▲ . Voyagers to the near-bottom of the sea crowd the rail of the submarine as it motors out to the dive spot. Photo by Stephanie Reid
Climbing down the narrow ladder into the submarine, the icy blue light beams through the large view ports covering both walls. From every seat you have a front row view of ocean life as you’ve never seen it. Watching a small white string suddenly explode into a star jellyfish, bubbles float on the surface of the water from below, and even the scummy bottom of the nearby boat are all so exciting that you know this is an experience you’ll never forget.
A ride on the submarine JIAH, docked in Seogwipo, offers a ride down the underwater cliff of Mun-Som, a small island right off the coast of Seogwipo port. The tank in the waiting room provides a glimpse of the sea slugs, brilliant purple sea fans, and the exotic sounding Heavenly Damselfish and the Yellow-tailed Bleeny, exciting the imagination. The underwater view is exponentially better.
At 60 feet below the surface you see coral in gentle oranges and pinks, waving deep green seaweed, and schools of silvery fish munching on them. A diver comes with gifts of shrimp and schools of black and yellow striped footballer fish zoom by the porthole. If you’re lucky, you may see one of the sepia sting rays known to live in the area.
A creepy old ship covered with algae and barnacles sits abandoned to the fish in the dull blue stillness of 120 feet down. The lights illuminate the dark and suddenly there are intense red and orange soft coral and schools of Dol-dam, a small black fish with a white spot found only on Jeju. The only disappointing part is coming back up.
▲ Portholes reveal a world of underwater wonder. Photo by Stephanie Reid
The tour begins exactly at the scheduled time with a 10-minute boat ride out to the sub. The boat sways with the waves quite a bit, so the seasick should be prepared. On the dock a photo of each party is taken in front of the submarine, a gift as part of the tour. When you arrive, purchase your pass for the next voyage. Tickets are 49,500 won for adults, 39,600 won for middle school age, 29,700 won for elementary school children, and there is no charge for children under 3 years old. It is recommended that you arrive 20 minutes before your trip. The tours run every 40 minutes from 7:10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., clocking in 20 dives a day. An information sheet is provided in English upon request. The air conditioned waiting room contains a model of the sub and a labeled aquarium with all the creatures you will see on the dive.
Getting there from downtown Seogwipo can be a bit tricky. From the bus terminal, walk down the hill toward the ocean for 15 minutes. Cross a large intersection near the Napori Hotel and keep going down the path toward the water. When you come to the road next to the mud flats go across the stone bridge. The Seogwipo Submarine headquarters is at the end of the parking lot on the west side of the harbor.
You can avoid all of this by making reservations in advance. Simply call them when you arrive in Seogwipo and the shuttle will pick you up from downtown at no extra charge and drop you off when you resurface.
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