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Diving for Change
ichan “Ob” Samutvaree could have lived the life of a fisherman or farmer like others from his rural village. Instead, Samutvaree will become the first certified divemaster from the Moken community of Thap Tawan.

Through a nine-month course, Samutvaree spends his days learning English, computer skills and diving techniques at the area’s Ecotourism Training Center. He is one of 11 underprivileged students diving to become a master.

Coming from a community where paths are fixed, Samutvaree is choosing a different route. His decision to break Moken tradition is bringing hope to his village. He is driven by his passion for the sea and a curiosity for what lies beneath.


Map Moken Villages in Phang-nga
For hundreds of years, Phang-nga province has been home to many Moken villages.

Living near the sea, the Moken people were deeply affected by the 2004 tsunami – including the people of Wichan “Ob” Samutvaree’s village. When the waters receded, many Moken communities had to completely rebuild their homes.

With much of the land ownership of Moken villages being undocumented before the tsunami, some communities are still fighting to keep their land. As Mokens try to rebuild their lives, the future of where their villages will be located is still in dispute.

Source: Sunthorn Thongprasert, long-time resident of Phang-nga

Ecotourism Training Center

PADI The Way the World Learns to Dive

Sea Gypsies

Article Ecotourism Training

Wichan “Ob” Samutvaree was selected as the first Moken to train through Khao Lak’s Ecotourism Training Center, or ETC. The center began in response to the 2004 tsunami to teach and train disadvantaged Thai people to become certified divemasters.

Samutvaree and the 10 other students he trains with could never have afforded the cost of diving and training without the help of the ETC. Focusing on Thai nationals rather than foreigners, the ETC staff trains students in the areas of conservation, diving, computer skills and English. The students also learn skills to help them get a job during the low season or if they decide not to pursue a diving career.

After graduation, Samutvaree hopes to come back to his village, open a dive shop and lead tours into his Moken community. He is an example of what the ETC is trying to accomplish.


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