We recently have returned from a trip to Thailand including 6 days in Koh Chang. We booked the “5 Island” dive trip on Perm Poon Sub through our hotel, and to say we were disappointed is an understatement. I am a qualified diver, however my partner isn’t. so we decided to do a snorkelling trip instead. I have been on my fair share of dive boats over the years from Australia to the Middle East, so I think I am fairly well placed to comment on our experience.
We were picked up promptly and on time by our bus at the front of our hotel in Kai Bae Beach, and were taken on a shortish ride with other passengers down to Bang Bao. We walked through the charming fishing village, and boarded the boat. The boat we were actually going out on was moored one boat away from the pier, so we had to climb on the first boat, and then work our way off the side of the desk of that boat onto the other, with minimal hand holds etc… safety clearly wasn’t a major factor here!
We boarded the boat and took our seats up stairs, on plastic chairs that were tied with string to the sides of the boat so they didn’t move around too much. The boat then headed off, no introduction, no safety briefing, nothing… everyone left to fend for themselves. The boat was packed, and it seemed that the staff had a lot of family and friends on the boat, as being the high season, there were not a lot of paying guests. This was reflected in the service, where the staff were all too happy to show the local Thai’s the animal identification charts and the map of where they were going, but didn’t show it to either ourselves or the two Russian couple in front of us.
We pulled up at the first snorkelling site, and were greeted with the view of four other boats, and about 200 people in the water. It was made compulsory to wear flotation devices in the water, which makes it impossible to snorkel properly as you can’t actually dive under the surface. When asked if we could go without we were told that that wasn’t possible, even though we are quite capable swimmers. I thought this might have been a safety policy, but I proved that theory wrong (more on that later).
So into the water we go, welcome to a mass of bubbles, bread being fed to the fish and general disregard for the preservation of the reef and the animals. The snorkeling sites were OK at best . People were allowed to stand on the reef, the guides were picking up urchins and other animals and bringing them to the surface, and even scraps from the food being prepared were being thrown overboard. One of the guides was pulling people along by getting them to hold onto a life jacket, he pushed past me in the water, asked me to get out of the way as he had paying customers on his guided tour, I was absolutely shocked.
We climbed back aboard the boat, to find that food was served and ready to go. It was a nice meal of local thai curries etc. One Thai passenger grabbed a plate and began to serve himself, so one of the Russian men thought it was ok to start serving, only to be shouted at and told that it was not ready to eat yet… this was a common occurrence with snacks later on and even the main meal… it seems that locals were allowed to do as they pleased, but foreigners were treated as second class customers. I have never seen anything so rude from Thai people ever before, or ever again!
The fruit was refrigerated; however the chicken skewers for the bbq were left out in the open air for a good 2-3 hours prior to being cooked, so needless to say we passed on those as they would have been well past their best.
I think the absolute lowlight happened when an Australian man was climbing down the ladder from the top deck to the one below, he slipped and fell quite awkwardly. All of the staff just looked and some even laughed… he had to help himself up and hobble away.
Beware the 5 islands pitch… in reality 3 of the islands are within about 100m of each other… hardly a change from one reef to the next! At one point we stopped between two islands, about 40m apart. This was classed as a ‘2 island stop’, and you could choose to either snorkel or to swim to the beach of the larger island. At this point I was told that I was allowed to swim to the beach without my life vest… so much for not being allowed to swim without one earlier!
If you want to do the snorkelling, do it with another operator, this company has no regard for their paying customers, safety of the passengers or crew, and no care for for the reef that they are bringing people out to see.