Going snorkelling and, or diving in Thailand was something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. So when I and a group of friends booked a short break in Ao Nang, I had the perfect opportunity to tick it off my imaginary list.
I eagerly bought my snorkel and mask in England as soon as the trip was confirmed. There were 7 of us going to Ao Nang, 6 adults and a toddler. The other 5 adults didn’t have their own snorkel or mask, but that was ok because we were aware they were provided on the boat.
So we arrived in Ao Nang tired but happy, after an overnight flight to Bangkok from Bangalore, India and then a connecting flight from Bangkok to Krabi.
Opposite our hotel was the tour operator that we used to book the Phi Phi Islands tour.
We haggled on the price and paid 750 THB (£13.60 GBP) each for the trip, including transfers to and from our hotel. The toddler was not charged, and we arranged to be picked up from our hotel early the next morning.
In total there were 30-40 other people on-board of various nationalities (Chinese, Malaysian, Sri Lankan, Indian, and Spanish), and we were all offered a cheap snorkel and face mask to use on the trip. I declined, as a had my own, but my friends took one each. All of the passengers were warned that if their mask and snorkel was not returned, it had to be replaced at the passenger’s cost.
At the end of the trip and after getting on and off the boat several times, to snorkel, to swim, to visit beaches and for lunch, it turned out one of our groups snorkel and mask and gone missing.
Now, there was at least one of us on board the boat at all times while the others were snorkelling and swimming. Remember, we had a toddler with us too, so obviously someone had to look after her.
The only time that we left the equipment unattended was when we and all the other passengers left the boat for lunch. Before we left the boat, all 5 masks and snorkels were near our seat on the boat and they were not used again by us for the rest of the trip.
Eventually, the time came to hand the equipment back, and surprise, surprise, there was one mask and one snorkel missing. We were told by the crew that ‘we would discuss it later’.
While disembarking the boat we were asked to pay 1000 THB (£18,00 GBP) to replace the missing equipment. Not a chance was I going to let anyone pay that! My own mask and snorkel I’d brought from England only cost me £8. You could buy similar in Ao Nang for between 250-300 THB (£4.50-£5.00 GBP).
We pointed out we hadn’t lost the equipment and the last time we checked, we had all 5 masks and snorkels. The crew became quite angry with us, and it became obvious to me this was a scam. So we were able to leave quickly, without any further problem and knowing that we were being ripped off, I offered my mask and snorkel, or 500 THB (£9.00). Both offers were declined.
The crew then realised I was recording the whole thing and seemed to calm down. I told my friends not to give them anything and just to walk away.
As we made our way back, our driver (also a crew member) for the hotel pick-up and drop-off harassed us a little and then drove off without taking us with him!
We made our own way back to the hotel and after a bit of research on the internet, it seems this is a common scam. Don’t fall for it. If possible, bring your own equipment.
I don’t know if they chose to pick on us because we were the largest group on the trip, or if it is because I am European, and sadly and I hate to say it, Westerners are often seen as a walking cash machine in this part of the world.
If you do watch the video below, the men wearing the black, orange and blue shirts are the crew members.