Seeking solitude in Koh Phrathong
Koh Phrathong is a rare treat; it's one of those 'off the beaten track' islands that we are sometimes led to believe no longer exist in Thailand. The island is nearly deserted and barely receives a Wi-Fi signal. It’s oddly quiet and amazingly calm. With its stunning scenery and rugged patches of landscape, Koh Phrathong conjures up images of wild adventures and uncharted territory.
The coast of Koh Phrathong is hugged by tall, willowy casuarina trees and coconut palms. In various parts of the island, some trees have been uprooted or fallen, their giant trunks and immense gnarled roots adding character to the already unique terrain.
Koh Phrathong’s beaches feature expansive stretches of soft sand and, as it’s a rather large island, it’s easy to wander the beaches without seeing another soul for hours. The northern tip of the island plays host to a few small bungalow operations and the horizon here appears to stretch on forever.
Nature is abundant here. There’s a healthy population of large hermit crabs as well as many hornbills high in the trees that begin singing just before the sunset paints the sky fiery hues of orange and red.
Koh Phrathong’s interior has yet to be developed and is an amazing contrast to the island’s tropical coastline. The central part of the island is covered in white sandy dunes and tall grass. The trees are tall and barren, many with their bark peeling off. With the exception of a small dirt path, the interior of the island does not have a road. In fact, the interior of Koh Phrathong closely resembles the African savannah and adds to the distinctive charm of the island.
This is the perfect escape from it all, and it’s well worth spending a few days there wandering the beaches, dipping your toes in the sea and generally relaxing.
Where to stay
The Moken Eco Village is a delightful, environmentally-friendly resort that prides itself on sustainability. The 13 bungalows and cabins are made from natural materials and each accommodation draws on the history of the island and is designed to highlight the local natural wonders. For example, one bungalow is named ‘Hermit Crab’ and is built over a hermit crab colony.
The bungalows at the Moken Eco Village all use solar panels to generate electricity and there is a small garden on the premises where the restaurant grows herbs and vegetables. Little touches such as this really do go a long way, and it’s refreshing to see the staff so dedicated to the environment and general upkeep of not only the resort, but also the island.
Accommodation ranges in price from roughly 3,000 baht to 3,600 baht a night during the peak season – breakfast included. included.
Snorkeling the Surin Islands
A popular excursion from Koh Phrathong is a one-day trip to the Surin Islands. Located within Mu Ko Surin National Park, the Surin Islands are pristine and a must-visit for any beach enthusiast or nature lover.
A day trip focuses on a visit inside the national park grounds to Mai Ngam Beach and Ko Surin Tai as well as snorkeling in Sapparod Bay and Bon Bay and also exploring the underwater world at Pak Kard Bay and Pae Rock. These destinations are absolutely breathtaking and both are surrounded by verdant growth while the beaches are covered in powdery soft sand and the water sparkles with amazing shades of turquoise. The flora and fauna of the Surin Islands is lush and tropical, and you’ll find slow lorises, water monitor lizards and huge sea turtles.
Snorkeling spots host an array of healthy corals and plenty of schools of fish, but perhaps the most prominent fish to be seen in its natural habitat is the clownfish, most commonly known as ‘Nemo’. One of the snorkeling spots is known as ‘Nemo’s paradise’ where day-trippers can observe (but NOT feed!) the clownfish up close.
A trip to the Surin Islands is not complete without a visit to the Moken Sea Gypsy village. The Moken Sea Gypsies are a semi-nomadic group of people who until recently led a very traditional way of life. A visit to their village of thatch-roofed houses on stilts is an interesting and educational experience and a small learning centre has been set up at the back of the village explaining their previous nomadic way of life. Written in English, the explanations are useful to visitors. It’s quite enjoyable to walk around the village and mingle with the locals who have many smiles to exchange and if you’re lucky, a few interesting stories to share.
How to go
There are only a few tour operators who visit the Surin Islands, but Greenview Tour comes highly recommended. Based out of Kuraburi, this tour operator offers an extremely personalised tour with knowledgeable guides who speak a variety of languages. In addition, the guides are also environmentally conscious and do their very best at educating guests on the importance of keeping both the water and the national park clean.
Kuraburi is approximately 190km from Phuket; a scenic three-hour drive. Take Route 4 just after Sarasin Bridge and follow the signs north to Kuraburi.
Daily buses depart from Phuket to Kuraburi from 7am until 6pm. Tickets are under 200 baht and the journey takes up to four hours.
To Koh Phrathong and the Surin Islands
Kuraburi Pier is located approximately 7km north of Kuraburi Town. Although boat rentals from here are quite easy to negotiate, it’s best to book a ticket beforehand. Greenview Tour has an office at the pier where it’s possible to book tickets to both Koh Phrathong and the Surin Islands.
The boat ride to Koh Phrathong takes approximately one hour and, if you wish, you can make a few stops along the way. On leaving the mainland, the boat passes through a seven-metre deep canal that plays host to a mangrove forest and an abundance of natural wildlife including starfish, numerous varieties of crabs, tropical birds and sand worms just to name a few.
Greenview Tour also facilitates pick-up times in Phuket to Kuraburi Pier. This option leaves Phuk
et as early as 5.30am, but it’s worth it for an exceptional day trip.
Moken Eco Village Resort
+66 81 895 6186 / +66 99 126 9296
+66 76 472 0701 / +66 86 268 6888 / +66 91 523 3088
Mu Ko Surin National Park is an island lover’s dream and a snorkeling paradise. The Moken sea gypsy village shows a different way of life lived by sea nomads.
A combined trip to Koh Phrathong and the Surin Islands is a wonderful way to explore lesser-developed islands