The Indigenous Moken Sea Nomad People of Koh Surin
Former Phuket branch manager Gonzalo Gil Lavreda from Khiri Travel Indonesia left the Andaman coastline behind and took a journey to the pristine island marine sanctuary of Koh Surin National Park. This destination is remarkable for the unique culture of the Moken people and how their lives are integral to the sea that surrounds them. In this guest blog he gives us an insight in his experiences.
A few months ago I received an invitation to visit the Moken people on the island of Koh Surin. We knew from photographs the islands (Koh Surin is one of a group of islands) were stunning, but I was not ready for the impact of meeting the Moken people and learning about their threatened sea nomad culture and vibrant marine environment.
Koh Surin is located off the coast of Kura Buri, a small provincial town in Phang Nga Province and just a few hours from Khao Lak, Khao Sok or Ranong. Despite only about a one-hour ride by speedboat from the mainland, the contrast to other Andaman Islands is enormous. Koh Surin has no hotels or resorts. The hills of the island are carpeted with deep green forest and surrounded by pristine water that shifts in color from turquoise to emerald green.
We were greeted by our Moken guide and welcomed to his village: wooden homes at the edge of the water with thatched roofs and small children running about. The 2004 Tsunami greatly altered this idyllic existence. The seafaring Moken people, able to read the warning signs of the approaching wall of ocean water, escaped to safety. They had no casualties, but after the waters receded the devastation of their homes and boats forced them to move their settlement inland. This all came as quite a blow to their seafaring culture.
Time spent on the islands was a combination of snorkeling with our local guides, learning about the Moken way of life and strolling along a beautiful beach. For accommodation we stayed at the National Park campsite, a perfect, shady place on the beach with a restaurant and shower facilities.
One of the most remarkable experiences was seeing a reef shark while snorkeling. Others in our group saw a sea turtle, many of which are endangered species.
After two years living in Asia this was one of the most inspiring trips that we have taken. Between the combination of amazing nature and marine diversity, the local wisdom and history of the Moken sea nomads, the dream-like setting of Koh Surin made for an unforgettable trip.
The four-day program in Koh Surin is unique in the sense that the real inhabitants of the islands will be guiding our travelers. By hiring their boats or hiring their fishermen as guides we support their community. For further information we recommend reading “Courage of the Sea” by Thom Henly, a great book on the Moken people.
Travel agents can contact the Khiri Travel Thailand team directly for more information and booking requests via the yellow contact form below.
Photos of Moken by moken-islands.com