Snorkeling with Sharks in Thailand

The staff call him ‘Snorkel Steve‘ at the scuba and snorkel school where he oversees the daily activities. He invited me for a day out snorkeling with sharks. But there are no sharks in the shallow waters at the Pattaya islands right?

Someone had told me that you could dive with sharks in the Pattaya Aquarium. But, that wasn’t what he was offering.

I hesitated at first to accept his offer. But, if you pardon the pun, I almost ‘bit his hand off’ when he explained that it was on their day trip boat to witness the release of benthic sharks 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, kept aerated inside large plastic containers used for transportation.

There were seven bamboo sharks around 60 centimetres long. The plan was to release the sharks into the shallow reefs later that morning.

The organisers, courtesy of ‘The Dive Tribe’, tagged some of the sharks for future identification. They also breed sharks in captivity at their center in East Pattaya, Chonburi.

Snorkeling with Sharks in Pattaya

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 joined the ferry from the beach by a narrow long-tail craft to the large boat anchored 300 metres 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 get stored.

The upper ‘dry’ sunny deck was comfortably equipped with benches, deck chairs, and free-flow 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 into the Water

Most benthic shark species – especially bamboo sharks – are nocturnal timid creatures.

Snorkeling with sharks in Pattaya, Thailand.
Snorkeling with sharks in Pattaya, Thailand

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 Koh Rin Island.

The organisers of the shark release chose this particular underwater site for the profusion of coral formations. You can find them at Koh Rin’s northern satellite isle – appropriately named North Rock.

Following the safety briefing, divers and snorkelers jumped off the deck. The sharks got transferred into plastic bags full of sea water and handed off the boat to the divers.

The group submerged to a depth of around six (6) metres. They released the sharks and one by one. Sharks disappeared with speed to their new habitat under the coral heads.

Snorkeling with Sharks in Pattaya | Awe-inspiring!

After the Pattaya shark release, 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. The sea gently laps against the shoreline. It is an ideal destination for Pattaya snorkeling trips.

As we snorkeled close to the shoreline in the bay we could see an Indian movie getting filmed on the beach. This remote far island destination is a favourite with day-trippers. They go swimming and snorkeling in the shallows. It is one of Pattaya’s unfrequented and noiseless, isolated destinations.

Later that day, the boat slowly heads back to Pattaya. It allowed 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.

Article written and published on the 18th October 2014

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