Snorkelling in Surin Islands during the Covid pandemic

The Author: Maya
The Author: Maya

The previous trip to Similan had been a wonderful day, and my group was thrilled at the prospect of another full day at sea, this time to the even more pristine and secluded Surin Islands.

So, again we woke up at sunrise to a clear blue sky and enjoyed a big breakfast at The Briza Beach, the resort we had chosen for our three nigh stay in Khao Lak, then the same schedule as the day before: a brief drive to the pier (for those who don’t have their own car, transfer is provided by Sea Star ), a very good second breakfast and check in, and finally the journey to Surin. It took about 2 hours and the sea was a little rough for part of the trip, but it calmed down before we reached our destination.

The first stop was the Moken village in South Surin

The Moken people are in fact three different groups living along the Andaman Coast of Myanmar and Thailand – in Mergui Archipelago, in Surin and in Phuket and Satun. They are animists and known as “sea-gypsies” since until recently they used to live on boats, only to settle down in temporary villages during monsoon season. The Moken of South Surin are one of the last groups living in semi-traditional ways. These people survived the tsunami unharmed because their strict bond with the sea and their knowledge of earthquake-generated big waves made them run for their lives when the tsunami hit Thailand in 2004. Most of their village was destroyed, though, and had to be rebuilt.

Little girl smiling at the Moken Village

The village is a settlement of about 60 huts and houses facing a spectacular bay. One of the first things you notice when you reach the village -besides the cute children and cats running all around- are the Totem poles who represent the spirits of the Mokens ancestors. 

Taking the only sandy path that runs through the village, I took a walk around under the 11 AM sun: the locals were resting in hammocks hanging under their stilt-houses, or chatting and eating in the shadow; some kids were playing on the beach or selling handmade wooden souvenirs (“50 bath, only 50 bath”, everything cost 50 bath at the most), others were bathing in the ocean, the toddlers were chasing chickens or kittens, the babies sound asleep in their mothers’a arms or in improvised cribs made of cotton or rattan. The sun lashes all its heath in the dry season, leaving everybody sleepy and lazy.

We left the Mokens to their “siesta” and went out at sea for the first snorkelling of the day. Visibility was not as good as in Similan the previous day, but that may vary (in fact it had been the opposite only in January), and overall I had a great 40 minutes of underwater exploration. Then we went to North Surin to eat lunch at the National Park premises, the only area in Surin Islands where is possible to sleep: there are tents or A/C bungalows. Lunch is basic but tasty (fried chicken, chicken and vegetable curries, some fish, muffins and cookies, coffee, cold drinks) and there is enough time to eat and go for a walk or a swim at the beautiful beach near the campsite.

The channel between North and South Surin has shallow, clear waters ideal for snorkelling

After spending about an hour at the beach we moved to the channel between North Surin and South Surin for two more snorkelling stops. I was looking for turtles, sharks or manta rays (the best period to see the latter being February to April) but without any luck. Anyway I lost myself completely in the warm, calm, shallow waters shooting photos and videos of clown fish in their anemones, unicorn fish, surgeon and parrot fish, starfish, purple and blue clams, puffer fish, hard and soft corals… and soon it was time to get back aboard the speedboat and start the journey to Khao Lak. Snuggled up in my seat with headphones on to cover the noise of the engines, a fresh breeze messing with my hair, I fell peacefully asleep only to wake up while we were entering the pier. 

The two days in almost deserted Similan and Surin Islands have been a dream come true, and I’m looking forward to a third visit – and some scuba diving- before the dry season ends and the National Parks close, however I recommend these trips to everybody who love the sea: even if you’re not good at snorkelling, you’ll have a good chance to spot some corals and beautiful fishes (and turtles, with a bit of luck) since most snorkelling areas are shallow, giving you plenty of opportunity to be amazed by some of the healthiest and most colourful reefs in Thailand. And if you are willing to trade the comfort of a hotel for a real island-adventure, contact us to book a camping trip in Surin.

Surin beach near the National Park station

GOOD TO KNOW:

  1. Surin Islands are part of an archipelago of five islands within Mu Ko Surin National Park, Phang Nga Province. They are located 55 km off the coast, 100 km north from Similan Islands, less than 20 km from the border with Burma. Check out my video about this trip.
  2. The best time for snorkelling and diving is December to April when the wind is weak and the water temperature around 29 °C.
  3. The park closes in rainy seasons, usually from mid May to mid October, but dates may vary. During the peak season, around 400 to 800 visitors travel to Surin every day, which is less than those who visit Similan Islands, but it’s not exactly “quiet”.
  4. There is one small village of the ethnic Moken group, locally known as “Chao Lay” or Sea-gypsies. Mokens are sailors and fishermen who live mainly in the Burmese Mergui Archipelago.

DO NOT:

Do not feed the fish, even if they follow you and beg for food

Do not touch or step on any coral or sea life.

Do not bring home sand, sea shells or any sea life.

Do not put tons of sunscreen before snorkelling, it’s toxic for the marine life. Wear a long sleeved t-shirt instead (or be ready to get sunburnt).

 

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