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Want a Banana Smile? Go Dive with Fred!

10 May

Chaloklum Diving is one of Koh Phangan's original dive schools still alive today and they also can boast having the biggest boat!

We met the lovely Fred, yoga teacher and diver who is now working with them on the island to find out more about diving in Koh Phangan...

Hello Fred, what is your Koh Phangan story?

I came for the first time in January 2015 to have a three month, small season, freelancing as a scuba diving instructor.

I have been scuba diving for more than twenty years now and the island felt very attractive to me

What had you heard about the diving on Phangan?
I came through Chaloklum Diving as they were the most reactive to my requests, saying ‘we always look for experienced pros, feel free to freelance as well with other schools, as a french/english speaking instructor’. That was perfect for me and I booked a ticket right away.

Of course, I knew about Sail Rock as being an amazing dive spot, but I wasn’t suspecting that local reefs and Angthong Marine Park could be so beautiful as well, completely different from the big deep rock.

What surprised me is that all the other dive shops have been very welcoming to me as well, and even though I am now dedicated to Chaloklum Diving, I still enjoy going around to chat with all of them on the island in a very open way. I have a lot of respect for them.

Koh Tao is very famous for scuba diving and I am thankful to them as they managed to bring people for diving in our beautiful Gulf of Thailand.

There are some very good and professional shops there too. But here on Koh Phangan, we also have many assets for beginners and experienced divers that tourism does not focus enough on; we’re closer to Sail Rock and the Marine Park, it just takes two hours to go to Koh Tao East Coast on a very nice day trip too.

But here in Phangan and in my shop, we love to offer people what they come for; smaller groups, long and relaxing dives, personal care and attention during courses, no rush, hey keep Phangan spirit alive!

I am very grateful that people like you at Phanganist.com highlight scuba diving quite often and help us meet tourists through your social networks.

Aw thank you, it’s a pleasure! So how did you get involved with Chaloklum Diving?

Chaloklum Diving needed someone to take care of all the communication and sales policy and I have twenty years background in this, I am a long term diver as well.

What I like mostly about them is they do it in a very relaxed way, they never rush the customers, don’t limit the dive time and have a long surface break between two dives.

But most of all, their main concern goes to safety (quality of air, equipment irreproachable maintenance, safe and nice facilities).

You don’t mess with scuba diving, you can’t be an amateur in this kind of business. I have a lot of admiration for Nick and Michael who kept going throughout the years, sticking to this policy.

What is your role?
Already I had the perfect back up facilities for me to start working more on the development, Chaloklum Diving have the biggest boat, it was one of the first dive schools and is still alive, it’s a real symbol on the island.

We have a very nice location right on the Chaloklum beach and a comfortable welcoming boat so now I just have to make it known better.

But I’m also interested in working with the other schools to help promote diving in Koh Phangan around Europe when I’m there. We don't need to be ashamed compared to Koh Tao.

On the island, I have created a Facebook group called ‘United divers on Koh Phangan’.

The purpose is to help divers connect, and help any initiative to become real. And organise some nice trips during low season as well, involving people from the island.

The best thing about diving in Phangan is you get much more than just scuba diving; a great variety of activities. That’s what I promote in Europe and I hope I can take other schools with me to do this.

What was it about diving you fell in love with?

I'm also a yoga teacher. When I am doing yoga or diving I don’t feel like I am teaching, I share and I try to bring my ‘students’ to feel what can be experienced through breathing techniques, proper postures, a certain state of hovering in a tridimensional world by just controlling your depth with your breath.

Both activities are so connected for me. It’s definitely part of my balance.

I mostly enjoy Discover Scuba Diving  experiences or newly certified open water students.

It is such a great feeling to deal with people who have fears in their eyes and very often preconceived ideas about diving and the underwater world, you know the Jaws movie effect, fear of drowning, claustrophobia, fear of depth and suddenly with a bit of psychology, you bring them down, help them concentrate on their surrounding environment, and everything is gone.

They can see, feel, and just enjoy. As instructors, we just have to take care of safety matters and let them have their own experience, respecting each individual's progression.

I haver never found any other activity that can help you overcome your biggest fears and bring you to this state of confidence and accomplishment in less than one hour ‘I can’t believe I made it and I actually loved it !!’ is what I hear every day.

Sometimes they are just mute with a banana smile stuck on their face, the eyes say it all!

That’s the reason why I keep going in the water every day.

What is Chaloklum Diving focusing on for this year?

First it’s our 20th anniversary so we are focusing on putting on some more special trips, a little bit less Sail Rock and more Marine Park, East Koh Tao and more.

Another thing we try to do is gather the diver community on the island to offer special phangan locals trips, an open boat for all divers on the island experienced or not.

We will do some personalised trips, if someone has an idea as we have the biggest boat, then anyone is welcome to challenge us. Three dive specials, sunset dinners, etc.

We are also focusing on the yoga community because as a yoga and scuba teacher there are a lot of connections in breathing and feeling.

The sensation of floating is something you aim at when meditating and the water element is very appropriate for this.

What do you enjoy about Koh Phangan when not teaching yoga or diving?

All the diversity of the restaurants, don’t forget I’m French! I love to eat at the very small Thai street places and then go to l’Alcove with Karine and Melanie as their place is so nice, exactly what I like to recommend to my friends and customers as I love it myself.

What I also like is the national park area and Than Sadet with its remote beaches and also you can hike to the jungle. And when I’m in the mood I’m quite into parties, when I don’t have to work at 7am in the shop the next day!!

And also you can find everything here on Koh Phangan. I’m forty four years old and have never seen a place like this though I have been travelling a lot.

And leave us with you dive philosophy?
Get the proper and safe training because you don’t mess with scuba diving, to be able to discover an incomparable world.

It’s closer and cheaper than flying to the moon, but the experience is also worth the trip!

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