South Korea

 We spent almost one month in Korea in September 2015 and had the opportunity to go diving in two very different places, the colder waters of the East coast and the popular holiday destination with "secret"coral reefs of Jeju Island. The majority of the dives we did were off a boat so we went with a few of the many dive centers and clubs in Korea. They are very active all year round, however they are not very used to foreign divers and can be very shy speaking English. So if you or someone in your party speak Korean it will be easier, especially in the East Sea. 

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Dive Sites

 

East Sea (동해) 

The eastern coast of Korea bounded by the the East Sea (as Koreans refer to what is also known as the Sea of Japan) is a popular diving destination with locals as it is not too far from Seoul, but almost completely unknown to foreigners. It lies in Gangwon, a very mountainous, forested province in the northeast with several national parks with good hikes. The water temperatures in summer are pleasant and the visibility is also generally good. We dived two different areas: Yang-yang and Seokcho. 

 1. Yang-yang  (양양)

Diving: 

We did 4 boat dives with the Teamscuba dive center:

Website:  www.teamscuba.kr

Address: 19-1 Gisamun-gil, Hyeonbuk-myeon, Yangyang, Gangwon-do, South Korea

The center has a small boat and there are plenty of dive sites within 5-10min with varying depths. 

divemap yangyang.jpg

Site: Sand Block (샌드 블럭)

Depth: 25-30m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Artificial Reef

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 21°C

Visibility: ~6-8m

 

Description: This dive site is about 10min boat drive from the center's marina. It has a square shaped artificial reef structure from concrete blocks and metal with lots of holes. There is plenty of wildlife, including some corals, many fish and molluscs. In the sandy bottom around the reef you can find many flat fish. 

 

Siggi V

Site: Triangular Leaf Forest (숲조성 삼각뿔 어초)

Depth: 12-15m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Artificial Reef

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 23°C

Visibility: ~15m

 

Description: This dive site also has an artificial structure from concrete blocks with many swim troughs. Very good visibility and plenty of fish, many nudibranchs and a blue-orange starfish typical of the area. 

 

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Site: Well-being point (웰빙 포인트)

Depth: 13-19m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Rocks

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 19°C

Visibility: ~4-5m

 

Description: This dive site follows a crack between two big rocks on a sandy bottom. There is meant to be a huge eel living in the crack that is accustomed to divers, however we were not lucky enough to spot it. There was plenty of other fish to see though. 

 

Site: Arch point (아치 포인트)

Depth: 5-16m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Rocks

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 21°C

Visibility: ~4-5m

 

Description: Sandy bottom with big boulders, creating small caverns and overhangs. Lots of life, especially nudibranchs and fish. There may be some current, but not very strong. 

 

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 2. Seokcho  (석초)

Diving: 

We did 4 boat dives with the SSC Seokcho Scuba Center :

Website:  www.sscscuba.com

Address: Yeongranghean 9 kil 7-1, Seokcho, Gangwon-do, South Korea

The center has a small boat, the marina is not right in front of their dive center so you get to enjoy a quick ride at the back of a pick up truck to get to it. 

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Site: Manhattan

Depth: 20m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Rock

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 21°C

Visibility: ~7-8m

 

Description: This dive does  a loop around a huge boulder (Manhattan). The rock formation is interesting but there was not much sealife to see. 

 

Site: London Tower

Depth: 18-30m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Rocks

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 21°C

Visibility: ~8-10m

 

Description: This dive site has two huge boulder that sort of look like the London Tower Bridge. Top is at 18m, bottom is around 30m. We did a loop around one of these rocks which is plenty for one dive, to explore the second one probably you would need to do another dive. It is a very pretty dive site with lots of life, including coral fans with many small fishies around. There is lots of squidgy life as well, anemones and nudibranchs. Very nice swim through a crack between the rocks. 

 

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Site: Table Stone

Depth: 20m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Rock

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 21°C

Visibility: ~7-8m

 

Description: Dive site with very nice rock formations with lots of cracks where stone fish are hiding and come out at sunset for hunting. The marker buoy drops you down at a very nice wall covered in lots of little yellow anemones and other squidgy life. There can be quite a bit of current especially on surface.

 

Site: Venice

Depth: 30-32m
Type of bottom: Sandy, Rocks

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 17°C

Visibility: ~5-6m (plankton bloom, really bad at 6-15m)

 

Description: The name of this site is based on the fact that the rock formations form lots of gullies and channels. Also a nice site with lots of interesting squidgy life but not many fish around. 

 

Jeju Island (제주도) 

Jeju is Korea’s largest island and it is the country’s favourite holiday destination thanks to its beautiful beaches and many resorts, It is a volcanic island, dominated by the Hallasan volcano, the highest mountain in South Korea. Jeju has slightly warmer seas and soft corals gardens that not many people know about.

 

Dive Sites

 

 1. Seogwipo (서귀포)

Logistics: 

We did 2 dives with the Ocean Tree dive center:

Website:  www.oceantree.co.kr

Address: 702-2 Kangjeong-dong, Seogwipo, Jeju-do, South Korea

The PADI center is a bit of a production line, taking many people at the same time. We changed and packed our kit, then were driven to the harbor and took with a small boat to Tiger Island and did two dives from there as shore dives.

Keep in mind that at this center they are not very used to DIN regulators. We were given our tanks once on the island and the information that our regulators were DIN didn't get passed along. Which meant they didn't have a single Allen key on the islands and we didn't take ours as we had asked for DIN valves. It was quite entertaining to watch them trying to take the adaptors out with pliers, though?!

Site: Tiger Island (범섬)

Depth: 20-25m
Type of bottom:  Rocky

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 24°C

Visibility: ~10-15m 

 

Description: The dives are done as a day trip with two shore dives off this small rocky island. There are no facilities on it so make sure you have everything you need before the boat sets off. The dive starts with a big stride entry (a bit scary as its about 2m high). There is a ledge at 3m which then drops to 20-25m. It is a very nice spot with soft coral gardens, lot of fish, including box fish, anemones with little shrimps etc. The dive center has its name after a big stand alone soft coral little bit further out of the main reef that looks like a tree. On the way out you dekit in water and climb up the rock with help of some ropes that are installed there. Second dive is in the same place taking you little bit further out. 

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 2. Seongsan (성산)

Logistics: 

We went through Sung San Scuba dive center:

Website: www.sscuba.co.kr

Address: 258-5 Ilchul-ro, Seongsan-eub, Seogwipo, Jeju

This place is very close to the popular touristic spot the volcanic crater Ilchulbong in the easternmost part of the island. We found this scuba center through Lonely Planet and just rocked up at their door. We did one shore dive in front of their store and one boat dive with their rib. 

 

Site: Seongsan Beach

Depth: 4m
Type of bottom:  Rocky

Interests: Scenic dive; shore

Water Temperature: 24°C

Visibility: ~10m 

 

Description: This is shore dive right in front of their shop, just swim out north and then coming back. It is very shallow, used for training and shake-down dives and not very interesting. You can find some small fish, anemones and shrimps in between the rocks if you look carefully. 

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Site: Jariyo (자리여)

Depth: 24m
Type of bottom:  Wall

Interests: Scenic dive

Water Temperature: 24°C

Visibility: ~10m 

 

Description: Very nice dive not very far from the center right next to the Ilchulbong crater. Underwater you can see the rocky features created by flowing lava. From 12m to bottom at 24m it is a wall, top is covered with kelp, the sides are covered with soft corals, with many fish and squidgy things. Very colourful and full of life. 

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