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Snorkeling with Sharks in Pattaya

Staff call him 'Snorkel Steve' at the Pattaya Scuba and Snorkel School and he invited me for a day out snorkeling with sharks. But there are no sharks in Pattaya right?

I had heard that you could dive with sharks in the Pattaya Aquarium.

I hesitated at first to accept his offer, but then if you pardon the pun, I almost 'bit his hand off' when he explained that it was on their day trip boat to witness benthic sharks being released into the wild.

The day started early as all the divers and snorkelers met at Seafari Dive Shop close to the beach in central Pattaya. We had our first glimpse at the sharks which were kept aerated inside large plastic containers used for transportation.

There were seven bamboo sharks around 60 cm long, all soon to be released into the shallow reefs later that morning. Some of the sharks were tagged for future identification by the shark release organisers - The Dive Tribe - who also breed sharks in captivity at their center in East Pattaya, Chonburi.

The dive boat, named Rung Wala Wan, often departs for the outer islands from the pier at Laem Bali Hai. Nonetheless, today around forty enthusiastic and impatient scuba divers and snorkelers were ferried from the beach by a narrow long-tail craft to the large boat anchored 300 meters offshore.

As we headed westwards to Koh Rin, we chatted, drank coffee, and had fresh fruit for breakfast. The sharks were kept on the lower deck where the scuba gear and tanks are stored. The upper ‘dry’ sunny deck was comfortably equipped with benches, deck chairs, and freeflow refreshments for the passengers. The plan was to release the sharks around 90 minutes later at the far island pinnacles, but the captain delayed making the final decision for the destination until the boat entered the open sea.

Releasing The Sharks

Snorkeling with sharks in PattayaMost benthic shark species - especially bamboo sharks - are nocturnal timid creatures.

The most likely sighting of a bamboo shark in Pattaya during the daytime is underneath craggy rocks and hard stony corals where they sleep. Consequently, the photographs and genuine video footage of the shark release was a prized moment for our team to capture.

Around 11.00 a.m. the boat moored on the northeast corner of a small pinnacle close to Ko Rin Island. This release site was chosen because of the profusion of coral formations found at Koh Rin’s northern satellite isle which is appropriately named North Rock.

Following the safety briefing, divers and snorkelers jumped off the deck as the sharks were transferred to plastic bags full of sea water and handed off the boat to the divers. The group submerged to a depth around six meters where they released the sharks and one by one they all promptly disappeared to their new habitat under the coral heads.

After the sharks were released, the boat moved away and anchored in the sandy bay at the large nearby island. Koh Rin is a stunning picturesque destination skirted by beautiful white sands where the sea gently laps against the shoreline and a perfect spot for Pattaya snorkeling trips.

As we snorkeled close to the shoreline in the bay we could see an Indian movie being filmed on the beach. This remote far island destination is favoured by day trippers to go swimming and snorkeling in the shallows because of its unfrequented and noiseless isolation.

Later that day, the boat slowly heads back to Pattaya allowing us some time to rest and reflect on what was a truly unusual experience

 My day out snorkeling the Pattaya far islands was the ideal tonic as part of my vacation, but to witness sharks being released into the wild sea was an added bonus. The sun is setting behind us creating the ultimate backdrop for last minute photographs of an unequalled day as we head east back to the mainland.

Snorkeling with Sharks in Pattaya | Awe-inspiring!

Article kindly supplied by Mike Baldwin
18th October 2014

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