Surin Island National Park - Diving, Tours + Snorkelling

The Surin Islands National Park consists of five islands that lie in the Andaman Sea approximately 57 kilometers off the coast of Thailand's Southern Peninsula. Known the world over for its spectacular diving and snorkeling locations, the Surin Islands is the perfect place for either daytrips or overnight stays.

The park's total area stretches over 141sq.km. - of which over 80% is ocean - and includes the larger islands of Koh Surin Tai (South Surin) and Koh Surin Nua (North Surin) as well as the smaller Koh Klang, Koh Ri and Koh Kai. Richelieu Rock, which is one of the world's premier diving and snorkeling sites, also falls under the park's jurisdiction despite its being fairly remote and situated halfway between the Thai coastline and the Surin Islands. The islands share Thai seasons, which can be simplified into hot on the one hand and rainy on the other. Average rainfall can exceed 3,000mm, and the park is closed to visitors during the May through October monsoon season.

The park's main attractions are its snorkeling and diving venues, and the Surin Islands present tourists with some of the most spectacular coral formations and exotic marine wildlife in the world. The coral reefs, which begin at the low tide mark and are found mainly on the islands' eastern sides, contain unending varieties of coral including brain, whip and staghorn coral and are home to myriads of brightly colored small fish like butterfly fish and damselfish. The reefs, especially those surrounding the stunning Richelieu Rock, are also often visited by the larger pelagics including manta rays and whale sharks. At Surin, Tourists can also experience the wonder of swimming with sea turtles, and the park's premier diving sites include Chak Bay, Mai Ngam Bay and Pak Chak Bay.

The islands also offer great hiking and nature trails, and visitors can explore the park's rainforests, mangrove forests and beach forests to their hearts' content. Birdwatching is also a favorite pastime, and species to look out for include the common sandpiper and the little heron. If they're lucky, tourists will catch glimpses of the islands' black-bearded tomb bat, Bengal monitor and endangered Olive Ridley turtle. The indigenous Moken or Sea Gypsy peoples include stays on the Surin Islands in their nomadic itinerary and also congregate on the islands every April for their annual Loi Reua festival. Cultural tours are offered to visitors to the island whenever the Moken are in residence.

Thailand's Royal Forest Department will allow no major development to take place within the confines of the park, and, consequently, no seaside resort has been developed and no hotel has been built. Most visitors spend only a day on the islands, but, for those who wish to stay longer, there are several bungalows and camping sites on North Surin Island that can be booked through the park authorities. North Surin Island also features two restaurants, a visitors' centre, a wharf and docking facilities. Richelieu Rock is reached either by speedboat for daytrips or by livaboard for protracted diving excursions.

Getting to the Surin Islands National Park will involve either driving or taking the bus to the port of Kuraburi and then taking a boat to either the islands or Richelieu Rock. Speedboats are perfect for daytrips while the larger livaboards are perfect for longer trips, and park authorities also offer boat trips once a day, which leave at approximately 9am every morning.

The Surin Islands National Park offers tourists a chance to experience Thai island adventure holidays second to none, and all it asks in return is that tourists respect its pristine island paradise.

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