.

Orientation
Ko Surin lies in the Andaman Sea some 60 km off the west coast of Thailand’s northern Phang Nga province, due west from the town of Khuraburi. One really does have a sense of being cast far off to a wild and isolated place while on Ko Surin. Unless visiting with a diving operation, each of which have their own boats and schedules, visitors to Ko Surin first arrive by speedboat to Ao Kong Khad, which is located on a southwestern peninsula off the northern island. Here you’ll find a visitor centre, restaurant, shop, most of the cottages, and one of the camping sites.

The visitor centre does not provide much in the way of information, but they do hand out basic black and white maps of the islands, offer snorkelling equipment for rent, and arrange half day trips around the islands. A small display of some of the marine life found in the area may also be found here. While the cottages are located inland a short walk from the beaches, Kong Khad’s camping area features tents set up on a small white sand beach facing west.

By far the better camping area, however, is located a short longtail boat ride to Ao Mai Ngam at Ko Surin Nuea’s northwest (be sure to tell your speedboat crew which place you prefer to stay or they may assume to drop you at Kong Khad). Nestled in a tranquil, quiet bay with a small but idyllic powdery coral sand beach, the camping area at Mai Ngam is one of those places that’s so beautiful it leaves you breathless. There is also a small visitor centre, shop, restaurant, and a couple secluded fan cottages for larger groups at Mai Ngam.

Some of Ko Surin’s better known snorkelling sites include the nearby islet of Ko Satok, which is a particularly good place to glimpse tropical fish; Ko Torinla and Ao Pak Khad, known for their numerous shark sightings; and Ao Mai Yai, Ko Pachumba, and Ao Sab Pa Rod, all of which are noted for their coral. Ao Mai Ngam is also considered an excellent snorkelling site in its own right, and small, harmless reef sharks may be found daily in shallow water near the Mai Ngam beach at low tide.

While the national park is able to provide limited first aid, Ko Surin is a remote destination so anything major requires being transported by speedboat to the mainland, and the national park are able to provide this service (in cooperation with a small Thai Navy encampment) quickly in the case of emergency.

Not surprisingly there are no banks or ATMs so be sure to bring enough cash for your stay.

There is, however, a very out of place looking post box at Mai Ngam if you can’t wait to get back to the mainland to send that postcard to Mum back home. Electricity runs only from 18:00 to 22:00 each evening, and Ko Surin closes down each year from May 1 to November 1.


62 other destinations in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan

More to it than Full Moon Parties

Learn more about Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park

Wise old wilderness

Learn more about Ko Chang Noi
Ko Chang Noi

The other Ko Chang

Learn more about Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi

Leave the crowds behind

Learn more about Ko Yao Yai
Ko Yao Yai

A bay all to yourself.

Learn more about Ko Lao Liang
Ko Lao Liang

Let’s keep this one a secret

Learn more about Ko Jum
Ko Jum

Ready to relax?

Learn more about Ko Ra
Ko Ra

Unspoilt island wilderness

Learn more about Ko Phra Thong
Ko Phra Thong

Golden Buddha island

Learn more about Natai
Natai

Fancy pants beach time

Learn more about Ko Rawi
Ko Rawi

Pristine beaches and jungle

Learn more about Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Land of 300 peaks

Learn more about Ko Bulon Lae
Ko Bulon Lae

The tranquility runs deep

Learn more about Phetchaburi
Phetchaburi

Caves, beaches and a palace

Learn more about Ko Samui
Ko Samui

Dozens of beaches to choose from

Learn more about Ko Tao
Ko Tao

A popular spot to learn to dive

Learn more about Krabi
Krabi

Lively gateway to the islands

Learn more about Railay Beach
Railay Beach

Rock climbing paradise

Learn more about Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi

Popular party island

Learn more about Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta

Where the beaches stretch for miles

Learn more about Ko Muk
Ko Muk

More to it than the Emerald Cave

Learn more about Ko Libong
Ko Libong

Great choice for the quiet life

Learn more about Songkhla
Songkhla

Relax by the sea

Learn more about Ko Phayam
Ko Phayam

One laid-back island

Learn more about Kaeng Krachan National Park
Kaeng Krachan National Park

Thailand‘s largest national park

Learn more about Ko Sukorn
Ko Sukorn

Settle into a slower pace

Learn more about Ko Kradan
Ko Kradan

Great beaches, pricey food

Learn more about Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan

Mountains to the west, ocean to the east

Learn more about Ban Krut
Ban Krut

Set your internal clock to Thai time

Learn more about Khao Lak
Khao Lak

A family favourite

Learn more about Ko Kho Khao
Ko Kho Khao

No need to leave that beach chair

Learn more about Khanom and Sichon
Khanom and Sichon

Just kick back

Learn more about Similan Islands
Similan Islands

Say hi to the sea turtles

Learn more about Takua Pa
Takua Pa

Crossroad between islands and mountains

Learn more about Ko Rok
Ko Rok

Unspoilt twin islands

Learn more about Hua Hin
Hua Hin

Mainstream tourist hotspot

Learn more about Trang
Trang

Before you hit the islands... Eat!

Learn more about Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe

Welcome to paradise

Learn more about Ko Tarutao
Ko Tarutao

Awesome

Learn more about Ko Adang
Ko Adang

Ko Lipe’s wild neighbour

Learn more about Ranong
Ranong

Wave to Burma

Learn more about Ko Ngai
Ko Ngai

A comfortable island getaway

Learn more about Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nakhon Si Thammarat

Unadulterated Southern Thailand

Learn more about Phuket
Phuket

Thailand’s biggest and busiest island

Learn more about Narathiwat
Narathiwat

Muslim fishing life

Learn more about Bang Saphan Yai
Bang Saphan Yai

Low-key beach town

Learn more about Phattalung
Phattalung

Mountains, lakes and no tourists

Learn more about Ko Si Boya
Ko Si Boya

Take a break from it all

Learn more about Phang Nga Town
Phang Nga Town

Your base for Phang Nga Bay

Learn more about Hat Yai
Hat Yai

Largest city in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Satun
Satun

Don’t miss the local iced tea

Learn more about Cha-am
Cha-am

Like Hua Hin lite

Learn more about Chumphon
Chumphon

Gateway to Ko Tao

Learn more about Ao Nang
Ao Nang

Beach holiday hotspot

Learn more about Betong
Betong

Almost Malaysia

Learn more about Surat Thani
Surat Thani

Gulf coast island gateway

Learn more about Sungai Kolok
Sungai Kolok

Gateway to Malaysia

Learn more about Pattani
Pattani

Once a proud kingdom

Learn more about Khuraburi
Khuraburi

Gateway to little-known islands

Learn more about Pakbara
Pakbara

Gateway to the Satun islands

Learn more about Yala
Yala

Well off the beaten trail

Learn more about Tak Bai
Tak Bai

Historic for more than one reason