Pattaya has long been a destination for divers wanting the very best diving on the Eastern seaboard, many combine their holiday with a day or more diving, but some also take up diving through the one day ‘Discover Scuba’ or the four day ‘Open Water’ courses offered by all the dive schools in Pattaya.
To learn more about what is on offer in Pattaya I couldn’t do better than visit the oldest dive school operating here, Seafari, whose Diving Center is located on Soi 12 just down from 2nd road.
The credentials of Seafari are quite impressive, being founded in 1970 they have over forty years of teaching experience in the diving industry. Seafari was the first PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) school registered in Thailand, never mind just Pattaya, and went on to become the first PADI 5-Star Diving Centre, then later the first PADI 5-Star IDC (Instructor Development Center) in Thailand
In addition to PADI Courses Seafari also offers courses as an SSI (Scuba Schools International) Dive Center and again was the first in Pattaya to do so. Seafari instructors offer ‘Enriched Air’ or ‘Nitrox’ courses to ANDI International standards. All courses are available to be taught in a number of languages, including English, Thai, German, French, and Russian, and others on request.
Many of the owners and instructors of other dive centres in Pattaya have either gained their instructor qualifications with Seafari or amassed their experience as instructors with them.
When I visited Seafari I met Mark Bond and Neil James, who are the current owners of Seafari to talk about diving in and around Pattaya. When Mark & Neil invited me to join them for a days diving it was an offer I just couldn’t refuse.
For my part I started diving in the early 1970’s when much of the kit used today, BCD’s, Dive computers, etc. just hadn’t been invented, through the 1980’s & most of the 1990’s due to business commitments I did little or no diving, but around 1999, I took it up again and at the ripe old age of 62 took my open water instructors exam in 2007, proving that age is not a barrier to enjoying diving.
I arrived at the Seafari Dive Center at 7.30am, already the Seafari minibus was out collecting customers from their various accommodations, their diving certifications having been checked at the time of booking their trip, all that was required on arrival was to get them organised with kit.
Great care was taken to ensure that each customers kit fitted perfectly, the last thing you want on a dive is ill fitting equipment distracting you from enjoying yourself. This done, all the equipment was loaded onto the transport for our short journey to Bali Hi Pier where we boarded the dive boat.
We were soon under way, and shortly after leaving, a roll call of those on board was taken, and a head count. Then the customers were given a tour of the boat to familiarise themselves with the facilities, following this they each began to set up their equipment. Being qualified divers, setting up the kit would have been one of the first things they would have learnt as a diver, but never the less it was all done under the watchful eyes of Seafari’s staff and instructors.
Once this task was completed we relocated to the upper deck to be placed in smaller ‘teams’ according to experience, and be allocated one of Seafari’s staff who would be leading our team. We were then paired off as ‘Buddies’ and the group as a whole were given a briefing on the dive site, how the dive would be conducted, and a short talk on the dive signals we would be using underwater.
The first of today’s dive sites was Koh Rin, one of the far islands off Pattaya, and about one and a half hours sailing, so having completed all the formalities it was time to sit, relax and enjoy the boat ride. Ten minutes before arriving at the dive site the first team got kitted up, and to save congestion on the dive deck, teams entered the water one at a time. When our turn came we kitted up, performed our ‘buddy’ checks, entered the water and when everyone signalled they were ok we descended together. This was to be a drift dive, and we were going to let the current carry us along over the coral. There was so much to see as we drifted along that it would be easy to be distracted, however our team leader was constantly vigilant , a number of times asking us in turn how much air we had left in our cylinders. Also taking time out to indicate the varied and abundant marine life. It seemed all too soon one of the team was down to 50 Bar (Atmospheres) in their cylinder, and time to end our dive. We surfaced together, and the boat was there waiting for us. One by one we clambered back on board, being checked back on as we did so, and the remaining contents of our cylinders being recorded. Our team leader was the last to board having seen us all safely onto the boat, and the dive time was recorded as was the depth we had attained. I was surprised to learn that the dive had in fact lasted almost an hour.
We quickly removed our gear and set it up for our next dive, vacating the dive deck to allow room for the other teams surfacing after us. We ‘retired’ to the upper deck, to await all the other divers to return. Once everyone was back aboard the roll call and head count was again taken to ensure all divers were accounted for. Diving does tend to make you hungry, and the delicious aroma of lunch being prepared in the kitchen had our mouths watering even before it arrived. We weren’t disappointed and were presented with a whole range of different preparations to choose from, and plenty of it too, several of us unable to resist the temptation of going back for ‘seconds’ or ‘thirds’, but no-one was counting!! After lunch most of us relaxed or slept whilst a few, more energetic, took the opportunity to go snorkelling. Just short of two hours after we’d finished our first dive we were ready to move off to North Rock for the second dive of the day, so with everyone back , and the roll check once again completed we departed from Koh Rin making our way to the next dive site, a short distance away. This was once again going to be a drift dive. Drift diving is one of the most relaxing types of dives, just as the name implies, drifting along with the current, if you want to stop to look at anything or to take pictures its easy just to turn around and fin gently against the current, then once you’ve finished looking at whatever caught your eye, you stop fining, and you are on your way again effortlessly. Our team took up our turn to enter the water on the back of the dive boat, all in the water and all having signalled to our dive leader that we were all happy, we descended. As the bottom was covered in coral, in order not to damage or break it, we halted our descent and ‘hovered’ about a metre or so above it. Maintaining station in the gentle current, we all indicated we were ok before letting the current take us slowly along. Once again there was an abundance of coral formations and marine life to see, a ‘Puffer fish’ in its hiding place staring back at the camera. A lone turtle was seen and then disappeared out of sight. The visibility was quite good and we were able to see some 15 metres, sometimes after rain it can be a lot less. These dives illustrate that you don’t have to go to great depths to have an enjoyable time, in fact as you go deeper, not only do all the beautiful colours of the coral begin to fade as the seawater filters the light, but also diving time is shorter as air consumption increases when a diver descends deeper. Some of the best dives I have had, seeing some beautiful coral formations and colours have been at less than four metres, and of course at such a shallow depth, even with a normal size cylinder its not unusual to dive for around an hour and a half plus, dependant of course on how much air you personally use, as it can vary from diver to diver.
Far too soon it seemed, our enjoyment on this dive came to an end, and it was time to surface. As before, the dive boat had moved from where we had entered the water, and had anchored close to the anticipated position we would be surfacing at the end of our dive. We had just a 50 metre leisurely fin to the boat, and one at a time we handed up our fins to others already on the boat, which enabled us to climb out of the water on the ladder without the need to remove any more of our kit. Checked on board and our air consumption logged it was time to set about dismantling our kit. As each item was removed it was submerged in a large barrel containing fresh water, this to remove as much seawater as possible. The kit then placed in boxes so it could be carried off the boat without difficulty. When all divers were back and on board, all the kit washed and packed away, a final roll call was made, and then we were under way, off back to Pattaya.
When we docked at Bali Hi pier all the kit that had been used and dive cylinders that needed filling were offloaded and onto the transport. With everyone ready to go, we headed back to the dive center where all the kit was taken inside, and then the customers were driven back to their various hotels.
At the dive center the kit was thoroughly washed again in fresh water, and each item closely examined before being stowed away.
For those who have never dived before Seafari offer a one day course ‘Discover Scuba’, it involves being taught some basic dive skills, and two fun dives under the watchful eye of your instructor. Anyone can take the course, provided you are over 10 years old, there is no upper age limit. The cost of the course covers air, the hire of kit, tuition, lunch, two dives and the services of an instructor and is only slightly more than the cost of a normal days diving, so well worth the money. Should you after completing the ‘Discover Scuba’ course want to further your diving experience by taking the ‘Open Water’ course, the skills you have learnt during the ‘Discover Scuba’ can be offset against parts in the ‘Open Water’ course.
The Seafari Diving Center is located on Soi 12 in Pattaya and is open daily, why not call in and speak to either Neil , Mark or their helpful reception staff.
You can call them on 038 429 060 Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit their web site www.seafari.co.th.
My many thanks to Neil and Mark for a great day out and some super diving.