About Surin Islands
Established as a national park in 1981, Surin Islands are an archipelago of five islands in Phang Nga Province 55km off the coast at Andaman Sea on the oceanic border of Burma. The park is covering an area of 141 km² of which 76% is sea. The islands are popular destination for divers from all around the world for it's various coral reef life and white beaches.
The main islands are Ko Surin Nuea and Ko Surin Tai, the other three small islands are Ko Ri, Ko Khai and Ko Klang. Although being outside the national park boundries, Richelieu Rock is part of the park. Headquarters are located at Ko Surin Nuea.
Many websites counts Koh Ban and Koh Tachai to Surin Islands for business reasons and offers trips to these islands only. Both islands are 50km south and belongs to Mu Ko Similan National Park.
Surin Islands are populated with two small communities of the ethnic Moken minority, locally known as "Chao Lay". Mokens are nomadic sea people who live in the Burmese Mergui Archipelago. The Moken population of the Islands is around 150 persons in two villages.
Possibly caused by global warming, 90% of the coral life in Surin and Similan islands died out followed by temperature changes back in 1998 and 2010. The 2010 event called Reverse Indian Ocean Dipole caused a natural "coral bleaching" killed almost most of the marine life. The coral reefs are slowly recovering but it may take decades for full recovery. Both national parks also surrefered from 2004 Tsunami.
Except the villages and campsites, most of the land area on islands are off limits to the visitors. Visitors breaking the rules may expect a penalty of 2000 THB and deportation from the islands.
The entrance fee to the national park is 500 THB for foreigners (children 300 THB) and 100 THB for local tourists (children 50 THB). Mu Ko Surin Marine National Park is open from 15th October to 15th May (confirmed the dates with park officials September 2016) and closed during the rainy season. Some websites misleadingly mentions periods during closed season as "best time for diving", probably to operate to alternative Islands nearby for commercial reasons.
Diving in Surin Islands
Together with Similan Islands 100km south, Surin Islands are one of the most famous diving and marine life viewing sites in the world. It is no doubt the best snorkelling spot in Thailand. The popular horseshoe-shaped Richelieu Rock Reef discovered by Jacques-Yves Cousteau is situated 18km south of Surin Islands.
Manta ray, whale shark, pickhandle barracuda are only few of many exciting species sighted. As much as the islands are a Mecca for the professional divers, the reefs around the islands are perfect spot for beginners. The average water deep around the islands is 5-30 meters.
The best time for diving is around December to April with dry conditions, minimum wind and an average water temperature at around 29 °C. February to April is the more ideal time to spot large pelagic species like manta ray and whale sharks. Due to marine conservation initiatives diving is not allowed in certain areas of the national park.
You are recommended to ask a Thai speaking person to call on your behalf.
- Park Office (Phang Nga): 076-491378, 076-419028
Attractions of Surin Islands
A horseshoe-shaped reef discovered by diving pioneer Jacques-Cousteau, located 18 km southeast of the islands and 45 km off the coastline. It's crystal clear and healthy purple coral reefs, warm tropical waters attracts a variety of pelagics of all different sizes making it a world class scuba diving site.
Richelieu Rock is a limestone seamount that stands out from around 50 m depth. The very top of it seen as a rock formation becomes visible over the sea surface only on low tide. The depth of dive site is about 33m.
While snappers, lionfishes, bannerfishes, muray eels, porcelain crabs, triggerfishes, ghost pipefishes, sea horses and shovelnose rays are seen regularly, other species like manta ray, barracudas, whale sharks are seen less frequently. The ideal time for bigger species is around February to April.
Richelieu Rock is accessible with speed boats for daytrips as well as by liveaboard boats operating from many towns along the coastline as far as from Koh Lanta.
Ko Surin Nuea
One of main islands where the national park headquarters is located. The island has many bays, most known Mai Ngam Bay.
There are scuba diving and snorkelling equipment for rent at Ko Surin Nuea.
Chong Kaad Bay
Chong Kaad is the main bay where the headquarters is located and where boats arrives/takes off. The bay has a reception house, campsite, laundry services, a smaller shop, a restaurant, toilet and shower facilities, few bungalows and a white beach with clear waters ideal for both snorkelling and scuba diving.
There is a 2 km trail called Mai Ngam Natural Studies, starting from HQ all the way to the the other campsite on the west side of the island. Visitors can also enjoy watching the beautiful sunset on islands by a short walk to nearby Ao Krathing.
Mai Ngam Bay and campsite
Situated at the west side of the island, accessible by walking 2km from the HQ. This large bay with it's calm waters, it's long curving beach, the campsite and facilities is the best bay in the islands for snorkellers to swim off from the beach, making it a cheapper option.
The campsite is next to the beach, has toilet and shower facilities, administration area for the campsite and a cafeteria with limited choice of meals.
Jaak (Chak) Bay
The small island situated at the north of the island with nice coral reefs. Nice snorkelling spot with beautiful long white beaches.
Ko Surin Tai
It is the second biggest island. Ko Surin Tai is off limits to visitors apart from the Moken village due to strict wildlife conservation rules to protect the ecosystem. South side of the island is a popular night dive spot.
Turtle Ridge (Turtle Ledge)
A long sloping hard coral reef with depth of 5-20 m on the southeast side of the island. It is a great diving site to spot mainly hawkbill sea turtles but also the less common green sea turtles. Clark's anemonefishes, batfishes, Andaman foxfaces and yellowmask angelfishes are only few of many other exiting species seen here.
Situated on southeast of island, popular among snorkellers but also ideal for scuba diving.
Situated on northwest of the island, this bay has Thailand's first underwater snorkelling trail marked with signs. The bay is also ideal for scuba diving, night diving and swimming.
Situated in the south side of the island, is rocky bay ideal for snorkeling. Barracudas, titan triggerfish, emporer angelfishes, falcula butterflyfishes, orange spine unicornfishes, pufferfishes are some of fished seen in the bay.
Situated on the west side of the island. Moken people have a strong connection to the sea, adults spends most time on boats.
Ko Khai (Ko Torinla)
It is the smaller island situated south, one of the most popular dive sites in the national park. The east side of the island has a long hard/staghorn coral line where many species can be seen, ideal for both snorkelling and diving. It is home to cardinalfishes, humpnose bigeye breams, twin-spots and five-lined snappers.
Also referred as Ko Pajumba or Ko Mungkorn. There are no coral life or any other attractions on this island.
There are several rock formations in the national park. Please be aware of that these rock formations are referred with various names on different maps found on many websites.
Rockformation located 2km north of Ko Surin Nuea. The avarage depth is 15m (12-24m).
Few granite outcrops with an average depth of 10 m.