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A local marine conservationist has blasted the surge in “Try Dive” tours for damage to coral reefs at key dive tour sites off Phuket.
Local marine conservationist Paitoon Panchaiyaphom was attending to a reef at Plub Pla Bay at Koh Racha, south of Phuket, as part of his local conservation group’s efforts to protect the reef when he saw a dive instructor with two divers stepping on corals nearby.
“The dive instructor with his two divers at times walked on the corals and the instructor led them to feed the fish underwater,” he said.
Mr Paitoon blasted the surge in enthusiasm for the “Try Dive” beginner dive courses, in which people who have never dived before are led on basic tours to introduce them to the experience of diving.
“A ‘Try Dive’ takes only 30 minutes and costs about B1,700-2,500, and today there are lots of dive instructors of different nationalities, including Thai, leading these tours,” Mr Paitoon said.
“Dive masters who are more professional will lead divers to stand on the sand, not on the corals,” he noted.
A dispirited Mr Paitoon noted that the same was happening nearly every day at many popular tourist sites, including at Koh Maiton, Koh Khai and Phi Phi Island.
“Most of the damage to coral reefs in these areas are from diving too close and non-professional divers,” Mr Paitoon said.
“The worst damage is at the Koh Racha and Koh Khai islands,” he added.
“Our conservation group has been working to protect and promote growth of corals in these areas, but it takes months for corals to start to recover, and artificial reefs take years.”
“We need to take this issue seriously to preserve our environment before it is too late,” Mr Paitoon said.