Submarine tour, Jeju, South Korea
Rumour has it that there are some beautiful things under the waters of ocean surrounding this rock of an island, but believing is in the seeing. There are two options for viewing these underwater wonders: scuba gear or submarine. The latter is more practical and easy with two submarines operating on the South side. The Seogwipo submarine is located at the very end of the point in Seogwipo harbour (past Cheonjiyeon falls), and shares a building with a boat tour place so enter the left side for the submarine. Apparently the tour is fairly popular and reservations are recommended. It starts off with a boat ride out through the harbour to the submarine docking area. The boat has an open seating area so the more intrepid voyagers are treated to the sight of squid boats heading out to the fishing grounds and people fishing off the lighthouse platform. On the way back the boat circumnavigates the islet so the unique rock formations can be viewed.
At the docking area, would-be underwater explorers are escorted from one mode of transportation to another, pausing only to pose for a picture with the submarine and then it’s down the hatch on a rickety ladder into the bowels of the sub. As people settle themselves on the narrow but padded benches, the sub’s crew folds up the ladder and closes the hatch with an ominous clang. There is no backing out now! Any feelings of anxiety are quickly forgotten by the appearance of a diver who swims by the right side of the sub slowly and waves to the people. Later on he comes back accompanied by a huge school of fish waiting for a snack from their big-flippered friend. The sub slowly descends down the island cliff face to about 20 metres, at times bumping into the rock itself. Unfortunately the view is all on the right side of the submarine, so people sitting on the left will have their vision obscured by others using video cameras and such to document the epic journey through the small portholes. The submarine then backs away from the island to show us “Titanic made Korea” (the only thing of our host’s non-stop commentary I understood), a surreal looking shipwreck with schools of fish just hovering around it.
Then it is back to the island cliff face – this time at 40 metres, and oh joy, the view is now on the left side! And what a view it is – the submarine turns on its outboard lights with the help/encouragement of the folks clapping onboard and a magnificent underwater garden is revealed. I was amazed by all the colours of the coral and sea cucumbers as well as the iridescent fish. My nose was pretty much glued to the porthole or to the viewfinder of my camera as I attempted to snap pictures of all the wonders. Unfortunately, the tour is over all too soon and we had to clamber back out of our cozy quarters and switch back to the boat for the trip home.
At 45,000 won (31,000 won if you show them your Jeju Resident card) the tour is well worth it. As a service, you will also receive a Certificate of Sea-bed Exploration that informs any doubters that “you have explored the 40 meter sea-bed by embarking Seogwipo submarine”. It also includes a picture snapped of you before you even got on the sub. (You can get picture souvenirs as well from the pictures they take while you are on board the submarine). The only thing I would recommend would be to bring along earplugs if you are sound sensitive – the announcer’s voice echoed off the subs metal walls and was a bit grating to the ears. Yes, Jeju-do definitely has underwater treasures to explore. Next time it will be in scuba gear!
Seogwipo Submarine: www.submarine.co.kr 064-732-6060. For information about the Jungmun submarine: Telephone Tourist Information on 064 1330.