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Diving in the deep end

PHUKET: It is a hot mid-morning out on the Andaman Sea, and a 50-something British woman named Julie is sitting on the side of the Sea Bees Diving boat wearing a life jacket.

Friday 23 March 2012, 11:13AM

Sea Bees Diving tour leader Stephan Hinterberger.

Sea Bees Diving tour leader Stephan Hinterberger.

She’s nervous. It’s her first time snorkelling. But she’s come all this way to see her daughter and son-in-law, and wants to give it a go. With a deep breath she takes the plunge.

Later, safely back on deck, a beaming Julie says: “I feel great. I’m very pleased I went in.”

Julie is one of three snorkellers on-board the Sea Bees-owned boat Excalibur II, which is taking 12 divers out on a trip of a lifetime as part of the company’s Super Sunday trip.

Heading due east from Phuket, the boat takes the divers and snorkellers on a
day tour of Phi Phi, Shark Point, Koh Bida Nai, Turtle Rock and Koh Dok Mai.
The boat has three levels, with plenty of comfortable seating and a large lounge area on the top level for relaxing.

German tour leader Stephan Hinterberger has been working in Phuket as a dive instructor for more than 11 years, and is a course director, one of the highest ranks in the diving world.

He gave up a job working as an insurance broker in Germany to pursue his dream
of being a dive instructor, as he had always been “mad keen” on diving.

“I thought, I’m nearly 40, it is now or never. It had always been a dream for me. It is a lot of work but it is a fantastic combination of work and doing my hobby,” he says.

Stephan is one of the talented, multilingual group of dive instructors who work at Sea Bees Diving. Founded in 1989, the company has been under the the leadership of German Holger Schwab since 1995.

Like many of his fellow instructors, Stephan is fluent in a variety of European and other languages.


Asked for the best dive spots, he says Shark Point, near Phi Phi, is one of the best, with plenty of colours, soft coral, and as the name suggests, lots of sharks. Koh Doc Mai (Flower Island) is also a favourite of his because it is a ‘micro dive’ site, which means it is packed with all sorts of marine life. 

He also rates Hin Daeng and Hin Muang south of Phi Phi because of the number of
manta rays and whale sharks.

Also on board is Martin Niederberger, a 27 year-old dive instructor from Switzerland. This is his third season with Sea Bees, and this year will be the first time he’s stayed to work over the low season.

“I love my job so much and I love the island, so why move? Every day I’m out on the ocean, it’s awesome.”

Martin, who is also a qualified chef, says one of his best experiences has been at Racha Noi and the Similans, where he saw six metre long manta rays. “They came up so close and it was just brilliant,” he says.

It is just one of the many amazing experiences he’s had while diving in and around Phuket.

Sea Bees Super Sunday trip runs weekly. Diving is B5,250 for the day and includes four dives, one of which is a night dive, plus meals, fresh fruit, tea, coffee and water. Dive equipment is B900.

For snorkellers the price is B2,400. Phuket residents are entitled to discounts, for more information contact info@sea-bees.com, call 076-381-765 or visit sea-bees.com

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