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“A Great Disappointment”
Review of West Coast Divers

West Coast Divers
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Welcome on board M/V PAWARA, our luxurious custom built, steel hull, Similan Islands Liveaboard, refitted especially for this season.Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock, the ultimate way to explore one of the worlds top ten dive spots with one of the longest standing Dive Centers in Phuket
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“A Great Disappointment”
Reviewed February 14, 2013

I traveled alone for this liveaboard experience with WC Divers which had quite a history and many good reviews. I can only say this: Too many of you are easily impressed.....

While the boat and thai crew were satisfactory (cabins are cleaned, comfortable, food is ok etc), the diving and the dive guides left much to be desired.

The Diving - The Similans were a big disappointment. Generally when you dive with current, you expect to see quite a lot, especially pelagics, rays, sharks, large schools etc. There was hardly anything. This is evident from the video taken by the videographer (at THB3000, a little too rich for me). The video, though high quality, often had to focus on the divers rather than the marine life, because there was so little of it. Local operators in Khao Lak explained to me that there is a lot of illegal fishing in the marine park and that is the main reason for the disappearance of the larger species, and the general decline of the marine ecosystem. The only site worth diving is Richelieu, which remains quite well preserved. Good coral and fish species, and somewhat comparable to other well-known sites in Malaysia/Indonesia/Philippines, otherwise to be very honest, I've seen more in 1 dive in other places compared to 14 dives on this trip. To be fair, if you are into underwater formations, this trip will please because the topography is quite impressive, but if you're fighting a current, you don't have much energy to look at it.

The Dive Guides - They were not particularly friendly with the exception of the only asian, Cam. They didn't mingle much with the guests, which were comments by others on the trip. I actually don't mind this, what bothered me was the way the dives were conducted. We were reminded that Diving is an extreme sport (DUH!), but that the dive co has a reputation and a high regard for safety. I didn't find this to be completely true. Here are some examples:

55 yr old diver who hasn't dived in some years, struggled at the Koh Bon West Ridge, a dive well known for strong currents. Diver gave the guide the not OK sign, Guide did not properly assess the diver's physical/mental state and continued the dive to the exit point (in very very strong current).

Same guide, on another dive (I believe it was a Richelieu); we were given instructions to alert the guide at air=70bar. The diver (a lady) was banging on her tank while the group was fighting the current to get back to the exit line, 200 divers on the site were all looking at the group but the guide kept swimming ahead. In strong current, the diver made it back with only 20 bar

The above 2 cases reflect the obsession that WC Divers have to make it to the exit point every single time! No effort is made to escape or swim with current. At some sites (Bon/Tachai/Richelieu), it seems like that's all we did. Current is a natural phenomenon that all divers expect, but usually or rather in my experience, good guides plan the route so that you dive with the current and exit wherever makes sense, or when divers start to get tired/low on air. It makes for enjoyable relaxed diving, with the guide showing guests the different marine life. WC Guides just brought us to entry, took us for a swim and then made us get to the exit. There was hardly any time given to just poke around and spot the marine life. Sure it was safe, but it wasn't much fun.

One last experience took the cake. On the last day at a wreck dive (muck bottom, 10m viz at best) close to Khao Lak, I was truly appalled with what happened in my group. We were ascending along a mooring line from 15m depth when I had reverse block in my ear. After clearing my block, I looked up the line and the entire group (including the guide had disappeared). I didn't panic as I had maybe 70bar left, and I calmly did a swimming safety stop up to around 5m when I found the group hanging onto another line (I spotted 3 when we were dropping in, and guessed they must have moved). When I asked the guide why he left me behind, his response was that I had been following behind the whole time. Had I been less confident or calm in my situation, or if I was low on air, or couldn't ascend in time, I could have been in real trouble.

I've decided to leave this review after much consideration because I do hope the crew of the Pawara are not adversely affected. They depend on business to eke out a living, but I urge WC Divers to take a good hard look at themselves and try to improve. Until then, my sincere advice to would-be customers is - try someplace else.

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
11 Thank Kenchia123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Coast D, Guest Relations Manager at West Coast Divers, responded to this review, February 16, 2013
Dear Guest,

Thanks for taking the time to write an honest review.

We do appreciate our customer's feedback in any circumstances, as they really help us to improve our performance.

Glad you were satisfied with the boat itself, the ship crew, the food, the cabins an their cleanliness. We are very proud of our vessel, and the our Thai crew has been one of our best assets since years.

Yes, Richelieu Rock is still an amazing dive spot, and, yes, underwater formations on some dive dive sites are really impressive. Most of Similan Islands divers find these aspects worth the trip, despite some somehow less spectacular dives at the beginning of the cruise.

It seems that unfortunately you didn't had the chance the meet the local attraction, Koh Tacha and Koh Bon giant Manta Rays, but I can assure you that they are still around, as the very recent videos posted here and on our social media channels can testify.

After all, they are one of the main reasons why diving in the Similan Islands is so popular !

About the video, I can assure you that they are offered at the standard price on the market. Videographers work on a freelance basis, and yes, they have to make a living and cover the high cost of their equipment....Interesting enough, most customers are more interested in watching themselves underwater, which makes their video unique, rather than marine life shots widely available online. Guess it's hard to satisfy everybody....

We take your remarks about our dive crew very seriously, and will investigate the matter immediately. Inadequate dive planning, and arguable diver's supervision, if confirmed, is indeed unacceptable, and may require some staff reshuffle...

Diving should be for our guests an extremely enjoyable activity, in a safe environment, and it's our duty to ensure that our dive leaders comply to both requirements.

Best regards,
West Coast Divers.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Level Contributor
53 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
“Very nice boat with a good crew, but let down by the dive crew”
Reviewed February 3, 2013

Ten of us booked a 4 night LOB trip via West Coast Divers in January 2013.

The boat is awesome, the rooms are nice and cosy, with ensuite tiolet with hot shower. Well kept and clean.

The Thai crew , taking care of the food and cleaning of the room and the Captain himself, are all good, excellent food, and very good service.

However the dive crew , was a let down, felt like we are in a bootcamp rather than on a diving holiday, none of them actually smile.

Other then that , highly recommend them.

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
4 Thank tamil1111
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Utah
Level Contributor
153 reviews
68 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 110 helpful votes
“Fantastic Similian Liveaboard”
Reviewed February 1, 2013

We booked a 4-night trip to the Similian Islands on the MV Pawara, staffed by West Coast Divers. Diving in the southern part of the chain was just decent, but we loved Elephant Head Rock, Koh Tachai, and Richelieu Rock. We could have spent another few days just at Richelieu. That pinnacle is covered in an amazing amount of life. We stopped at island #8 and climbed Sail Rock one afternoon. The views of the turquoise and cobalt sea, white sand beaches, and dark granite boulders was stunning.

The boat is gorgeous and looks like it was recently updated. There is lots of comfortable living space, including an air conditioned salon and a huge sun deck. We opted for a standard cabin, which is a bit cramped, but we figured we only sleep and shower in there anyway. It had an ensuite and enough storage, so it worked. Our only complaint was the mattress. We've slept on some pretty hard mattresses throughout Asia and this was by far the worst. There are no blankets, only sheets, so consider packing a lightweight blanket if you tend to get chilled at night. This is a big, stable boat. Even our friend that said she always gets sea sick had no problems.

I can't say enough great things about the staff. The dive staff gave very detailed briefings before every dive, complete with maps, and ran a very organized operation. All the guides were experienced instructors and were rigorous about safety and upholding PADI standards. Our boat was full, but they had enough guides to keep the groups small. Our group of five had our guide all to ourselves. We appreciated the safety rigor, but at the same time our guide was flexible enough to ascend with the divers that couldn't extend their air time quite as long and let the rest of us finish our dive. They had Nitrox on board, making it easy to switch over on those dives when we wanted to maximize bottom time, but we didn't have to commit to the extra expense for the entire trip. The dive staff seemed to know just how to schedule diving at each site so we usually had the site to ourselves. It seemed we were always departing just as a bunch of other boats showed up. This is definitely the way to dive these islands.

The Thai staff were very friendly and accommodating (of course) and served very tasty and plentiful meals. Often times I starve for vegetables on liveaboards, especially since I don't eat a lot of meat, but not here! There was a great variety and everything was good. There was always hot tea, fruit, and cookies out, and I swear they were feeding us after every dive.

We looked at many boats before booking this one, and I'm very glad we settled on the Pawara. It was a great trip and an amazing value. We booked through Jamie at Sunrise Divers, who was great to work with.

Visited November 2012
Helpful?
2 Thank Jdivemaster
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
47 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
“Fantastic dive trip”
Reviewed January 29, 2013

I'm a new diver, and this was my first liveaboard dive experience. I loved it, despite missing half my dives, due to not being able to equalize and feeling sick! The Thai crew was excellent, making me ginger tea to help with my nausea, despite the seasick pills (it was clearly not seasickness I experienced), and helping to zip up my full wetsuit, and hauling me out of the water after each dive! The dive guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced, and are very particular about dive safety. I made friends with all the guests, and by the end of the trip, we were a big happy family! I'm glad I made the decision to book the trip on the Pawara!

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Envir0ment
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
54 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
“4 fantastic days on MV Pawara”
Reviewed January 27, 2013

My husband and I had our first liveaboard experience on MV Pawara - a 4 day/4night trip to the Similian Islands, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock.

Though we're experienced divers we'd stayed away from liveaboards thus far because we both tend to get sea sick and also weren't sure we'd like being stuck on a boat for 4 days with the same people, same food, etc.

Our experience on MV Pawara was just fantastic and put to bed all our concerns. The boat itself is very big and really beautiful both on the outside and in terms of the layout and decor. Every part of the boat is spotlessly clean and looks exactly as shown in the photos on the West Coast Divers website.

The common areas of the boat are really nice and spacious, from the dining area to the sun deck to the lounge. The sun deck on top of the boat is beautiful, partly covered, and with both wicker loungers and padded mattresses. The indoor lounge is really nice, air conditioned, with a big screen TV, DVDs and even wifi that works on and off depending on the location. Best of all, none of the rooms feel damp or smell musty because the crew are fastidious about keeping them dry and ask the guests to do the same.

We stayed in the best room, the master deluxe, which has windows looking out onto the sea and the front of the boat. Though the room is not very large, it has a double bed and is cleverly designed to maximise space. The bathroom is small but again adequate and there's always hot water in the shower.

Sea sickness pills are always available in the dining area and the lounge. My husband and I took one every 24 hours and that seemed to do the trick for the most part. When the sea got a little choppy I needed to take another. I'd feel a little queasy for an hour until the pill started to work and then I was fine. After 3 days my husband didn't need to take any more sea sickness tablets, though I still did. Not getting sea sick was a big deal as this was what had kept us from going on liveaboards. But I will say that the sea was quite calm for our entire trip, and I did feel like everything was moving when I was back on ground for almost 3 days! Still, I'm now comfortable enough to go on another liveaboard, and that's a big change.

The meals were very good and plentiful. Coffee and tea before the first dive, a big breakfast after, a snack after the second dive, then a big lunch. Then nap time on the sun deck :-) Then a snack after the third dive, and THEN dinner which is early but you're ready for it and ready to crash soon after. The food was really tasty without being overly spicy (not that I have a problem with spicy food but they have to cater to a wide audience). Some meals were Thai, others more Western, but all good.

The dive masters were all fantastic, all super interesting guys, and great guides. They're very particular about safety and the dive briefs were detailed and very clear. The diving itself was good to great, depending on the dive sites. Having dived in the Maldives and Micronesia, we found the diving in the Similians to be good, not great. But we loved Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock, the latter of which had the best and most diverse corals we've ever seen.

All the crew on board were very helpful and always smiling. From gearing up for us, hauling us out of the water and hot towels after the evening dive :-) to lots of delicious snacks and clearing our plates for us. Our fellow guests were all great. Interesting and fun people. You never know who you'll be stuck with on your live aboard but we couldn't have asked for a better bunch.

Overall we had an absolutely fantastic time on MV Pawara and found it to be very good value. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and we've decided that this won't be our last liveaboard - what better endorsement that that! Highly recommended.

Helpful?
9 Thank Pokkstar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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