Before going into any Ecotourism opportunities in Pattaya, it would be helpful to explore just what Ecotourism is in Thailand, and what it isn’t…
Ecotourism has been defined as responsible travel to pristine or fragile and usually protected spots whose locals now strive to lower the environmental impact of tourism.
Eco tour guides will try to educate the tourist, as well as use profits from tours to help local ecological conservation efforts and empower local communities to do the same. The point being that by doing so, future generations may experience these areas as relatively untouched, and without the various kinds of garbage our species usually bring along.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), established in 1990, defines ecotourism by using 7 basic criteria, and it is suggested that travellers use these same criteria when booking an Eco tour:
- The tour involves travel to a natural destination, vs. a theme park for example.
- The tour is organized in such a way that it minimizes the impact of the tour on the environment.
- The tour builds environmental awareness either directly, or indirectly through it’s management.
- The tour company provides direct financial benefits for conservation and preservation of the environment toured.
- The tour provides empowerment as well as financial benefits for the people living on or near the land.
- The tour operator and clients respect the culture of the local environment.
- The tour supports democratic movements and human rights.
Now with that said, most of these concepts can be easily misunderstood, and in practice, turned into a marketing tool – as well as malpractice by the more unscrupulous tour operators. There really is not much that can be done about that, as there are no international laws or enforceable restitution for ecotourism abuse. There is also no easy way to keep tour operators from labelling their business green or eco-friendly, other than common decency and truthful advertising.
But in the case of Pattaya (and Thailand in general) these labels are rarely abused. For example, there are two eco tours that stand out in Pattaya. These are the submarine and semi-submarine tours off the fragile coastal coral reefs of Ko Sak and Ko Lan. These tours are eco-friendly, in the sense that care is taken by the operators of these vessels not to disturb the corals or wildlife, and the impact on the environment is much less than if the same amount of divers (as passengers) were to visit these reefs each day.
The two recommended tour operators for visiting these reefs are:
Pirom Submarine which is located at 311/7, Mu 10, Pattaya Tai Road. To get to the platform for embarkation, you will take the ferry Laem Bali Hai Pier to the floating station at Ko Sak. This sub has a diving depth of more than 30 metres, where once below you can get a fish eye’s view of the coral reefs. Tickets are 2,000 baht per adult and 1,500 baht per child. The sub leaves on the hour, every hour on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. During the week the schedule is 10:30 am, 11:20 am, and then at 1:00 pm. For more information, you can call +66(0)38 415 234 or visit their website.
Pattaya Pakarang Semi-Submarine is located the same as above, with a local administrative office at 125 Soi 4, Beach Road, North Pattaya. This tour takes you underwater to Ko Sak and Ko Lan reefs and tickets are 1,800 baht for adults and 900 baht for children. This tour includes lunch. For more information, call +66(0)38 411 001 in Pattaya or if in Bangkok, call 02 503 3791 instead.