The Surin Islands are one of the ‘best kept secrets’ of this whole stretch of coastline. Designated as a marine park, this collection of islands lies Northwest of Phuket, close to the Myanmar border and has been spared any commercial development or crowds of diving trips. It has lovely white deserted beaches, inviting waters and no tourist development.
There are five significant islands, and the two main reasons to come here are; to get away from it all, and to experience some of the best diving and snorkelling in the area. In fact some of the most desirable, but inaccessible, diving that is advertised in Phuket is located on reefs in this area, such as the Burma Banks.
Koh Surin Nuea (North island) and Koh Surin Tai (South island) are the two main destinations and they are 55kms offshore between Ranong and Khao Lak in Pha Nga province (about a two hour drive from Phuket). There is a park headquarters on North Island where you can stay in bungalows or camp, but other than that there is little in the way of the standard bungalows or villas that are typically found on islands in Thailand.
It’s worth coming for few days, roughing it a bit to get the true essence of the islands and enjoy them mostly to yourself, but it does require a bit of planning, such as bringing your own food, though the park HQ does a good job of providing cooked meals. Those who prefer resort comfort are better off joining a dive cruise to the area. Furthermore, unless you are part of a group it can work out quite expensive logistically, as there is no massed transport to the island or conveniences.
Most visitors to the area come via diving trips on live aboard yachts and boats which head for the popular sites of HQ Bay, Koh Chi, Richelieu Rock and the Burma Banks which are found near the island or in the shallow channel separating these islands from the untouched Myanmar islands.
Once on the islands you get the sense of a true ‘Robinson Crusoe’ effect. There are deserted tropical beaches which you’ll likely be the only one on. There are a few hiking trails but most parts of the island are inaccessible unless you charter a local fisherman’s boat to get to them. The islands are so close together that it’s feasible to explore them from the water.
There is a 500 Baht entrance fee to the park.
Getting to the Surin Islands
Unless you’re with an accredited dive company, this is tricky. Firstly you need to get to Khuraburi town and buses depart regularly from Phuket bus station heading to Ranong (60 baht). Boats depart from the fishing village of Ngan Yong, 6kms north, and usually leave a few times a day when full. Tickets are 1,000 baht return or more. Once on the island there might be local fishermen agreeing to chartering trips to the other islands for the right fee.
There are a few decent resorts in Khuraburi for those who need to stay overnight here on their way to and from the islands.