Monday, April 4, 2011

Kho Surin

This is one 0f those places where bringing your own hammock is a real good idea.

Ko Surin is one of the north Andaman islands between Phuket and Ranong - the area is north of the Similans, Khao Lak and Takua Pa. The mainland base is about one hour north of Takua Pa in the town of Kuraburi.

I pinched this map off Bolesav's Trip Report elsewhere on this site - image Thaiforest Booking

Modified Google Earth image of same - might be worth clicking to enlarge.

A bit more detail of the main visitor areas - definitely needs clicking.

Check-in is at the National Park office at the mainland pier about 17km WNW of Kuraburi town. If you have not booked your bungalow online you can do it here. You can't book tents or tent spaces online. For campers the main concern of the NP people here seems to be checking your transport ticket (and I guess making sure there are tent vacancies at busy times) - you pay your 400baht NP fee (5 days) along with camping fees when leaving the island.

If you have booked with one of the travel agents in town you will get free transport down to the pier. Tom and Am Tour (email: tom_am01@hotmail.com) which has a counter at the bus stop (closed when I arrived on a Sunday, as was the other counter of Barracuda Diving) and whose main street office can be seen as you walk down the short access road from the bus station, went a step or two further - picked me up from my accommodation and provided a simple breakfast at their office. Their cut seems to come from selling you a boat ticket - although I also stayed at their riverside bungalows nearby - 300b instantly dropped to 250 when I jokingly asked if 300 came with dancing girls. Bungalows not flash - worth about 250 by North Andaman standards although you would pay twice this in central-south Andaman. Located at north end of shopping strip just across the main road river bridge - short walk to all services. 7/11 24h store in service station next door (not noisy - bungalows are set 250m back from road) but non alcohol! Another 7/11 selling booze is 5 minutes walk away in central main street, but won't sell this before 5pm in the afternoon - local law strictly observed.
Kuraburi has several other traveller type places plus the more midrange Greenview Resort about 10km south of town in real scenic countryside close to the highway. I think Greenview arranges Surin transport thru Barracuda Diving.

Arriving at the Surins. Speedboats moor beside one of those floating piers - but campers going to area #2 (as we all were) are loaded into longtails which move alongside speedboats.

The websites will tell you the choice is between slowboats and speedboats from the mainland, but such had been the decrease in visitors since the coral bleaching episode began that the slow boats were only running on weekends in March '11.
I'm not whelmed by speedboats, having suffered some horrifically rough and wet trips, but fortunately conditions both across and back were pretty calm. Trip takes maybe 50-60 minutes - highlights are Ko Ra, a mountainous island with good beaches close to the coast (and only one eco resort which I didn't have time to visit this trip) and Richelieu Rock, a submerged reef about 75% into the journey with around 10 dive-boats (most live-aboard) moored above what is supposed to be the best diving in Thailand.

Approaching the back-beach at camping area #2 - longtail trip takes maybe 10 minutes and is included in the price of your speedboat ticket. From the back-beach it's a flat 250m walk thru the rainforest across the isthmus to the camp area and better beach at Ao Mai Ngam.

Ao Mai Ngam is a pretty nice beach - good enough to make my list of Thailand's best beaches. Maybe 500m long, book-ended by mountainous headlands, clear water, white sand, lots of nice tree shade in back of the beach, plenty of sand left at full high tide. Campers got a kick one morning with a small (approx 300cm) shark cruising slowly at high tide close to the beach. It took off like a rocket when a gung ho dude decided to do a Steve Irwin and grab the little thing.
Unlike the arrivals beaches in area#1 and back beach at this area#2, it is possible to do reasonably good snorkelling from the beach - although any decent coral is a fair way out. Mai Ngam does suffer from the low tide blues, but clean sand rather than ugly rock is exposed and swimming is still possible by wading out another 50m. Negatives include cheek-by-jowel tents under the beachfront trees for maybe 40% its length, but you could argue they are partly hidden by the trees and less intrusive than a bungalow joint or two.


They do pack them in, but Mai Ngam is nowhere near as congested as the camping beach in the arrivals area. Coral bleaching crisis saw way fewer visitors (an expat March regular told me a third of normal week-day March visitors) so that I managed a beachfront tent - far right of shot. Tents here went back several rows - futher along the beach they were beachfront only.

Tents front left are National Park "small" versions - 300b a night although I paid 180b single. My tent was pretty good - sufficient room for two people and gear although not quite high enough to stand in, and very waterproof - it poured on two nights. The larger 450-300 NP tents looked maybe 20% bigger. National Park provides bedding for 60b a night - a very thin sleeping mat which is actually a yoga mat, a good sleeping bag which is unnecessary and a small pillow. I found the mat so thin I hired two sets of bedding. Still a bit thin on the padding although combined pillow thickness became just right.
Quite a few people including my neighbours had brought their own tents and bedding.
Very close proximity of neighbours may worry some people, but I found my French neighbours friendly and helpful. Not so some of their countrymen who decided they were the camp gendarmes and acted in a rude, arrogant manner which unfortunately confirmed the stereotype of their nationality. "We stay here 4 weeks for the past 5 years!" Whoa - tres impressive!!! Move over Moken, we got a new mob claiming traditional ownership.

Layout of Ao Mai Ngam National Park Canteen/Administration area right and camping area left. Camping area has been extended further to the left - there are now 10 sub-zones and each can take at least 25 tents, not the 3 the image suggests. Back zones virtually empty when I visited but apparently NP can haul up extra tents in busy times quickly. To its credit NP keeps the area very clean of leaf litter etc and the toilets and showers were always presentable. With crowds down I never had to wait at these. They and routes to them were lit 24 hours. This image from Ko Surin Diving expands nicely when clicked.

These tents were at the front of a back zone behind my beachfront one. Nicely decorated - the dwellers seemed to be permanent locals, but I couldn't work out if they were NP workers or transport company staff. Worryingly, one dude seemed to play music all night - it was going 3am one night, 5am the next (I picked up a bug and had to make sleep-time wc runs: btw I am not blaming the terrible NP restaurant food, I think I picked this up on the mainland) - music was the dire Thai love song stuff, not too loud but not soft either. The lapping of the wavelets covered this noise from my tent but I would hate to be in his zone which could happen when things were busy.

National Park restaurant. Big open sided joint near beachfront with more alfresco seating outside. Which created mass migration when sudden storm hit.

Food absolutely dire. I'm on record saying I've never not enjoyed Thai food - even that stuff in highway food stalls been stewing for 5 years which you down when the bus stops for 15 minutes tastes good to me, but the NP restaurant grub was terrible - tasteless, greasy, relatively expensive and limited in choice ("no beef, no squid only chicken!"). I got so dismayed with the ultra-greasy offerings I opted for a fruit plate ("only pineapple!") and two boiled eggs for my last 3 meals. Couple this with tardy, surly and rude counter service. Hey and NP restaurants no longer serve alcohol.
Boss lady Am back at the travel agency in Kuraburi did tell me to raid a 7/11 and take as much food as possible plus coffee/tea. Well I took coffee but not much food. I did smuggle in a bottle of rum.

BTW I've found NP restaurant food at Tarutao, Khao Lak, Khao Sok and Adang tasty and cheap. Why so bad and expensive here? I got the impression the place's cachet as the prime snorkelling island in Thailand has bred complacency - the crowds come anyway and are a captive market. NP staff in the reception area were pretty slack and surly too.
BTW Boleslav who stayed at the area #1 - the arrivals beach area - in the bungalows says in the Trip Reports section that the food was pretty good in the canteen there. I had one meal there - it was a step up, but not that great. Maybe NP Surins has a new caterer.

Positives: Free fresh cold water and boiling water were available on that table mid-restaurant in shot. Table service was quick and the boys kept the place tidy. Bread was availably at 5b a slice and a toasting rack was set up outside at breakfast with comp jam. The ordering area had a very limited range of noodle-cups, snacks, juices and soft drinks for a bit of variety. If the women could stop yaking to serve you.

THE ARRIVALS BEACH

This is the beach at the arrivals pier - pretty small, not that attractive (I saw no-one swimming). Visitors information shack at the inland end of the pier and this area's National Park restaurant just behind those trees in back of beach at left. Short track leads away from camera to bungalow-tent area on the nice back beach.

Ao Chong Kaad, the back bungalow/camping beach in the arrivals area was pretty nice, but not a touch on Mgai Ngam. A sign behind camera said DANGER - NO SWIMMING HERE. So naturally I had to see why. There was a pretty good tidal current ripping thru (this beach is on the narrowish passage between North Surin and South Surin) which at the time was carting a fair bit of natural junk like lumps of jelly-like stuff, twigs etc. Note no problems with currents mid beach or further from camera. The Nature Track between the arrivals area and the Mai Ngam area starts from the far end of the beach - there was a nice small patch of sheltered sand about 3 minutes into the track probably also accessible from this beach at lower tide levels. About half way along the track is a beach similar to the one in shot which is the Thai Navy Surins Base site.

The tent area behind the beach is way more congested. They seemed to have crammed about the same number of tents into a quarter of the area of Mai Ngam - and because it's so confined, they don't bother taking tents down when it's not busy. As far as I could see there were only one or two tents occupied here on a weekday March '11. It seems that in unbusy times, unless you ask for this area you are automatically taken to the much more attractive Mai Ngam site.

The National Park Bungalows are mainly located on steep slopes behind the beach. As far as I could see these 2000baht ones mainly had very limited sea and beach views thru the heavy tree canopy. The 3000 baht ones in a separate area were better in this respect.

I have to say that 2000baht for a bungalow without aircon is an ask (the 3000 ones do have this and looked to be able to house families easily) - I stayed in similar NP bungalows in the south Andaman not too long ago for a third these prices.
An English couple I talked to on the return speedboat said yep - value not great even at the 1400 they paid online for the 2000 jobbies. Now I have checked the NP website - can see no mention of 1400 and the guy in the Book-In section near the pier quoted me 2000. But there is another website people wishing to book from overseas can use - perhaps it has managed to screw a decent discount out of NP in these quiet coral bleaching times. Booking from overseas on the official NP website is real hard because they want your deposit paid into any branch a nominated Thai bank or a regional NP Office within 36 hours or similar. The other website can do this - for a fee - which makes that 1400 even better value if this is how it was done.
Bolesav has some pix of the 2000 bungalows' exterior/interior in the TRIP REPORT section Surins page.

Map of arrivals area - the floating pier is not shown but is roughly where "Island" is printed bottom right. Once again the area has been expanded - this shows only one row of 2000 bungalows at 19 instead of two. 6 tent symbols for at least 150 tents. Click to expand.

SNORKELLING
I didn't go to the Surins to snorkel. For a start I knew that even in best times the coral/fish are roughly equal to an area I have snorkelled extensively in good times -the Similans - maybe a bit better, maybe a bit worse, but close. That is, some of the best in Thailand but not mind-blowing compared to world's best. And secondly I knew the well publicised coral bleaching of late 2010 into 2011 had badly affected the situation.
How badly? Well one LP Thorntree poster was claiming all the coral was dead - hur hur hur, dude's been popping the hyperbole pills - not even close. But yep, there was a hell of a lot of dead coral although strangely I saw very little of the startlingly white bleached coral. Maybe we have passed first phase. Less coral equals fewer fish - there were some about but hardly exciting although people on my snorkelling trip did see a few harmless black-tip reef sharks at Ko Rae (and one turtle).
I gotta say the afternoon snorkelling trip was underwhelming - water was too deep for good visibility by surface snorkellers and for easy dives to the bottom by blokes like me done our ears in from too much lobster-chasing etc in days past. And the boat guys seemed to have no English or even hand directions for where the good stuff was once the longtail was moored. In all, the stuff I saw was maybe 5th rate by world standards and I had no desire to do next morning's snorkel trip to other areas (if they can't show you at least one good area in the afternoon it suggests they don't have much better on the other trip).
But hey, when I discussed all the above with the English couple from the bungalows they said hold on, they were still very impressed - beats the North Sea hands down. Good point.

Ao Mai Ngam is good in that you can snorkel normally okay stuff off the beach - not possible in the Arrivals Area or at the accommodation beaches in the Similans as far as I know.

Stuff close to the beach was pretty dead but out there where the boats are moored is the reef drop-off and it seemed as good to me there, particularly to the left, as at my snorkelling trip locations. It is a hell of a long way out to this zone but at low tide you can wade most of the way.
A bloke told me it was also good near a small beach around a tiny headland to the right of the boats (not the big far headland you can see top right) but I swam no fins, no snorkel way out to the mooring zone drop-off at high tide and I was blowed if I was going to swim another 500m to this beach area.

DIVING
I didn't see any evidence of dive outfits located on the islands. Heaps of daytrip and overnight diveboats work over the area from Khao Lak, Phuket, Kuraburi and more local islands like Ko Kho Khao and Ko Phra Thong.
At the time of writing authorities had closed two Surins area dive sites because of the bleaching crisis but there's a heap of others.

THE NATURE TRAIL
This joins the Arrivals area 1 to Area 2 starting from the far north end of Ao Chong Kaad and arriving at the southern end of the back beach across from Ao Mai Ngam in Area 2 - see the second Google Earth image above. A leisurely walk one way took me about 50 minutes. It is relatively flat with with no sustained killer slopes, sticking fairly close to just above the rock platform. When you come to the Navy beach, go directly out onto the sand and walk to the very far end where the track moves up into the bush again. There is pretty nice rainforest and sea glimpses along the track plus the usual NP educational panels about flora/fauna/landscape etc, in the usual poor condition.

The educational panels weren't the only things in poor repair. At least 4 wooden stairways or bridges along the way were in similar disrepair and looked like they had been that way for some time. What does NP do with our 400baht entry fees?

Aint gonna fix this one real quick. Looked to have come down last wet season - I'm wondering if more slumped in the unusually heavy rains which caused unseasonal flooding in southern Thailand in late March/early July 2011 just after I left.

Note the lack of any other walking tracks in the Surins. Any other island of similar size would have some to more distant beaches, viewpoints etc.

THE MOKEN VILLAGE
The only other attraction at the Surins is a visit to the Moken (sea gypsy) "traditional village" on the south island.
Now I know I should do this for you guys if I'm going to publish a SURINS page - but I gave the visit a miss. First I'm not real big on cultural stuff. Second, Am back in Kuraburi told me the Moken have traditional things like colour big-screen TVs these days. Third I was under the impression that true Moken are nomadic - never stay in one place long enough to build more than make-shitft dwellings. Not the south-sea island type bungalows I saw from the speedboat as we passed on arrival.

UNDERWHELMED.
Some of you dudes may have correctly read between the lines to realise I was less than gruntled about the Surins. I'm not blaming the coral. But the cost of accessing the place, the high National Park fees, the discomfort of their joke for a sleeping mattress, the dire dire dire not-cheap food, the disrepair of some facilities, the rudeness and slackness of restaurant counter and NP book-in staff, the overpriced bungalows, and the lack of walking tracks to other beaches or any viewpoints left me less than whelmed.People see overhead photos of the landscape like the one above from the National Parks website and get blown away, yet the Surins can't hold a candle to Phi Phi Ley, Phang Nga Bay or Railay in the landscape stakes. I reckon its comparable to Ko Tao - not shabby but not oh-wow! from ground/sea level.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike the place. But high price of access had stopped my visiting it until after about two dozen other islands - which is fitting because that's about where I rate it. Most of those other places I regret leaving after my too short visits (forced by trying to fit too many places into the 3 weeks that family commitments confine me to each LOS visit) but after 3 days on the Surins I wasn't upset be heading elsewhere. I'll be back, but not some time soon - partly to check the coral when it recovers but mainly to see if National Parks has lifted its game, particularly with the food.

UPDATE JAN 2012 - MV who has several trip reports in that section of the blog contacted me with the following:
"Back from 35 days on Surin. Coral bleak, fish not much better. Reef very broken exposing lobster and octopus. Morays all gone, even starfish.
Highlights: 3 eagle ray in formation, turtles and a bumphead parrot as well as 3 octopus and lobsters."
M says things were very quiet on the island and promises a Surins Trip Report with some pix whan he gets the chance, but he is more or less on the road constantly (lucky man). I will put up a link here when it comes in.
GOOD AS THE SIMILANS?

I dunno because I have never stayed on the Similans. I've seen all Similan islands, many of the snorkel sites and called in at both accommodation sites on Poseidon's live-aboard snorkelling trip but that was completely different and 3 of the best days I've spent in Thailand. I'm going to try to do 3 nights at the Similan National Park camp site #1 some time soon. Camp site #2 would be unfair - Donald Duck Bay's beach blows Mai Ngam out of the water. And just about any other beach in Thailand.

WHEN TO GO
National Parks shuts down in the wet season. The website below will give the dates of closing/opening. Thais have a thing for island national parks on weekends and public holidays so if arriving then you may find bungalows booked out and all tent spaces taken. At least in times of healthy coral.

GETTING THERE
From what I can gather, National Parks does not run boats. These are left to the travel agents and dive outfits in Kuraburi who can sell you a ticket and shuttle you to the pier. These people combine customers to get a full boat in slower times.
You could go to the pier independently but there is no guarantee there will be seats left - and a motorcycle taxi may charge you the 200 I heard a traveller quote (a fairer price is the 70 I paid to an equal-distance more southern Kuraburi “pier” for Ko Phratong - organised by the helpful Am - March 2011).
From memory the Surins speedboat and pier shuttle cost me 1650 return. The boats leave around 0900-0930 and take about an hour (speedboats). My return speedboat and shuttle van got me back to Kuraburi town about 1515. Time enough to make the bank which closes 1600 but has ATMs outside other times.

FROM PHUKET, KHAO LAK, RANONG and CHUMPON - regular buses to Kuraburi run between Phuket and Ranong - roughly hourly. Some continue on to Chumpon for KO TAO. Phuket is about 3.5 hours Lak 1.7 Ranong 2 and Chumpon 4.

Note if you are coming from KO PHAYAM or LITTLE KO CHANG there is a SURINS ISLAND TRIP boat which does 2 day snorkelling tours, staying in NP tents overnight.
This boat will also take you down one way. Cost seems high at 2000 but you get to do all the first day activities including snorkelling some spots along the way and meals. I don’t know if your first night's NP and tent costs are included. It’s the only way you can leave Phayam and Chang and be on the Surins the same day, unless you are prepared to charter your own boat from Kuraburi which will cost you way more than 2000.
Thia boat tends to moor in Buffalo Bay Phayam and there are posters up around both islands advertising it. Major problem - it may not be departing the same day you want to leave.

Not too that quite a few Surins trips originate out of KHAO LAK - accommodation places and travel agents organise boat tickets and pier shuttles. Simply means starting an hour or so earlier than from Kuraburi.

FROM BANGKOK - some but not all Bangkok-Phuket buses run thru Kuraburi via Ranong. There could also be separate Bangkok to Takua Pa buses but these may go along the Surathani-Takua Pa road (route 401) rather than via Rangong and Kuraburi. Anyway, the ticket offices at Bangkok's southern bus terminal will put you on the right bus.
I think you would be looking at something around 11 hours to Kuraburi. For people wanting to jump straight off the bus and onto transport to the Surins I reckon an overnight bus starting before 2100 would do the job.
Even though the turn-off to the pier is aboout 6km on the Ranong/Bangkol side of Kuraburi town I’d go right into town and hoof it to one of the travel agents at/near the bus stop. They actually run the boats and put on transport to the pier.

FROM TAKUA PA - all the above buses will do the one hour trip, but there are also local rattlers which maybe take a bit longer.

FROM SAMUI/PHANGAN and KHAO SOK. Jump on a route 401 bus at Surathani bus station and jump off at Takua Pa. Then take one of the buses above.

FROM KRABI and PHANG NGA- there are a few daily buses Krabi to Kuraburi and more Krabi to Takua Pa. As far as I know these all pass thru Phang Nga bus station, but I have also seen Phang Nga to Takua Pa rattlers.

WHICH IS THE BETTER – THE SIMILANS OR THE SURINS?
Coral and fish conditions seemed about the same although I don’t remember lots of medium sized fish near the beach at the Surins’ Ao Mai Ngam. I did see a nice baby shark.
When the coral recovers it will be possible to snorkel a pretty good reef drop-off at Ao Mai Ngam. You need a boat trip for the same type of stuff in the Similans.

Ao Mai Ngam is a sweet beach, one of Thailand’s better ones, but the main beach at the Similans HQ island is another step up – no low tide blues for a start and the water seemed clearer and bluer. Donald Duck Bay at Similans island #8 is better again.
EXCEPT – both Similans beaches get heaps more daytrippers. For people-watchers like me this is a plus, but maybe not for

Ao Mai Ngam is a nice beach but the Simialans Front Beach at NP HQ at island#4 is a step up.

As is the beach at Donald Duck Bay on Similans island#8

Landscape/seascape at both Surins and Similans are equally attractive.

I think the Surins’ camping area at  Ao Mai Ngam is better than at HQ Beach in the Similans (although the alternative Surins’ arrivals beach camping area at Ao Chong Kaad is really cramped and crammed).  Ao Mai Ngam is divided into neat little sections, has a greater number of toilet blocks which always seemed clean and has the possibility of beachfront camping sites although only for a limited %. Then again it had more pains in the bum long-term campers who thought they owned the place when I visited.
I didn’t think the bungalows were superior at either site but the Similans has more. I think camping enthusiasts will enjoy the Surins' Ao Mai Ngam more.

Restaurants  were dire at both locations but the Similans’ HQ beach one was slightly better.

National Park staff  were equally rude.

The Similans has considerably better walks and viewpoints.

Overall I’d give it to the Similans.


KURABURI

Kuraburi is the mainland base town for the Surins and islands like Ko Phra Thong and Ko Raya - it's about an hour by bus north of Takua Pa and 2 hours south of Ranong. Distance between the two white arrows is 750m.

The town is a strung along the main highway with a main street shopping area about one half the length of Khao Lak's main centre. It's a pretty quiet place with good variety of stores, a couple of 711s, one bank with ATM, several trip booking places and a few places to stay. There is a night food market runs just right of the L for TOM AND AM TRAVEL.

Accommodation
If heading from south to north, one option would be to ride thru the shopping street on the main road and as soon as you reach the bridge at the far end check the two bungalow places on the inland side (the further of the two you have to go down a 200m track from the road). I stayed in the further one last month, forget its name - it's associated with Tom and Am Travel who have a shopfront left side heading north in the middle of town opposite the road into the bus station, and also a desk at the bus station. It had basic rooms with bathroom for 300 asked - I got 250. Very quiet.
A guy tenting next to me in the Surins stayed at the joint the other side of the bridge - said real nice bungalow for 400 odd including basic breakfast.
If you get out at the bus station the first of these places is little more than 5 minutes walk.

There are some other places back behind businesses in the central town - I remember a sign showing bungalows in back near Barracuda Dive's shop. Barracuda also has a desk at the bus station. BTW there is a mum and pop trip booking agent on left side of the lane leading down from the bus station - seemed to have good contacts but poor English.

If you want flashpacker-lower midrange accommodation look for the signs alongside the main road about 8-10km south of town in twisty hilly jungle country for Kuraburi Green View Resort. If on a bus, ask the conductor/driver to stop the bus when there. They are very reliable.

I also copied this info when doing research for my trip - I don't know who the poster was:
In Kura Bury there is a very good place to stay my husband and I have stayed there several times Boon Piya resort,
179-180 M1 T Kura is on the main road in Kura Buri tel 01-7525457 . It is very simple but very clean with you own shower and loo , little bungalows and the owner Panich who runs it is a very nice man . It is used to be about 800 bath the night and there is a nice place next door for breakfast in the morning.

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Boleslav has an account of a Surins visit when the coral was good in the TRIP REPORT SECTION here which includes staying at the bungalows, a critique of snorkelling spots in good times and some underwater shots like the one below.

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LATEST INFORMATION
Trip reporter MV visited the Surins in early December 2012. He emailed me this info:


Returned from five days Surins. Was to be ten but park not open until Dec5. Coral is absolutely toast. Worse than last year if possible. Fish are gone as well. Wife and friend did daytrip to Koh Tachai. Same story.
On both beaches in park, huge amounts of sand have washed ashore. In the water, sand (dead coral) has washed over everything at shallow depth killing all in its path. Beaches are markedly higher. Much erosion, now easier for water to penetrate deeper into camp. Many large trees at risk. Mangrove on the small beach facing Chankot (entrance to Mai Ngak camp) has thinned immensely and looks unhealthy. Mangrove on Mai Ngam on also suffering.
No fish or marine life. 10+ hours in the water. No shark, no turtle, one lobster, one octopus. Only few grouper and they were all off Koh Torlinda. Many, many common and hearty reef fish now gone. No tuna or trevally as well. As I stated years ago and was brushed off, the entire ecosystem has collapsed. The only thing Thailand will be fishing is squid.
It is no longer worthwhile to rent gear or take a snorkel boat. It is DEAD. Boat times have also been cut to 2hrs. Tolinda is now said to be no longer visited (too far too see nothing) but np boats were running on our trips.
The weather was good, appears we wedged ourselves between two storms. Was worried about your trip as we had a very odd storm front roll in on the Andaman side, then stalled out over gulf.
Have a friend on Phayam now. Says its lovely. Friend returned from Khood but just says it was nice and has not sent me photos for you.
The (caretaker) bungalow on Ao Mai Ngam is again available this year for b2000. (above). No prebooking. Also a back house that has 7-8 beds at b3000.
Vegetation in campground looks better with the hordes gone, no one is breaking it. Cant swear by this but seems there is much less bird song in the morning at dawn. Odd I know but it was in fact something that struck me on more than one morning.
Restaurant was better. Lunch is decidedly best meal. We were even able to get food spicy to Thai standard.
Fees are slated to go up. Park fee to 500b for 5 days. Stevenl says rescinded, but no indication in the np. Jan1. Boat prices also going up. No longer recommend Sabina (transfer) and with that TomAm (never did recommend Tom). . Use Barracuda (Dive) . Hah, name is Barracuda but no barracuda in the water. Sabina boat prices said to go up. Their daytrip price was already jacked up. Wife had big discount but we understand price was b2500 from Surin. They did not use their boat but piggybacked on Barracuda's trip or organized jointly.Imagine all operators are suffering hugely from the bleaching.
Please tell your fans to rent tents in park, tents are newish, biggish and only b300
DEC 2013 - wonderingstar just sent me a link to his recently completed snorkelling page on the Surins. He reports the coral is still messed up, the fish are good and the food is now okay. He has heaps of info plus literally hundreds of pix and plenty of maps. A great page:  http://whatsthesnorkellinglike.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/thailand_surins/

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Some web sites that provide info on the Surin islands:
SURINS ISLANDS COM

SURINS ISLANDS DIVE SITES
KURABURI GREENVIEW RESORT
NATIONAL PARKS WEBSITE


If you see mistakes or have extra information, please fire them in below. If you have questions, please ask them on THE FORUM which I check most days. I only visit individual island pages occasionally.
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IF YOU VISIT THE SURINS YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN NEARBY LOCATIONS LIKE KO KHO KHAO, KO PHRA THONG, PHAYAM, LITTLE KO CHANG, KHAO LAK, KHAO SOK, PHUKET - PAGES ON EACH CAN BE ACCESSED THRU THE INDEX

You may also be interested in the relatively close SIMILAN ISLANDS

BACK TO THE MAIN INDEX

3 comments:

Malc said...

First, you have the best site about Thailand, period. But I'm not sure I agree with you about Surin. I absolutely loved it. I went last year and stayed in a cabin for six days. Yes, it's expensive for what you get, but it's way cheaper per night than a motel room in New Zealand, and New Zealand doesn't have tropical lagoons. The beaches and lagoons on Surin are way better than Lipe and Tarutao, which I did the same trip (and Surin's incomparably cleaner too). The food wasn't great, but it wasn't the worst I had. The coral bleaching was definitely a downer, but the good patches were fantastic. Lastly, I met some wonderful people there - not the beer-guzzling boring crowd you often find in Thailand. I'd definitely recommend it to people. Malcolm

Luizze Oliveira said...

Ko Surin National Park is a bunch of 5 Islands. Journey at the Ko Surin is starting from some points like Khura Buri Pier, Khura Buri, Ko Surin etc.

Grand Oca Maragogi Resort

Sbipk said...

Thank you nice article.
your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Surin Beach Phuket This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.