Ko Surin National Park
the administration of Tambon Ko Phra Thong, Amphoe Khura Buri,
Phangnga, Mu Ko Surin National Park is located in the Andaman
Sea and covers an area of approximately 135 square kilometers.
The five islets archipelago has been declared to be a national
park since July 9,1981. The five islands include Ko Surin
Neua, Ko Surin Tai, Ko Ri, Ko Kai and Ko Klang.
Surin Archipelago is top-rated for excellent diving and snorkeling
in Thailand. Mu Ko Surin is close to the marine boundary between
Burma and Thailand. It has so far been little visited because
of its distance from the coast and the absence of any commercial
activity. There is also a permanent habitation of Sea Gypsies
on the islands. There are two main attractions within the
national park: Surin Islands and Sea Gypsies.
The two large islands, Surin Neua and Surin Tai which mean,
respectively, north and south have ten bays in which coral
gardens are found. They are located about 70 kilometers northwest
of Khuraburi and less than 5 km from Thailand's marine border
with Myanmar. The channel between the two principal islands
is about two meters at high tide. The shallow channel has
one of the most remarkable examples of coral reef life to
be found anywhere. To observe some of the best reefs doesn't
require scuba gear, just a snorkel and mask is enough to make
Surin Islands a perfect destination for non-divers.
The Islands encompass more than ten bays such as Mae Khai
or Mae Yai Bay which are famous for tranquil surroundings
and still waters. Among its bays are Ao Luk or Deep Bay which
is getting to be more popular due to its deep dark green waters
with the most attractive coral reef in the shallows. Surin
is also suited to visitors who are interested in hiking and
exploring rather than diving. It has several hiking trails,
especially on the northern island.
Sea Gypsies: On the southern
Surin Island or Ko Surin Tai is a settlement of the Singh
tribe of Sea Gypsies, the last seamen. These nomadic sea people
are called "chao naam" or "chao le" which
means water people. They live in a very primitive
way of life on houseboats. Time appears to be a vague concept,
as none of them knows their own age. They also can count only
the numbers on their fingers. Yet, they are quite skilled
in their own ways. They can build an ocean-going boat using
only the most basic tools, catch fish by hand, and are famous
for their talents as deep divers without scuba tanks.
Opposite to the national park office there is a carved wood
sculpture similar to an American Indian totem. It is most
revered by the seamen tribe. It is here where they converge
yearly for a three-day celebration on the full moon night
of the third lunar month to pay respect to their totem spirits.
It is a major ancestral worship ceremony happening in April
every year. The ceremony is called Loi Reua similar to the
Thai festival of Loy Krathong. The Chao Le craft are set adrift
on the waves to ask for forgiveness from the spirits and ancestors.
There are long-tail boats at Ao Me Yai to take you to the
south island for 150-200 baht per person for the day.
The surrounding area of the Surin Islands offer seven major
dive sites. The best spots are to be found at the southeastern
point of Surin at HQ Bay, at Ko Chi, a petite island just
offshore from Surin Neua and at Richelieu Rock, a seamount
14 km southeast of Surin Tai. It is common to spot whale sharks
near Richelieu during March and April. Snorkeling is excellent
in many areas due to relatively shallow reef depths of 5-6
There are a park office and visitors' center at Ao Mae Yai
on the north island where boats anchor. Admission to the park
is 40 baht. Accommodation in the park is quite basic and primitive,
but it is a rewarding experience. The best season to visit
the national park is from December to April and it closes
in early to mid May till mid November every year due to weather
To reach the park, tourists may start from three different
points, but the most convenient and quickest is from Ban Hin
Lat in Amphoe Khuraburi which involves about a 4-5 hour journey.
It will take about 13 hours to travel from Phangnga by boat,
while boating from Kapur of Ranong takes approximately 7 hours.
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