It seems that everybody has a dream of getting away from it all. Perhaps an escape to a mountain hideaway up in the clouds with eagles as companions; or perhaps a camping adventure in a northern wilderness… everybody has the same sort of escapist dream.
Way more popular than any of its competitors, however, is a visit to a tropical island and so when the opportunity turned up to visit Surin Island in the Andaman Sea on a snorkeling day trip we leapt at it.
The sun was peeping over the eastern hills of Khao Lak when our day trip’s minivan growled into our hotel car park. Soon, we were heading north to the port of Kura Buri – the closest point of departure for Surin Island. At the port, day trippers of various nationalities were getting sorted out with snorkels and masks and dipping into the coffee and tea facilities and we didn’t have to wait long before we loaded up into three-engine speedboats and were heading out due west.
It was thrilling to feel the acceleration of the three motors once we hit the high seas and when it was announced that it would take an hour to reach Surin – some 60km away, it didn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out just how fast we were going. Captain ‘Bird’ anticipated local fishing boats’ wakes and skillfully turned diagonally into them before getting straight back on course.
The Kuraburi coastline soon shrank while the looming hulk of Surin grew on the horizon. We passed a gaggle of liveaboard dive boats that were exploring the rich coral and marine life at Richelieu Rock and soon we dropped a couple off at the National Park and went to our first dive spot – Chong Khad.
Here, without the bracing sea breeze, things definitely got tropical and we were glad to get into the somewhat cooling water to gaze at the Moorish idols, sea bass, cuttlefish and clownfish. All in all, there are some 48 different types of tropical fish at this island and a laminated photo-album was passed around to give more idea of what was going on underwater.
Next stop was Mai Yai Bay and here you can literally drift along on a current, following this fish or that – a sort of very personal ‘Day in the Life of Nemo’ – all according to how you feel.
The colours and the refracted sunlight are absolutely splendid and with the late morning sun sending its beams through the shoals of fish and the lower-lying coral there’s a hint of sub-aquatic magic in the ‘air’.
Lunch Time at Surin National Park Headquarters
At midday Captain Bird sounded his horn to gather all the snorkelers and we were off back to the park headquarters for a jovial lunch washed down with soft drinks.
There, the cheerful air to our group soon dissipated and faltered as the siesta hour raised its sleepy head.
For some it was an opportunity to explore the rich and photogenic shoreline, for others it was time to take a little nap in the shade.
Bye Bye Surin
We’re once again ready for action by 1:30 and off to Pak Kat Bay where a group of us scour the much deeper waters for black-tipped sharks. We didn’t see any but we did follow a turtle as it went about its daily rounds.
The lengthening sun’s rays add an extra dimension at this time of day and the underwater world seems all the more mysterious. For our final stop we dip into the fantastically turquoise waters of Tao Bay.
If the water is not exactly turquoise it’s as close to royal blue as possible. Gorgeous colours. The captain heads the speedboat due east at 3:30 and the hour-long dash back is soon over.
More tea and biscuits, then an excellent driver delivers us safely back to our Khao Lak Resort in time for an early dinner. The colours and sights of the day at Surin seem almost fantastic in retrospect and have lent a magic feel to our stay in this special region.