The Unspoiled Thai Islands: Sea Gypsies & Snorkelling In The Surin Islands

I’ve been to Thailand several times over the last few years. I got engaged and married there (on separate visits!) and attended the TBEX conference in Bangkok. I’ve visited a fair few, and read about many more, idyllic Thai islands and yet the Surin Islands had never come up in my research. Is it a name you’ve come across before?

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

I’m actually writing this post a little reluctantly. One of the beautiful things about the Surin Islands is that they feel like an area largely untouched by tourism. At least for now.

You may have read the news recently about the closure of Koh Tachai, a gorgeous island in the Similan national park, which happens to be the nearest neighbour to the Surin Islands. Both areas are famed for their diving but, being slightly closer to the mainland, the Similan Islands see more tourists and hence Ko Tachai needs a rest for the environment to recover.

So I like I said, this post is something I share reluctantly.

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

But the truth is the daytrip we took to the Surin Islands during our time in Khao Lak was my absolute favourite activity. I expect travellers like ourselves who visit Khao Lak will want to do a similar daytrip so I am sharing my experience so that they can go with a high quality and eco-friendly tour operator like we did.

See also: Escape the crowds in Thailand

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Where Are The Surin Islands?

Firstly, some bearings. The Surin Islands are the northernmost group of islands on Thailand’s Andaman coast, situated 74 kms from Nam Kem pier in Khao Lak.

Khao Lak is approximately 1 hour north of Phuket and the Surin Islands are 90 minutes by speedboat from there.

Daytrip to the Surin Islands

How Can You Get There?

We travelled to the Surin Islands with Similancharter and Tour. They are a relative new operator in the area but already they have received great customer feedback – from ourselves included. The reason these guys are good to travel with is because they guarantee not to over-fill the boat. Each daytrip has a 34 passenger limit, which means the speedboat is only ever filled to 75% capacity. They also use an eco-friendly fuel in their boats, which has lower levels of harmful chemicals.

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

What Do You Do On The Daytrip?

Your day begins with an early morning pick up from your hotel. We were collected from central Khao Lak just before 8am and it took approx 15 mins to drive to Nam Kem Pier.

At the pier you are registered, asked to pay your national park fee (500 baht per person, payable in cash) and kitted up with snorkel mask and flippers. After a short briefing on the day and introduction to your guide you’re asked to board the boat, leaving your shoes in the basket on the jetty.

A nice touch at this point was that tea, coffee, fruit and biscuits were provided if you were peckish. There was also a jar of sea sickness tablets for those who were worried about being on the water.

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Luck was on our side as the water was incredibly still throughout our journey. My friends and I sat up the front of the boat, which was uncovered, but there was plenty of room in the shade at the back. The boat travels slowly through the mangroves, the guide pointing out the local fisheries and telling us more about life in this region. Then the captain puts his foot down to deliver you to the first snorkelling spot.

We snorkelled in 3 different spots during the day and each were incredible. I’ve snorkelled in many beautiful locations, the Great Barrier Reef included, and have to say this was one of the best. The colour of the coral was incredible and we loved spotting different types of vibrant fish, sea snakes and sea horses in the still and warm waters. It’s not unusual to see sea turtles, manta rays and dolphins although we didn’t on our trip (sadly).

Visting A Moken Village

One of the highlights of this trip for me was visiting a Moken Village. The Moken are known as ‘sea gypsies’ as they were originally sea nomads who travelled between the islands from Malaysia to Myanmar. They have now settled in several basic reserves, including this one in the Surin Islands.

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

There is a small museum in one of the huts on the island so we entered that first as it provides a great history of the Moken people and their way of life. We were then invited to wander through the middle of the huts for a short time, being courteous to those who were snoozing on their balconies. A few of the women had handmade souvenirs that they sell to tourists but aside from this the only signs of commercialism was a satellite dish I spotted coming out of one of the thatched homes.

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Lunch & Beach Time On Surin Island

A simple buffet lunch with items such as chicken and rice is served on Surin Island. There were about 2 more groups having lunch on the island when we were there so make sure you eat from the correct buffet!

After lunch you are free to laze on the absolutely glorious beach and bathe in the water – it’s so shallow you have to wade out pretty far to get fully submerged. You get about 2 hours to chill here and get that perfect Instagram shot!

Discovering the Surin Islands Thailand

Surin Islands - the unspoiled Thai IslandsMore Info

Tours to the Surin Islands are only available from October to May as it’s not suitable to travel in the wet season.

Our tour cost 3,700 baht per person from Khao Lak.

Lots of snacks and soft drinks are included throughout the day but bring small change if you want to buy souvenirs or snacks on the islands.

Visit for more information.

Further reading:

Tips for travelling to Khao Lak, Thailand 

Tips for travelling to Ao Nang, Krabi

Where to go in Thailand: 5 unspoiled islands

Best things to do in Bangkok

About the author

I’m Jayne, a travel blogger, content creator and mum to a 4-year-old son. I’ve been blogging since 2010, travelled to 65 countries and share travel guides and tips to help you plan stylish, stress-free trips.

2 thoughts on “The Unspoiled Thai Islands: Sea Gypsies & Snorkelling In The Surin Islands”

  1. Hi Jayne,

    Thank you for the blog. I was interested to ask you if you took your baby to the Surin islands? We have a 2 year old coming to Khao Lak with us. Ideally we want to take her to the islands as well, but would it be too hard/hot for a child that age?

    Thanks in advance,


    • Hi Neil, We didn’t have Miles at the time but we did the day trip with friends including one who was pregnant and she didn’t have any problems. There is shade on the boat and they serve lunch in a covered area on the island – no air con mind you. If I’m honest I don’t remember seeing any children on the excursion so it may be worth checking with a few operators about whether they can take you.


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