I can totally understand all the bad reviews here. After you have been snorkeling in Thailand and the Philippines and you are used to a small boat with just a couple of people and a secluded ocean off-boat dive... Payar island is not that. Payar is a small area with damaged coral and hundreds of tourists each day on the one beach or floating platform. It is almost exclusively loud, inexperienced Chinese tourists who have never dived before and just hover around the beach and table areas. It can be off putting. I get that.
I also get that the visibility is sometimes not good. This is only in high-tide or when the tide is coming in. When we first arrived the water was crystal clear perfection. We snorkeled, it was magical. By midday, the waves started coming in and stirred up the sand and it was no good to snorkel in. This is not the fault of East Marine. They can't control the tides.
Also, the lunch was totally crap. This is true. The worst food we had in our whole time in Malaysia. They could definitely work on that aspect.
However! And this is a big HOWEVER.... East Marine took us scuba diving and it was amazing. We are new to scuba, we have snorkeled everywhere and always been curious but trepidatious. They advertised that they will literally hold your hand the whole way if you want and they lived up to that.
We were taken on a small boat way over to the other side of Payar, away from the tourists and snorkelers. We were given our lesson and taught all the stuff we needed to know for our first dive. The guys were friendly, kind and patient. We then jumped right in 2 at a time, my boyfriend and I got to go together, each of us with our own buddy instructor. He was checking our pressure and air and making sure were were ok the whole time. He kept me calm, reminded me to keep equalizing my ears to relieve pressure. He also pointed out cool fish and things and gave us a fantastic 30 minute underwater tour of some stunning live coral ten meters down.
After our dive, 2 other guys went down and we had time totally alone to snorkel off the back of the boat and it was peaceful and lovely. We were then taken back to the main beach for lunch and a swim before heading back to Langkawi. The day was amazing because we got the absolute most out of it. East Marine diving instructors were great at their jobs and we were the happiest. For scuba beginners, it was the perfect intro to diving. For snorkelers it would just be a boring day on a beach.
Oh yeah, the really cool thing was the black tip reef sharks and their babies. They were very cute and was cool to see the feeding frenzy when one of the staff took a much of meat to feed the adult sharks off the jetty.
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