I’ve been to Thailand a lot in recent years. I got engaged and married there (on separate occasions!) and attended the TBEX conference in Bangkok. I’ve visited a fair few, and read about many more, idyllic Thai islands and yet the Surin Islands had never come up in my research. Is it a name you’ve come across before?
I’m actually writing this post a little reluctantly. One of the beautiful things about the Surin Islands is that they feel like an area largely untouched by tourism. At least for now. You may have read the news recently about the closure of Koh Tachai, a gorgeous island in the Similan national park, which happens to be the nearest neighbour to the Surin Islands. Both areas are famed for their diving but, being slightly closer to the mainland, the Similan Islands see more tourists and hence Ko Tachai needs a rest for the environment to recover. So I like I said, this post is something I share reluctantly.
But the truth is the daytrip we took to the Surin Islands during our time in Khao Lak was my absolute favourite activity. I expect travellers like ourselves who visit Khao Lak will want to do a similar daytrip so I am sharing my experience so that they can go with a high quality and eco-friendly tour operator like we did.
Where Are The Surin Islands?
Firstly, some bearings. The Surin Islands are the northernmost group of islands on Thailand’s Andaman coast, situated 74 kms from Nam Kem pier in Khao Lak. To reach Khao Lak you can you grab some cheap flights to Phuket on Travel Up or travel overland from Bangkok. If you take a speedboat to the islands from Khao Lak the journey time is approximately 90 minutes.
How Can You Get There?
We travelled to the Surin Islands with Similancharter and Tour. They are a relative new operator in the area but already they have received great customer feedback – from ourselves included. The reason these guys are good to travel with is because they guarantee not to over-fill the boat. Each daytrip has a 34 passenger limit, which means the speedboat is only ever filled to 75% capacity. They also use an eco-friendly fuel in their boats, which has lower levels of harmful chemicals.
What Do You Do On The Daytrip?
Your day begins with an early morning pick up from your hotel. We were collected from central Khao Lak just before 8am and it took approx 15 mins to drive to Nam Kem Pier. At the pier you are registered, asked to pay your national park fee (500 baht per person payable in cash) and kitted up with snorkel mask and flippers. After a short briefing on the day and introduction to your guide you’re asked to board the boat, leaving your shoes in the basket on the jetty. A nice touch at this point was that tea, coffee, fruit and biscuits were provided if you were peckish. There was also a jar of sea sickness tablets for those who were worried about being on the water.
Luck was on our side as the water was incredibly still throughout our journey. My friends and I sat up the front of the boat, which was uncovered, but there was plenty of room in the shade at the back. The boat travels slowly through the mangroves, the guide pointing out the local fisheries and telling us more about local life in this region. Then the captain puts his foot down to deliver you to the first snorkelling spot.
We snorkelled in 3 different spots during the day and each were incredible. I’ve snorkelled in many beautiful locations, the Great Barrier Reef included, and have to say this was one of the best. The colour of the coral was incredible and we loved spotting different types of vibrant fish, sea snakes and sea horses in the still and warm waters. It’s not unusual to see sea turtles, manta rays and dolphins although we didn’t on our trip.
Visting A Moken Village
One of the highlights of this trip for me was visiting a Moken Village. The Moken are known as ‘sea gypsies’ as they were originally sea nomads who travelled between the islands from Malaysia to Myanmar. They have now settled in several basic reserves, including this one in the Surin Islands.
There is a small museum in one of the huts on the island so we entered thsat first as it provides a great history of the Moken people and their way of life. We were then invited to wander through the middle of the huts for a short time, being courteous to those who were snoozing on their balconies. A few of the women had handmade souvenirs that they sell to tourists but aside from this the only signs of commercialism was a satellite dish I spotted coming out of one of the thatched homes.
Lunch & Beach Time On Surin Island
A simple buffet lunch with items such as chicken and rice is served on Surin Island. There were about 2 more groups having lunch on the island when we were there so make sure you eat from the correct buffet! After lunch you are free to laze on the absolutely glorious beach and bathe in the water – it’s so shallow you have to wade out pretty far to get fully submerged. You get about 2 hours to chill here and get that perfect Instagram shot!
Tours to the Surin Islands are only available from October to May as it’s not suitable to travel in the wet season.
Our tour cost 3,700 baht per person from Khao Lak.
Lots of snacks and soft drinks are included throughout the day but bring small change if you want to buy souvenirs or snacks on the islands.
Visit Similanstour.com for more information.
Further reading: Tips for travelling to Khao Lak, Thailand