When on holiday by the sea there’s one thing that can almost be guaranteed in my itinerary and that’s a boat trip. The game with this is usually to find a half decent trip that breaks up days and days of sunbathing and then desperately try to avoid the inevitable boat trip sunburn!
Whilst holidaying in Khao Lak there was one place that we desperately wanted to head to, the Surin Islands. This is a real picture postcard destination with incredible golden sand beaches, crystal clear waters and a complete sense of tranquility.
In Khao Lak there are numerous tour operators along the high street as there will be in every town however one that stood out to us was the SeaStar tour operator which looked like a really professional set up. Whilst abroad and heading out to sea you really can’t be too careful with who you entrust your life to so finding one that had all the right insurances and safety procedures was reassuring.
There are numerous trips to the Surin Islands available however the one that we decided on was an all day snorkelling trip that consisted of 3 snorkelling stops, a visit to the sea gypsies at Moken Village, a beach stop and of course a stop for lunch.
07:40 – Hotel Pick Up
The trips to the Surin Islands depart from Namkhem Marina Pier which is located around 15 miles north of Khao Lak. As part of the booking Sea Star pick you up from your hotel and drop you back at the end of the day. This was really straightforward with a minibus arriving at the front entrance to our hotel, the Bhandari at 07:40 sharp.
08:00 – Arrival at the port
On arrival at the pier you check in at a desk and pay any outstanding balance if you only paid a deposit when booking. You can pay on card here but they will charge a 3% fee. You will then receive a coloured wristband.
The colour of the wristband denotes the boat and your group you will be with for the day – this is done by language so that you receive the right tour guide.
You can then grab yourself your gear for the day. SeaStar supply your snorkeling equipment and towels as part of the price so you don’t need to worry about bringing along your own and having that extra weight to worry about. At the port you are fitted for the correct size flippers but the mask and snorkel set is provided on board the boat.
Having got yourself sorted out you can then get yourself breakfast. At the port there is loads of seating and a buffet breakfast available.
Again this is all included in the price of your ticket so you can just go up and help yourself. There are also toilets and showers available so everything really is straightforward for you.
09:00 – Safety Briefing
Just before 9am your guide for the day will call for your wristband colour to group together. There are a lot of people hanging around on various trips so you will need to keep an ear open. You will then be told the itinerary for the day and be given a safety briefing which explains expected behaviours on the boat.
09:10 – Departure
With all of the safety advice given out you board the speed boat. And when I say speed boat I really do mean speed boat as it’s a 3 engine boat with a combined output of 750 HP, that’s some serious power. On board, the SeaStar staff hand out life jackets which are available in various sizes so there are ones to fit both adults and children. Our boat had 41 passengers and 4 crew on board which was enough to feel full but not overcrowded.
The speed boat is fully enclosed and you have to stay seated during the transportation to the Surin Islands so you won’t get much of a view of the open sea… not that there’s much to look at anyway! There is a toilet on board and also loads of bottles of water available so again you don’t need to worry about bringing any along with you. The transfer from the port to the Surin Islands takes around 1 hour 20 minutes so you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the fast ride!
10:20 – Snorkelling at Chong Kad Channel
The first stop on the trip is at the Chong Kad Channel. The boat will drop anchor, the staff will hand out the snorkeling masks and the it’s time to jump in! Getting on and off the boat is really easy as there are 2 sets of steps at either side of the engines.
Once in the water here you’ll discover a large coral reef to explore. We found clown fish (Nemo!) hiding in the coral, royal blue tang (Dory), starfish and hundreds of other species of fish. It was incredible! You’ll have around 40 minutes of snorkelling time available here which is more than enough to swim around the area.
11:00 – Visit Moken Village and the “Sea Gypsies”
The next stop is a visit to Moken Village where you’ll discover the protected “Sea Gypsies”. They are called this as their culture historically resided only at sea and never set foot on land.
The Thai government has now given them an island however where they live, regularly taking to the water to fish. They are given free healthcare and are a protected people.
You’ll spend around 40 minutes exploring the homes at Moken Village where you’ll meet the locals and have the opportunity to buy some of their handmade goods which includes wooden bracelets, toys and other small items.
12:00 – Lunch at the Surin Island National Park Canteen
Leaving the Moken Village behind you will travel a short distance to the National Park canteen for lunch. You will spend an hour and a half here.
This is a buffet lunch with numerous fish, rice and vegetable dishes available along with some desserts and cold drinks. There is loads of bench seating available in the shade here and toilet facilities too so it will give you the opportunity to relax out of the sun for half hour.
Mai Ngam beach
Once you have finished eating you can take a 30 second walk through the trees to one of the most beautiful beaches you will ever see – Mai Ngam. The water here is incredibly shallow for some distance into the sea and the beach is plenty big enough to enjoy some sun.
Having enjoyed this beautiful Island’s beach you meet back at the boat at around 13:20 to set sail for the 2nd snorkelling stop.
13:30 – Snorkelling at Bon Bay
Just a short 5 minute boat ride from Mai Ngam it will drop anchor and it’s time for your second snorkel of the day. There is a big coral reef here to explore where there are plenty of clown fish to discover if you keep your eyes peeled! This snorkelling stop allows around 45 minutes in the water so with it being the hottest part of the day that you top up the sun cream on your back to avoid getting sunburn.
14:30 – Snorkeling at Pineapple Bay
The final stop of the day is at Pineapple Bay which is around a 5-10 minute boat ride further along the coast.
The Coral here is very large and has a steep drop down to the open sea. During our snorkel here we saw more clown fish, starfish and a sea snake so there really is plenty to discover!
15:30 – Departure from the Surin Islands
Having completed the final 45 minute snorkel it’s time to jump back on the boat and leave the Surin Islands behind you. As with your journey to the islands the return trip takes the speed boat around 1 hour 20 minutes so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
17:00 – Thai Buffet
Back at the marina you’ll disembark from the speed boat and drop off your flippers and towel. SeaStar will have put on a full Thai buffet for you with stir fry food, fried chicken, rice, fresh ice cream and cold drinks.
At around 17:45-18:00 your designated minibus will then return you to your hotel.
Surin Islands boat trip review
If you’re heading out to southern Thailand and in particular the Khao Lak region I would highly recommend this boat trip with SeaStar. Having been on numerous boat trips over the years this one was by far the most organised, family friendly and all encompassing with breakfast, lunch, dinner and unlimited bottled water and soft drinks available throughout the day.
The trip takes you to some fantastic places, the staff are friendly and helpful and it’s incredibly stress free with the various safety procedures.
The boat trip was advertised as 3,900 baht (£93) per person however as there’s so much competition for boat trips you can very easily negotiate this price down – it took very little effort for us to agree on 2,400 baht (£57) with the vendor in Khao Lak.
So what are you waiting for, book your Surin Islands boat trip today.
Are you heading to Thailand this year and planning a trip to the Surin Islands? Let us know in the comments!