Saturday, 8 February 2014

To the Surin Islands

With reluctance we departed Ko Phayam and made our way south –west skirting through the bottom of Burmese waters, keeping an open eye for any official looking craft that may admonish us for trespassing without permission. Some say they are tolerant of yachties crossing through their waters as it is a direct line from Ko Phayam to the Surins. Either way, we were pleased  when we exited the area without incident.

The Surins are reported to have some of the clearest waters to be found, and the snorkelling worthwhile, so we are looking forward to getting back to some water sports. Coming around the north of the islands, we dropped the anchor in a sheltered bay on the NW corner. All we could see looking to the beach was myriads of tents – row upon row nestled amongst the trees. On tendering ashore, this was confirmed as the only accommodation on the island with a large centrally located canteen style restaurant catering to the campers and visitors alike. The beach came out quite a distance from the shore meaning any visits would need to be timed with the tides. Snorkelling was foremost on the activity list so on with the gear and into the water.  

As throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, there seems to be ‘sea-lice/jelly-fish’ wherever you go and they can make it unpleasant to stay in the water any length of time. I feel the bites but don’t really react to them. However Pete not only feels them, they come up in obvious bites and burn and itch for days.  In desperation he opted to wear some heavy black tights of mine (ex Sydney Winter fashion) and this did manage to reduce the number of bites but increased the number of ribald comments from the others. Stinger suits are now definitely on my shopping list for Oz.

One of the local fishing boats lit up like a Xmas tree at night - check out the bulbs !

Ashore in the Surins for lunch - a lovely backdrop for a photo

Pete picking up a friendly hermit crab - actually he wasn't that friendly.

 The coral was reasonable, only patches of good colour here and there but surprisingly the fish life was abundant. We chased Octopi (plural of octopus??), saw Lion fish, little crayfish, moray eels as well as many families of Nemo. Angel fish, grouper, puffer fish and many more that we could not identify. Some looked like they would fit nicely into a pan sautéed in butter and herbs, however this island group is National Marine Park so no go there. All the photos are taken by Behan as she could free dive to far greater depths than I could. The order of the days had become breakfast, snorkelling, lunch, snorkelling, sundowners, dinner and bed.
One of the octopus pair that we followed

Shells lying on the sea floor

Lots of anenomes with clownfish of many colours 

A very reluctant cray to leave his home

We named this the 'tweety bird' fish

Always impressive Lion fish

3 nights spent in that bay then we up anchored and went around to the other side of the island. This was another beautiful bay with the snorkelling reached by swimming off the back of the boats. Each evening sundowners was on a different boat, some nights would also include ‘pot luck’ dinners, some evenings drinks went so late that dinner was forgotten altogether. We did manage to fit in some card nights with Totem, always a fun time with the ongoing ‘battles’ against Kittani. These nights  had originated in Sydney and after nearly 18months absence, the rivalry is still alive and kicking.

One afternoon a tender load of us girls headed across to a local Moken village with bags of balloons, exercise books and pencils, clothing and various craft items as donations. The Moken or Chao Ley (people of the sea) are often know as 'Sea Gypsies' and they live off the flora and fauna found in the oceans. The village houses are built high on poles and this village has been rebuilt by the Government since the Tsunami. We arrived just as school was getting out and managed to track down the teacher who had  a little English. She gave us a tour of the village and was very grateful for the gifts for the children.

The Moken village - houses built high

An old Moken style fishing boat at rest

A elder carving a new dugout for the village

After another 2 nights here it is time to head off again, back towards the mainland and then south to Phuket. Our first stop back on the mainland was where we had found the LST craft from the war, and decided in the morning we would do a tour of the boat. After climbing up the gangplank, we spent a couple of hours roaming all through the companionways, engine rooms and storage areas, imaging how she must have looked back in her prime. You could just picture the sailors in their uniforms, standing tall as she came into port, whistles blowing. 

View taken from the control room of the 'Dodge County'

Jeremy and the girls (Nalukai) getting back to the tender with groceries and water

                                          Our anchorage around the corner from the LST

Kittani under sail


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