Koh Lanta fishing scam

Ben and Stuart are despondent on the boat

Ben and Stuart are despondent on the boat

“Fishing is much more than fish – it is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers,” claimed US President Herbert Hoover. While that may be the noble intention of those with rod and reel in hand, some nefarious entities have sprung up to spoil the sporting endeavours of tourists on the Andaman Coast.

Over the New Year holiday, a group of NGO workers and English teachers living in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, descended on the sleepy island of Koh Lanta to relax and unwind in the sun. Other than sinking a few beers, playing beach football and entertaining the tittering local girls, the boisterous rabble decided to take a fishing trip into the wide blue yonder.

After approaching a local travel agency on Long Beach, a boat was arranged to take them for a full day on the water the following morning. Costing 9,000 baht for six people – hardly a trifling sum in anyone’s book – they were promised a high quality adventure with experienced guide and slap-up lunch included.

But things could not have been more different.

“We turned up a bit hungover on the morning and were taken to a shabby-looking fishing boat manned by a single guy,” explained Reiki teacher Ben. “He just started chugging away into open water and we presumed he knew what he was doing. But after an hour we started to ask questions such as ‘where the hell are you taking us?’

“He just pointed to a tiny island that was still only a speck in the distance. So after another hour of dull motoring we arrived at this rocky outcrop in the middle of nowhere,” added Ben.

Ben spies the sea police

Ben spies the sea police

Upon reaching this ‘promised land’, the group donned snorkelling masks and spent 10 minutes exploring the pristine reef that surrounded the island. But then they were flabbergasted when the captain of the ship got his rod out and started hooking a variety of brightly coloured tropical fish.

“We were stunned,” said 24-year-old English teacher Stuart. “We didn’t want to catch these tropical fish – we couldn’t eat them! – so we asked to be taken somewhere away from the reef to catch barracuda, marlin, red snapper or something. But the captain kept on hooking these multi-coloured specimens and putting them in a white bucket. So when he wasn’t looking our friend would release them back into the sea.”

It was fortunate the group were so conscientious, because within minutes a Sea Police boat turned up and boarded their vessel. The man in charge accused them of fishing in protected waters and demanded an 800 baht fine from each person – marching straight up to the white bucket which, thankfully, was now empty.

“It was obviously a complete set-up,” claimed 32-year-old Daniel from Canada. “How could these Sea Police people be on us so quickly in thousands of acres of sea and know exactly where to look on the boat? And any competent fisherman knows you cannot take tourists out in protected waters around a reef!”

After protesting vehemently for half-an-hour that they had not been fishing and there were no fish on the boat, the group were reluctantly left in peace. At this point the captain turned around and began the two-hour slog back to dry land.

Two of the group then had to spend much of the next day – New Year’s Eve – back at the travel agency arguing with the person who had sold them the tour. After hours of quarrelling they eventually managed to get 7,000 baht returned.

“It was a ridiculous farce,” said Clive, 31, from Dudley in the UK. “They had no intention of taking us fishing but only ripping us off. They did not even have any food on board so how were we going to get the lunch we were promised? And 9,000 baht is a lot of money in any culture so why not just do the job you were very well paid for?”

“Of course, not only did we waste the whole day on this pointless and stressful ‘fishing’ trip, but then a good portion of New Year’s Eve arguing with these scam artists. It was not the relaxing break we signed up for.”

We at 1stop recommend that tourists on the Andaman Coast only sign up for bona fide fishing trips through well-known tour companies or a personal recommendation from a trusted friend.

More on Krabi activities.

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