SNORKELING WITH THE MOKEN SEA NOMADS 

 

Wicked Diving is the first dive center in Khao Lak to offer ethical and responsible tours to the Surin IslandsCooperating with the islands original inhabitants, we are launching the coolest, most respectful, way to explore the coral reefs and the local history of the Surin islands

SNORKELING WITH THE MOKEN SEA NOMADS
Moken Guided Snorkel Tours

Since the founding of this company, Wicked Diving has created clear guidelines around morals and ethics with the conviction that an international profit business has a local and environmental responsibility. This responsibility is the basis that has formed Wickeds ethics and that does not only attract awesome dive professionals for our team but also awesome guests that prefer to spend a couple of extra baht knowing that their money is well invested.

If you want to find out about the projects we support and company guidelines that we live by, please feel free to read through our website. In this blog I want to tell you about our new responsibility that we have taken aboard our company. It is exciting, challenging and pretty wicked.

SNORKELING WITH THE MOKEN SEA NOMADS
Surin Beach – where we fell in love

Being a dive company Wicked Diving operates their own liveaboard that journeys to the Similan and Surin Islands. We soon fell in love with the shallow reefs around the Surin islands and decided to also offer specially guided snorkel tours to explore these beautiful reefs around the white sandy beaches. We were aware that the islands have been home to the Moken Sea Nomads prior to the region becoming a national park; yet there was little ways of interaction. The national park camping sites are on North Surin island while the Moken village is located on South Surin island.

Four years ago Wicked Diving has first been contacted by Andaman Discoveries, an organization that supports local initiatives and offers community based tourism. They told us that they have started guide trainings with the Moken on Surin, so that they can offer their own tours around the islands. The reality on the Surin Islands is that the Moken have become subject to tourism in a very passive way. Cultural and language barriers have hindered the Moken from playing an active role in how tourism impacts their life. It has come to the point that hundreds of tourists visits their village weekly yet the only interaction is when tourists purchase handicrafts or take pictures of the Moken. In all fairness, I think no one has planned it to be like that, and yet we find ourselves in a situation where the foreign gaze consumes their culture and home.

SNORKELING WITH THE MOKEN SEA NOMADS
Learning to row the Moken boat

Yes tourism is a problem on the islands, but it is also a possibility. Moving from a self-sustaining way of life to a cash-based economy, income is a problem in their remote island home, 60km off the mainland. Tourism is a way of generating income for the Moken where they can work from home and don’t have to leave their family to find work on the mainland. Also, responsibly operated tourism facilitates encounters that instead of consuming their culture can actually empower it and stimulate cultural pride. And to be honest the Moken have a lot to be proud about, they have a lot to teach. They know the sea like no one else; their entire culture evolved around the sea. They can tell tales about Tsunamis when the written cultures didn’t even know that there were such natural powers in the sea.

Realizing that, thanks to Andaman Discoveries efforts, we actually have a choice now to engage in locally responsible tourism – it is natural that we will do so. Since last season our awesome and wicked staff member Lena, who speaks fluently thai, has been working for us to help establish the relationship between Wicked Diving and the Moken Tourism Team. Respectful relationships take time and careful communication, so we are working hard to find the right people to conduct the tours. The Moken can guide in Thai language only, and so our Wicked staff will serve as translators. Thanks to our Thai internship program our Thai staff numbers are increasing. Lena will facilitate the first tours of the season and together with Andaman Discoveries and NAN Foundation, will start training the Wicked Thai staff to learn the work of serving as cultural and linguistic translators between the Moken and incoming guests.

We are excited and happy to announce that Wicked Diving is the first tour operator in Khao Lak to start a working relationship with Moken on the Surin islands, that does not only benefit them directly but it is also the coolest most respectful way to explore the coral reefs and the local history of the Surin islands. We look forward to facilitating many encounters between our guests and the guardians of the Andaman sea! You can join our Surin Island Snorkeling tour and help make a difference

FOR STORIES THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND, read through the Moken Island website, and this Guardian article, watch Project Moken’s movie No Word for Worry, and dive in deeper by reading the Courage of the Sea book