Trippin' Turpins

Mu Koh Surin National Park

07 April 2016

Wow! These islands are gorgeous! I wasn't sure what to expect... I thought perhaps they would be similar to Koh Lipe - a touristy island surround by smaller islands and good snorkelling spots.
Those of you who have been to the Surin Islands would now be aware that I did very little research of the area before I went. What I discovered was that the Surin islands are beautiful and still rather remote, with little more to do than snorkelling, diving and relaxing. We had found paradise!  

Koh Chi, Mu Koh Surin NP
Koh Chi, Mu Koh Surin NP

Mu Koh Surin National Park is comprised of 5 islands. Koh Surin Nua (north) and Koh Surin Tai (south) are the largest, followed by Koh Pachumba, Koh Torinla and Koh Chi. (The names of the islands vary depending on what map you are looking at... don't ask me why, they just do and not only in this area but many of the Thailand islands.)

Mu Koh Surin National Park
Mu Koh Surin National Park

Our first stop after sailing from Koh Phayam was at Koh Chi (red marker on the map above). I was completely smitten with this little island when I saw it; it is just stupendous! We had to anchor on the southern side of the island due to the prevailing wind and the water was very deep which posed some problems. We had to get quite close to the rocky shoreline in order to anchor and we obviously had to think carefully about our choice to do so, because if the weather conditions changed we might end up in a precarious position. From checking the weather the day before we were reassured by the fact that the weather was suppose to remain stable for the next five days and we so wanted to stay, so we did. We anchored in this little bit of paradise and went snorkelling.

Koh Chi - our first stop (red marker on the map)
Koh Chi - our first stop (red marker on the map).

Well if I was smitten with Koh Chi before I got in the water I was completely captivated, enchanted and so totally in love with the place when I plunged into the alluring blue water and swam with schools of fish. Just amazing. This quickly made it into our top 5 snorkel sites!


Monolithic granite boulders plummet precipitously into the limpid depths, turning this underwater world into a sublime mystical place of exploration. It was a spectacular snorkel as we meandered around boulders and through caves sharing our journey with hundred of fish. We stayed for two nights and enjoyed three days of snorkelling before we moved on. In that time we snorkelled almost the entire circumference of the island. We saw an abundance of fish of many varied types including a black tip reef shark and we watched a large reef octopus making its way across the sea floor. I will write a list of all the life I could identify, while snorkelling the Surin Islands at the bottom of this post.

False Clownfish aka Nemo!
False Clown Anemonefish aka Nemo!

We were loath to leave our newly found nirvana, but it was time to move on and we reluctantly pulled up the anchor and motored around to Ao Mai Ngam ( yellow marker), a large bay on Koh Surin Nua. We didn't go ashore at Hat Mai Ngam, we just picked up a mooring in the late afternoon, and went for a snorkel before the sun set. 

Hat Mai Ngam (grey marker) is one of only two places at which the national park has accommodation and a restaurant. The accommodation is mostly camping but there are a few bungalows for larger groups. It is all very basic, and from what I have read about it... the place is a paradise!  

Reading and relaxing in the hammocks - second only to snorkelling on the
Reading and relaxing in the hammocks - second only to snorkelling on the "what we did in the Surins" list!

The next morning we moored at Koh Pachumba (green marker) for an early snorkel. When we first jumped into the water we were shocked by the dead staghorn coral, but as we snorkelled further afield we found some beautiful coral gardens alive with a dazzling variety of colourful fish.

I have since found out that the coral around the Surin Islands suffered in 2010 from warmer than average waters which caused coral bleaching and the death of large amounts of coral. The coral is regenerating well and there is a lot of new coral to see - don't let it put you off - the snorkelling here is fabulous! More about the coral bleaching.

After our early morning swim we stopped between the two larger islands (white marker) and went off to explore. Snorkelling around this area was really very pleasant and we got to see a couple of turtles and lots of large fish. At Ao Kong Khad we found the ranger station (black marker), along with the second camp area, bungalows, a restaurant, information centre and tourists, mostly day trippers who, at that time of day, were all piling on the fast boats for their trip back to the main land.

Longtail boats at Kong Khad
Longtail boats at Kong Khad

Restaurant at Kong Khad
Restaurant at Kong Khad

Our next stop was between Koh Torinla and Koh Surin Tai (orange marker) for another snorkel. This area was really good. Again the area  was alive with large fish, colourful fish, and huge schools of fish. We saw a turtle and a black tip reef shark! Awesome!

We moved onto another bay on Koh Surin Nua (pink marker) and picked up a mooring. The beach here is beautiful but access to it is not easy when the tide is out and the reef and rocks are exposed. We did however find the time to string up our hammock under a tree and relax in the shade with a book. The next morning we arrived at our little spot on the beach at high tide to find we now had waterfront living!

Reading in the hammock on Koh Surin Nua
Reading in the hammock on Koh Surin Nua

Our hammocks now hanging over the water!
Our hammocks now hanging over the water!

The snorkelling was nice further out from shore. The are some huge bombies that are home to anemones and clownfish, christmas tree worms and boring clams. Lots of fish...I know I keep mentioning the fish... but there is literally an abundance of fish around the Surin Islands. It obviously makes a difference when fishing in the area is forbidden or regulated. All of the really good snorkelling that we have done here in Thailand have been in National Parks... I think that says something.

Ao Kong Khad
Ao Kong Khad

After three nights moored off Koh Surin Nua it was time to move on. Mu Koh Surin National Park is the perfect place to go to escape the rat race, snorkel, dive, explore and relax. We will be sure to visit again but for now it is time to continue our to the Similan Islands and more snorkelling!

Notes (March 2016)

When - The national Park is closed between May - Nov or mid Oct

Cost - National park cost is 500 Baht per person for 5 days and for the boat it was 200 Baht per day.

Getting there -  if you are not sailing your own yacht you can get there from Khuriburi. There is more information about getting to Koh Surin in the links below.

Cruising - there are a good amount of well maintained moorings.

Cash - bring cash as there are no banks or ATMs

Accommodation - The National Park has two areas with accommodation - the headquarters at Ao Kong Khad and Hat Mai Ngam, both are on Koh Surin Nua and both offer beachfront camping, a restaurant, and shower facilities. The headquarter site also has rooms available to rent and there are a couple of bungalows at Hat Mai Ngam.

The National Park has has tents for rent (all ready set up and ready to use) but you can also use your own. Hat Mai Ngam is a larger site with larger beach.

Restaurant - Each campsite has a restaurant that offers Thai food three times a day.  We ate at the restaurant at Kong Khad. The food was good and surprisingly not expensive.

Power - Electricity only runs from 18:00 to 22:00 each evening.

Moken Sea Nomads - you can visit the sea gypsies in a village called Bon Bay on Koh Surin Tai. We didn't go there so I can't tell you anything from my experience. The following quotes are taken from Andaman Discovery web page (the first link on the list below) -

"You are encouraged to visit the Moken, but there is a better way of doing this than simply arriving, walking round the village, and staring at people as they go about their daily lives"

"With the people that you see, make eye contact and smile, as you are a guest in their village, not in a museum"

"There are few economic opportunities for the Moken, so if you can, rent a Moken long-tail boat to visit the island."

"An easy way to contribute is to purchase their hand-woven pandanus leaf mats and bracelets or their intricate model kabang boats. Don't be tight and haggle -- they are very cheap already"

For more information visit these sites -

A list of the marine life we saw (not all inclusive) -

Black tip reef shark
Green turtle
Hawkesbill turtle
Reef octopus
Squid (mating)
Moray eel
False clown anemonefish
Skunk clownfish
Clark's anemonefish
Giant trevally
Golden trevally
Long tom
Andaman sweetlips
Oriental sweetlips
Moorish idol
Titan triggerfish
Orange linned triggerfish
Ebony Triggerfish
Long fin bannerfish
Yellow tail fusilier
Yellow back fusilier
Sargent major
Moon wrasse
Blue streak cleaner wrasse
Java rabbitfish
Lined butterflyfish
Raccoon butterflyfish
Threafin butterflyfish
Red tail butterflyfish
Long nose butterflyfish
Copper band butterflyfish
Andaman butterflyfish
Latticed butterflyfish
Vagabond butterflyfish
Threeband pennant fish
Pennant coral fish
Lined surgeonfish
Powder blue surgeonfish
Orange spined surgeonfish
Blue ring angelfish
Seal face pufferfish
Common porcupinefish
Long finned batfish
Ember parrotfish
One spot snapper
Black & white snapper (juv)
Sand Lizards
Golden Damselfish
Humbug Damselfish
Indian Damselfish
Black diadetium urchin
Blue seastar
Indian cushion seastar
Crown of thorn starfish
Long arm Feather stars
Christmas tree worms
Sea pen
Tube worm
Orange spiked sea cucumber
Marbled sea cucumber
Magnificent anemone
Boring clam
Barrel sponge
Mushroom coral
Slipper coral
Delicate whip coral
Fine table coral
Solid table coral
Blue staghorn coral
Fire coral
Brain coral
Maze coral
Compact coral
Boulder coral
Lobed pore coral
Tube coral
Vessel Name: Thorfinn
Vessel Make/Model: Adams 45
Hailing Port: Adelaide, South Australia
Crew: Dwayne & Kelly Turpin
About: After seven years of planning we sold the house and moved aboard Thorfinn in October 2013. Our journey started in May 2014 in Australia and, if all goes well, it will continue for many years with many seas to sail and places to visit.
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