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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

3 January 2011

Ko Surin

2nd January 2010

Ko Surin lies a 60km jolting speedboat ride out in the Andaman Sea. It’s one of the most renowned places to go snorkelling and diving in Thailand, although it turns out that “coral bleaching” is a dire problem here and even the exhibition at the island HQ rates all but two of the snorkelling sites as “Very Poor”. This apparently means that there is three times more dead coral than live. We have spent two days here, and by arranging the accommodation on the island and the transfer over independently we seem to be a rarity; almost everyone else is with an organised tour.

As far as the snorkelling goes, it’s true that we didn’t see any of the kalaedoscopic colours which make the cartoon image of a coral reef. Most of the coral didn’t seem dead, just washed out. Bleached is the right word. But the fish weren’t bleached, and there were thousands of them in hundreds of rainbow varieties. If our darned compact camera wasn’t misbehaving so wantonly we’d have a lot more amazing pictures.

Snorkelling is so easy and relaxing; humans float very naturally face down, and a few kicks of the fins propel you over the changing vista of fishes and coral quite nicely. An hour or two passes very quickly, and it’s only much later that you realise you were in the sun far too long and your protective coating of sunscreen wasn’t quite thorough enough. My back looks like a half-finished attempt to paint a salmon pink room white.

But snorkelling is most definitely the reason to come to Ko Surin. As a tropical island it has the vistas but being a protected National Park it lacks either the luxuries to make it an indulgence or the solitude to make it a getaway. There are a hundred-odd national park tents, in serried ranks on the beach, and a score of bungalows. Food is served in a canteen like facilities, the numbers swelled by day-trip boats who spill their scores of passengers onto the shore at 12 every day for set lunch. As a base for

snorkelling it beats taking day-trips out from the mainland, but since the rest of the island is impenetrable tropical jungle you are effectively stuck at the HQ and the beach in front of it. Still, there are worse places to be.

We arrived yesterday, and it feels like a two night stay is probably plenty unless snorkelling is your life. We’ll have one more plunge tomorrow morning. The HQ longtail boat chugs out twice a day, another improvement on the daytrips – we shared the water with only four others, rather than twenty. There’s some wildlife on the island too; we saw enormous monitor lizards, scampering ghost crabs and pig-tail macaques loitering near the bungalows. This morning, a mouse climbed on Maureen’s face while she lay dozing. I was alerted to this by a piercing scream. Once the shock was over, we set out a biscuit and sat quietly with the camera to see if it would emerge again, as it might be an interesting species. We’re definitely wildlife watchers.

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