Located 60 kilometers from the Phang Nga coast, is Mu Koh Surin National Park, a group of five islands featuring the most extensive coral reef in Thailand. Diving and snorkeling are very popular here — whales and whale sharks are known to frequent the area, and the islands are a nesting site for three species of turtle.
The islands are also home to the Moken Sea Gypsies, an ancient sea-faring people. Traditionally nomadic, the Moken have responded to growing socio-economic pressures by settling permanently in their former monsoon refuges.
Activities with the Moken are not available through the national park. You must hire a boat to the Moken village, and ask for a local guide or contact Andaman Discoveries. Accommodation can be found at the national park, either by renting tents or staying in park-run bungalows.
Koh Surin is open from November until May. The island is closed to tourists during the monsoon. Please visit the Moken village and purchase the beautiful woven crafts and hand carved boats. While you are in the village, join a Moken guide for a village tour or hike on the nature trail. These educational walks trek across the island highlight the local way of life. Offering a generous donation to your informative guides also encourages the Moken to embrace their fading culture.
The biodiversity of the Surin Islands makes them an important ecological site, with mangrove forests, tropical forest, evergreen forest, beach forest, sea grass beds and coral reefs. Over 80 species of animals have been recorded on the islands, including egrets, terns, Brahminy kites, the rare Nicobar pigeon, the lesser mouse deer, monitor lizards, reticulated pythons, lemurs, flying boxes and many kinds of bats and foxes. There are also a number of edible plant species found on the island, including various species of yam.
How to Get There
The National Park and several tour operators run boats out to Surin National Park. Tour operator speedboats leave Koh Surin National Park Kuraburi Pier at around 08.30 and arrive at Koh Surin National Park Pier at 09.30.
A tour around the village is an insight into the intricate relationship between the Moken and their surrounding environment. As you get off the boat you will notice brightly colored “Spirit Poles” to honor the spirits that inhabit nature.
The village is made up of bamboo houses on stilts built directly onto the sand. You will see women taking care of the children and weaving Pandanus products. For the Moken Community, family connections are strong and dependable. There is an informative visitor centre with displays in Thai and English to educate tourists about the Moken culture.
Ask your guide about the following village highlights: the tsunami, traditional houseboats, handicrafts, and plants used for medicine and daily life.
Exertion level: easy
Duration: half day
Chokmadah Nature Trail
The Chokmadah nature trail introduces visitors to the sustainable use of natural resources to help preserve the Moken way of life. The Moken have used the trail for generations as a source of food, shelter and medicine. The trail consists of 20 interpretive signs, with a wealth of information about each plant and its use. The Andaman Pilot Project has produced an easy-to-read Guide to the Chok Madah Nature Trail.
The trail is a result of a partnership between numerous stakeholders including International organizations, universities, government offices and community members. The trail has improved understanding and increased communication between these stakeholders. By accompanying a Moken guide, you are also allowing the Moken community to gain direct economic benefit from tourism.
Exertion level: moderate
Duration: 1 hour