Being protected by UNESCO environmental program Surin Islands are divers and snorkelers paradise in the Andaman Sea. Take a chance to explore Richelieu Rock, one of the best Asian dive sites. Sufficient amount of plankton ensures the presence of small and large pelagic as well as predators at this site. So be ready to get acquainted with Manta Ray, Whale Shark, Leopard Shark and others swimming next to imposing coral gardens and limestone rocks. Crustaceans and coral fish might also amaze you with their forms and colors.
If you are a marine naturalist, an underwater photographer or a diver of any level of experience you will definitely find something fascinating at Surin Islands.
Mu Ko Surin National Park is located between Similan Islands and the Mergui Archipelago. It is reachable only by the sea; usually, boats and ferries depart from Khao Lak or Khura Buri. There are 5 islands which compose this archipelago. Ko Surin Nuea and Ko Surin Tai are the main islands. You can get to the Islands by a liveaboard, a daily boat or a ferry. A fee of 500 THB (14 USD) is to be paid to enter Surin Islands.
Any slot between November and May is good to plan a trip to Surin Islands. Diving and snorkeling will not be allowed during the other months because of the monsoon season. It brings winds and rains.
In the meantime, the dry season will delight you with warm water and good visibility which can reach up to 30m (98ft.). The best choice of a suit will be a 3mm wetsuit or a shorty.
It is forbidden to take anything from Surin Islands like shells or sand as you will have to pay a fine or even an imprisonment can be imposed. So just make a giant stride and enjoy the surrounding without touching anything.
Best dive sites overview
The best dive site of Surin Islands is named after Andreas du Plessis de Richelieu. He was the only foreigner and the first commander-in-chief of the Thai Navy. So the dive site is as remarkable and unique for Thailand as this person was.
There can be strong currents and waves around this pinnacle. The dive site is recommended only for advanced divers. The bottom is located at the depth of 50m (ft.) so you’d better look after your depth. The visibility tends to be between 10-30m (32-98ft.).
You will be pleased to find all types of underwater creatures from the largest to the smallest at Richelieu Rock. The highest chance to meet Manta Ray and Whale Shark is between February and April. This dive site is also famous for a variety of soft and hard corals inhabited by Harlequin Shrimp, Seahorse, Porcelain Crab, Nudibranch, Pipefish, Octopus, and Cuttlefish.
If you admire some rare species then you might be lucky to spot Black Volitan Lionfish, Shovelnose Ray, Black and Blue Ribbon Eel.
Koh Torinla (East & West)
Both Eastern and Western sides of this dive site are splendid wall dives. Walls go down to 40m (131ft.). However, you do not need to go that deep to find various species of the marine life unless you are practicing a deep dive.
Usually, there are no strong currents at these dive sites, however because of the depth, they are recommended for advanced divers.
Koh Torinla is famous for its hard corals like Staghorn Coral and Porites Coral. Look for Marine Warms who usually live on Porites Coral. They are very shy and quick to hide, so you’d better approach them very slowly. There are also colonies of soft corals and Sponges at Koh Torinla.
Fish is usually dominated by Snapper, Mackerel, Parrotfish, Batfish, and Barracuda. It might be a good idea to look around as Whitetip Reef Shark, Green Turtle, Napoleon, and Hawksbill Turtle might be passing by.
Koh Chi dive site is situated in the northern part of the archipelago. The reef goes slowly down so you can choose the most comfortable depth to enjoy Tuna, Giant Trevally, schools of Barracuda. The average depth is 10m (32ft.). Among the possible visitors of the dive site are Leopard Shark and Whitetip Reef Shark. Try to spot beautiful Blue Ribbon Eel.
The small rock of Hin Gong dive site is located in the southwestern part of Surin Islands and it is suitable for any level of divers. Normally there are no currents and the average depth is 10-15m (32-49ft.). So everyone can enjoy diving in an amazing aquarium with dozens of reef fish. Among the little ones, you might see Seahorse, Pipefish, and Nudibranch. Be aware of Stonefish which is frequently found at this dive site.
Best dive season
Surin Islands are famous for their “big two”, namely Manta Ray and Whale Shark. So in order to spot them, it might be the best idea to come at the end of March. Their season usually lasts from February to April. Waters are very warm and usually calm during this period.
As diving season lasts from November to May you are free to choose between the warmer water of 28-31ºC (82-87ºF) in February-May or cooler water of 26-28ºC (78-82ºF) at the beginning of the season. There might be a difference of 5ºC (ºF) between the lower and upper layers of water, which is usually called thermocline. You can feel it below 15m (49ft.) as of February.
The visibility differs between the months. It can be as good as 30m (98ft.), though when there is Plankton in the water, the visibility drops to 10m (32ft.). However, you have to sacrifice something to meet the biggest pelagic.
Surin Islands are of course famous for their “rendezvous” with Whales Sharks and Manta Rays. Besides these glorious representatives of the underwater world, there are more species to enjoy like Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Shark, Leopard Shark, Turtles and even Shovelnose Ray.
Both soft and hard corals are in a very good shape at Surin Islands. Thus expect to see Red Whip Coral, Black Coral, Sea Fan, as well as Porites Coral, Staghorn Coral, and Table Coral. The coral reefs give shelter to Ghost Pipefish, Harlequin Shrimp, Nudibranchs, Seahorses, and Porcelain Crabs.
The best way to get acquainted with Surin Islands is to arrive on a liveaboard. About 40 boats are servicing this destination. You can choose from the famous Deep Andaman Queen, DiveRace Class E, Giamani, Thailand Aggressor, and many others. However, not all liveaboards include the full list of the Islands’ dive sites. For sure you are to expect Richelieu Rock “on the menu”. But as a typical itinerary concentrates on Similan Islands, other dive destinations at Surin Islands might be left out due to the lack of time.
Please remember that it is recommended to have around 30 divers or an advanced diving level before you join a liveaboard.
Other activities for non-divers
Snorkeling is the 2nd main activity at Surin Islands. Beginners can enjoy shallow waters above the breathtaking reefs full of bright colored fish and small inhabitants. Those who are more experienced and brave can try snorkeling in the deeper parts of the slopes. With some luck and good visibility they might be able to meet Whitetip Reef Shark, Turtle, Grouper, Barracuda and even Manta Ray.
The eastern side of Surin Islands is the best for snorkeling as it is well protected from the currents. Most of the diving operators offer a 1-day snorkeling trip on a speedboat.
Feeling inspired and raring to go? Check out our Surin Islands travel guide and start planning your next diving trip!