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Koh Phangan is becoming much more well known for its diving, especially being so close to ‘Sail Rock’, the premier dive site in the Gulf Of Thailand.
Leo Beer took us to meet this famous dive site’s namesake, ‘Sail Rock Divers’ in Chaloklum which is owned and run by Nui, Alex and Rachel.
Alex first came to Koh Phangan in 1999 whilst travelling on a round the world ticket but ended up staying here for longer than planned….as most of us find ourselves doing!
“I hired a bike and drove up to Chaloklum, this is where I met Nui who took me diving. I then tore up my round the world ticket and instead did all of the dive courses up to Instructor, meeting some great people along the way”.
Alex returned to Thailand in 2003 and spent a year working on live-aboards on the west coast. He then worked in the Middle East for four years where he met his wife Rachel. Later they returned to Koh Phangan and married on Samui.
“I met Nui again and we set up the dive school and started on the building works”.
You have a good name! Why did you decide on it?
Sail Rock is ‘Hin Bhai’ in Thai and it is the most famous dive site here. We go there every day so it was a pretty obvious choice. We were just surprised that no one else had called their dive school ‘Sail Rock’.
What do you like about the diving here Alex?
Myself, I like to dive locally. We don’t do it too often but the coral in Mae Haad and Koh Ma is very pretty and the water is always warm!
Sail Rock is very special to me, there is nothing else like it. The marine life that inhabits the rock is so diverse.
What is unique about Sail Rock Divers?
We set up the business because firstly we love Chaloklum and we really love diving, so we wanted to do something with love, not just money.
The centre used to be just a little shop with ten sets of diving kit, but as we have become a successful business we have managed to expand over the years. We now have a resort with ten bungalows and a busy bar. We even have personal Muay Thai trainers coming to the centre and hold regular yoga sessions.
Our philosophy has not changed over the years. I want to give my customers the experience that I had. Hinch from the Holy Grill was someone that helped me years ago whilst I did my Instructor course. Since then I have wanted to give back, give something extra. Basically, we try to make life easy for all of our customers…everyone.
Chaloklum has one of the nicest communities here on the island, why do you think this is?
It is a cool place to go out and you meet crazy people….crazy, but all with good hearts. Different bars have different vibes and experiences. Wherever you go you are going to see someone you know.
It’s a comfortable place to go in the evening. You can still leave you keys in your bike! If you are on your own you won’t feel so. I love it!
What have been some of the guests’ experiences here?
You’ve put me on the spot there! Ha-ha! Our guests say nice things about us as we do our utmost to make them feel comfortable and part of the Sail Rock family. Everyone is on holiday so they are happy.
It seems like the divers of the island are the most hands on with helping environmental issues….
We see the impact directly, the run off from the roads and big hotels and overfishing; although the overfishing is nowhere near as bad as it used to be….there are no big trawlers luckily.
CoreSea, a local marine research company, work hard for the environment, and there have been documentaries made here which brings awareness to it all. We also help with the beach clean-ups a lot here.
What do you enjoy about Phangan in your free time?
I enjoy the beauty of it. I’m a photographer so I stick my camera in my backpack and set off for walks, soaking up the scenery. It’s a chance to get out of the office.
I think I may be having a midlife crisis! I’m forty six now and have got into Muay Thai training. I would like to fight but I am too old. I’ve been training for two years now and my brain says I am ready to fight but my body says ’Shut up’. I love that Muay Thai is a cultural thing, I wish I had done it years ago.
And leave us with the Sail Rock Divers philosophy...
Do the best you can. Each person’s level can be different but as long as you’re doing your best then that’s the main thing!