THAILAND DIVING PARADISE NOW A WASTELAND – I have for many years been a keen diver. For those who have never tried it you are certainly missing out for spending time under water with an abundant sea life with hundreds of thousands of aquatic species is a pure joy and a sight to behold; but that of course really does depend on where you are diving.
A little less than 10 years ago I decided to take an extensive vacation and dive in the wonderful waters of Thailand. Ah Phi Phi Island, Shark Point, Racha Yai, Rachi Noi and of course the world famous Similan Islands.
I was really excited for this was to be the first time I had been diving in Thailand and I had heard many great stories.
Initially my tour or exploration was planned for six months. Yes that’s a long vacation but there was a lot to see and I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labour.
My first dive was at Rachai Yai and Racha Noi, two small islands about an hour boat trip from the holiday Island of Phuket.
My initial reactions when arriving on Phuket was one of real disappointment. I expected to see a lush, green and eco-friendly island and yet the reality was little more than a garbage dump. I don’t think, in all my years of travelling, I have ever witnessed such a blatant disregard for the environment.
The diving was disappointing as so much of the coral reefs where destroyed by what was obviously over fishing. In places, regardless to which diving destination I ventured to in Thai waters the story was the same.
After the Racha Island experience I didn’t want to give up hope and over the next four days I experienced the dive sites at Phi Phi. Whilst the island looked like paradise, I didn’t bother to venture on a tour; something inside me didn’t want to step foot on Phi Phi as I feared it would look similar to Phuket.
The diving was awful around Phi Phi and some of the divemasters were honest enough to tell me that the reefs have been destroyed by excessive fishing and pollution.
A week later I spent four days at the world famous Similan Island which is part of Thailand’s Marine National Park. What I witnessed was nothing less than rape of the environment which was fueled by Thai corruption and greed.
I left Thailand five months earlier than planned; there was simply nothing to see and the island of Phuket was a disgrace; I quickly discovered that Phuket was just a brothel where cheap drink and cheap prostitutes could be bought. What was once no doubt a stunning island had been concreted over with running raw sewage and waste being pumped into the sea; no wonder the corals were all dead.
After 10 years I decided to venture again to Phuket and try the diving. My reasoning was that someone, somewhere in Government must have realized the folly of their ways and cleaned the place up and attempted to restore a natural balance to the in-land and in-sea natural environment.
What I witnessed was nothing short of a disaster zone. Phuket’s love of all thing concrete had grown and property prices skyrocketed; which only fueled the greed and corruption further.
For five days I went diving and no matter which dive site I tried the story was the same. Garbage littered the sea floor to such an extent that you couldn’t see the sand. The little coral reefs, that remained, were either dead or dying and covered in fishing nets that had been lost.
Coral fish that should have been dancing among the corals were few and far between and as I asked people why the answer become apparent…. Corruption and greed.
Those who are charged with the protection of the natural habitat are all on the take. Marine officials will openly allow any Thai fisherman entry for a few baht regardless of the damage done to the environment.
It appears that Thais are unable to see tomorrow and everything is for the here and now. If what I witnessed, within a space of just 10 years was allowed to happen, it is likely nothing in Thai waters will survive the on-going disregard.
When I arrived home in the UK a few friends eagerly asked me what Thailand and in particular Phuket was like. My response was simple… ‘If you like taking a vacation in a brothel filled with garbage and where every Thai is baying to rip you off then Thailand is just the place for you.’
Do you think corruption will soon kill the dive industry in Thailand? Leave your comments below.