The Surin Islands National Park, situated north of Phuket and 55 kilometres off the coast, is an archipelago of 5 islands. Two of them, Koh Surin Nua and Koh Surin Tai, are archetypical pictures of tropical paradise, boasting glorious white sand and crystal clear water surrounded by dense forest.
Recent successes in combating dynamite fishing and anchor damage have resulted in the Surin Islands, with their kaleidoscopic abundance of exotic marine life and teeming reefs, becoming Thailand’s best snorkeling destination, as well as one of its best diving destinations.
Visitors looking for a quiet refuge will be delighted with the islands' lack of development, but those seeking convenience, comfort and 5-star service had best choose another destination - or travel there either on a day-trip from Phuket or Khao Lak, or on a luxury liveaboard cruise.
Surin Nuea is home to a community of around 150 Moken, or ‘sea gypsies’, who spend much of their lives on their boats, called "kabang". They subsist mainly through the gathering of shellfish and other marine life from the reefs and mudflats, a practice that is technically illegal due to Surin's national park status. According to a UNESCO report, ‘The Moken tend to escape the attention of both the Local Administration and the central government since their population size is considered negligible and their situation too complicated.’ Illegal fishing and the carelessness of some snorkellers and pleasure boaters pose a greater threat to the islands' ecology than do the Moken.
Richelieu Rock is currently the most highly-rated divesite in Thailand, and so also one of the most over-crowded. Famous for the awe-inspiring variety and abundance of its marine life, whale shark sightings are not uncommon here. Located an hour east of the Surin Islands National Park, Richlieu Rock is an open ocean pinnacle that starts at 40 meters and extends all the way to the surface, where snorkellers can also partake of its delights. Frequent visits by migrating Whale Sharks and Manta Rays have made this site a world famous dive destination.
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