This topic has 3 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 4 years ago by Martin.

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    • #13728
       Aegir
      Keymaster

      CLICK ON THE ABOVE IMAGE TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE TRIP ON OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

      Foreword

      This is my account and impressions of the trip that saw Bernhard, Daniel, Thilo, Martin and myself travel to Thailand for a slice of seatrekking in warm waters.

      Although the trip did not end up to be what we had initially planned, it did provide for ample swimming, diving and cultural experiences to keep everyone satisfied and wanting more.

      Read along.

      Genesis

      This trip’s genesis is to be found in the wee hours of a long night during last year’s Seatrekking Camp in Croatia.

      While discussing trip ideas around the campfire, it was suggested that Thailand would be a good place to go seatrekking: Bernhard had been there before and explored a number islands years ago and was keen to go back.

      Indeed – what is there not to like in Thailand? Beautiful islands, good weather, warm sea, fantastic underwater, delicious food, and so much more.

      And so, it was decided that Thailand should be the target destination. Quickly following this, we shortlisted the following groups of islands to provide for an interesting seatrekking trip:

      • Koh Surin
      • Koh Lipe
      • Koh Similan

      (details related of each of these groups of islands are provided in the appendix of this trip report)

      Planning

      In terms of planning we can’t say there was much collective planning unfortunately – or fortunately, as you will read later (!)

      For planning reasons Bernard, Daniel and Thilo were going to arrive in Thailand about one week before Martin and Aegir could, and this meant that all three of them were going to explore a new group of islands near Cambodia first (Koh Chang), and decide based on what they would find there, and local information, where the 2-weeks long trip uniting all 5 of us was to take place.

      Whilst it is crucial to prepare for seatrekking trips in this advance, in particular for safety and regulations reasons, in this case very little was planned in advance for various reasons (including the fact that we thought we would have ample time on site to seek local information before deciding on the target islands and final trip plans), but this would come back to bite us later, as you will read below.

      So Bernard and Daniel headed towards Koh Chang, soon joined by Thilo and his photo/videography equipment.

      Koh Chang

      Bernard, Daniel or Thilo will hopefully provide a longer and more detailed description of their trip around and nearby Koh Chang islands on this website when they find the time.

      As a summary, let’s say that they have been so positively impressed by these islands, the underwater scenery and the trip possibilities there that they are seriously considering going back next year, or in the coming years, and possibly taking a larger group of enthusiasts with them.

      For what our trip is concerned, they met and friended local park authorities in Koh Chang area, and enquired for their recommendations over where to find the clearest water in and around Thailand.

      The rangers indicated that Koh Surin would be wonderful at this time of the year, and provided the names and contact details of their park rangers friends working in Koh Surin so that we could introduce ourselves and present our way of exploring the oceans, before seeking their authorisation to do what we intended.

      (our intention in Koh Surin was to swim and dive around both islands, 45 km swim distance in total, over about 6 days, stopping on remote beaches and coastlines as we went along)

      And so word was sent via modern electronic messaging back to Martin and Aegir (who were both still on the other side of the world) to meet in Koh Phayam on a given date, to organise ourselves, to then hop on to Koh Surin for our seatrekking trip.

      Bangkok

      Aegir and Martin met in Bangkok one week later and organised their equipment. True to himself, Martin arrived free as a bird (as a fish!), with only his dry clothes and his waterproof bag!

      So after a bit of shopping for a wetsuit, fins, a mask and the rest for Martin (and a long struggle and ultimately a failure to try to find a screw-on gas cartridge for the trip..) we made our way to Koh Phayam by a night bus.

      Koh Phayam

      Keeping things short, despite miscommunication (SMS sent to a disconnect SIM card, and Whatapp messages sent to the wrong number), we all met at the exact said location and time, set one week before, the good old fashion way with keeping with the plan and the latest communication received.

      After a bit of planning and getting to know each other (not all of us knew each other prior this trip) we set out for our first collective swim starting off from Ao Yai beach and swimming to a distant offshore rock.

      Visibility was mediocre so Daniel engaged in deep water soloing (with his seatrekking bag still attached to his ankle!) for a while, before we all headed back to the coastline and caves that we had spotted.

      Swimming the caves and getting tossed around was fun and we then headed back to the beach, completing our loop within a few hours.

      Koh Surin – Arrival

      The next day, a 1H 30min boat trip took us to Koh Surin islands and we quickly headed in to meet with the park authorities to introduce ourselves and seek authorisation to swim and dive around the islands over multiple days.

      To our disappointment, the contact persons that we were given by the rangers met in Koh Chang were not present, because they had to go back to their families on the mainland.

      We tried for a while to explain our plans to the remaining park rangers, but they quickly informed us that we would not be allowed to do what we wanted, and suggested instead for us to take a campsite and swim on day-trip basis, returning every night to the authorised campsite.

      Disappointed but still hopeful that in the end the rangers will get to understand and appreciate our way of discovering the oceans and enjoining nature, we settled our hammocks and tents on the nominated beach and resolved to make the most of our days.

      And so we split our time over the next 6 days between swimming, snorkelling, freediving and seeking to make contact and exchange with the sea nomad tribe called the Mokens.

      Koh Surin – Mokens

      The Moken are a semi-nomadic people, who live in the Andaman Sea that is claimed both by Burma and Thailand.

      Thought to have migrated to Thailand, Burma and Malaysia from Southern China approximately 4,000 years ago, the Moken have traditionally lived on hand-built wooden boats called kabang for most of the year, migrating in flotillas between islands according to factors such as subsistence needs, wind patterns, security concerns and disease.

      Please read and watch the following insightful online resources:

      The Moken’s situation in Koh Surin is a highly political, complex and sensitive one. Due to their situation the Moken are without a country or a nationality and are defacto stateless and without any rights.

      In Koh Surin, the park authorities have been constructive enough to define mutually beneficial/acceptable solution based on common interests considering indigenous survival, park preservation and tourism development.

      Whilst park authorised tolerate Moken within the boundaries of the park, the Moken are severely restricted with respect to their traditional way of living, but on the other hand many of them are employed by the park during the tourist season.

      All this creates a highly political, complex and sensitive situation and it is forbidden for passing visitors to contact directly the Moken. For the Moken’s sake primarily, in order not to jeopardise they relationship with park authorities, and by all accounts, for visitors, heavy fine and being expelled from the islands can be expected in case of infringement.

      It was therefore unthinkable for us to try to contact the Moken directly, yet, something within the commonalities of their traditional way of life based on and in the sea with the seatrekking vision compelled us to try to meet with them ,and learn what we could learn from them while we were here visiting their world.

      After a few days of missed opportunities and trying to get in touch with the Moken through the official channels, a local NGO worker working directly for the Moken approached us to gage our interests and test our intentions.

      Ensued long, deep and interesting discussions for all of us related to seatrekking and Moken’s situation, and whether or not it would be appropriate to meet the Moken, how, for what purpose etc.

      I will not go a lot more into details here, but will say that through those discussions a number of interesting commonalities and parallels were drawn between seatrekking principles and the Moken way of life, and we finally managed to meet Ngui (Moken chief of the Surin islands) under the right conditions and spend some memorable time with him and visit the Moken village in his company.

      Thilo our videographer/photo and travel adventure writer will be doing a magazine story and video on this experience, and we will share it when it is ready.

      Koh Surin – Seatrekking

      Besides doing our introspection, testing and challenging our real intentions and doing our best to meet the Moken under the right conditions for them, the park authorities, us and all parties involved, we of course dedicated the most part of our days enjoying the ocean and the underwater world.

      As indicated above, despite our best intentions, we were not able to convince the park authorities to allow us to swim around the islands as we initially intended.

      And so we resolved swimming in all directions on a daily basis, returning to camp every night.

      Now, this is not a punishment! By all means, the conditions were so fantastic, that some days were spent almost entirely in the sea, staying up to 7 or 8 hours in the water! When the water temperature is 28/29C, and the corals and sealife are as preserved as shown in the video, it’s hardly a challenge!

      So we delighted in exploring all sides of the islands, deep and shallow, turquoise blue and deep blue, turtles grounds and shark areas, coral reefs and sandy bottoms, multicolours fishes and more again that one can remember.

      I personally had a great time and was delighted every day with what I was seeing. There was very little trash in the sea but we did

      I hope you will enjoy the video made from the footage taken there.

      Don’t hesitate to ask any questions or make any comments on any of the above or footage

      Closing note

      This trip will NOT be referenced in the TRAILS section of the website considering it is, to our knowledge and probably for some time to come, FORBIDDEN to bivouac or camp on any part of these islands except in the nominated campgrounds.

      It is however truly enjoyable to visit and explore these remote and preserved islands, and by doing so to also contribute to increase raising the awareness of the situation faced by the Moken.

      Appendix

      Koh Surin – National Park

      Koh Similan – National Park

      Koh Lipe

    • #13729
       Aegir
      Keymaster

    • #13737
       Muffin
      Participant

      Wow, nice trip report Aegir! Brings back memories 🙂

    • #13747
       Martin
      Moderator

      best trek report that’s not a trek report because it shouldn’t be a trek report because it shouldn’t be a trek.

      😉

      thanks for writing it up @Aegir!

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