Ulleongdo and Dokdo

38th Parallel Divers Ulleongdo

This past weekend we went to the “Mysterious Island Ulleongdo” and Dokdo to take in the beautiful sights of a less populated Korea.  This has to be one of the most beautiful places in Korea…hands down.  Ulleongdo is an amazing place that is barely touched by tourism and people.  It has enough infrastructure to make it an enjoyable trip but not too much as to take away from the raw natural beauty of the island and surrounding clear fish-filled waters.  Most of our posts are purely revolving around diving.  It would be an injustice to only talk about the diving on the amazing island so please bear with me while I talk about some of the other things that this island has to offer…plus these are good negotiation points for those family members who are non-divers…just saying.

The Trip

Ulleongdo Tourist MapIt is no small feat getting to Ulleongdo and Dokdo.  Our Trip looked something like this:

Trip To (starts Thursday night):

  1. Drive – Thursday night drive to the east coast immediately after work, 1800 – 2130 (3.5 hours)
  2. Sleep in a hotel Thursday night
  3. Friday morning drive to port and park car, 0800
  4. Ferry – Mukho Port (Donghae) to Sadong Harbor (Ulleongdo), 0900 – 1200 (3 hours)

On a separate day (total trip takes roughly 4.5 hours with load/unload times etc):

  1. Ulleongdo to Dokdo, 1.5 hours
  2. Dokdo to Ulleongdo, 1.5 hours

Return Trip (Monday late night):

  1. Ferry – Sadong Harbor (Ulleongdo) to Mukho Port (Donghae), 1800-2100
  2. Drive – Donghae to Home, 2130 – 0100 (3.5 hours)

The Food

Tiger Cow 칡소

Ulleongdo is know for seafood especially squid, what most foreigners don’t know is that there are 3 other amazing foods to eat on the island… 1. tiger beef (칡소).  The tiger beef is so delicious thanks to some great marbling that give wonderful juicy flavors throughout.  The only downside to this beef is that it isn’t cheap…for a portion of beef slightly smaller than what one could get on the mainland we had to fork over approximately 50,000 krw each.  Definitely not a meal for those who might be budget minded.  

The other hand-down amazing MUST EAT dish are the special shrimp that are only found in this region.  I have eaten tons of shrimp and prawn in my lifetime and nothing (yes I mean absolutely without a doubt NOTHING) comes close to the amazing taste of these shrimp.  So much so that I recommend that everyone try them despite their high price.  Before I tell you the cost let me explain what these shrimp are.  The first shrimp are called chicken shrimp and they have a sharp pointy shell that takes some care when pealing apart.  The second shrimp is called flower shrimp and has white stripes that go the flower shrimplength of the shrimp.  Many westerners don’t eat the best part chicken shrimpof the shrimp, the stuff from the head area…do not miss this delicious part.  Mainly because it is wonderful but also because the store owner will yell at you and wonder why on earth you left this behind.  The shrimp is cooked in a very simple manner…it is boiled in plain water, no seasoning required.  Now for the bad news.  For only 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of shrimp the cost is about 80,000 krw.  

The Diving

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.56.08We dove with a great dive shop that truly catered to us and were excellent hosts.  The shop was Ulleong Dive Resort and they spoke enough English to get us everything that we needed to log 2 beautiful dives.  The shop has a large boat equipped with a sun shade roof, lots of room, plenty of power to speed you out around the island and even a small bathroom.  The dive shop met some of our divers at the port to pickup their gear and take it to the diveshop.  They kindly let us store our gear at the shop until our dive day.  They also let us pick the time to dive so we didn’t have to rush or operate on anyone else’s schedule.  This was another great point of diving with Ulleong Dive Resort.

Since we dropped off our bags they noticed our eye-catching emblem on our dive bags and looked up our website.  When we arrived at the shop to dive they told us they watched all of our videos and were amazed to see how much we have dove in South Korea.  They were excited to dive with us!  Ulleong Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.59.03dive resort did Ulleong Fishnot disappoint and for our first dive they dropped us off near the
north eastern tip of Ulleong-do .  This dive site started at 20 meters and sloped off to about 40m and then sharply dropped off into a very deep shelf.  The water was cloudy to about 17 meters and then cleared up greatly around 30 meters.  We saw small schools of fish which included many different varieties.  The water temperature was a beautiful 16C with an average visibility of about 15 -20 meters…extremely ice compared to our normal east coast diving.

Ulleong FishScreen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.06.31The second dive site was Juk island (Juk-do).  This was basically a beautiful long safety stop that allowed us to see parrot, trigger and many other fish to include a very odd translucent fish.  At first we all thought it was a jell fish but one of us accidentally touched one to discover it was hard like a fish not a jelly.  Looking closely we could see clear bones, a moving mouth and internal working organs…definitely one of the strangest creatures I have ever seen.  After a beautiful 45 minute warm (relatively) dive in clear waters we ascended from our 11m – 5m shallow dive…all bearing giant smiles.  We got back on the boat and snapped some pictures with our new friends taking the opportunity to get some pics with our new banner to represent our club.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.06.59Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.58.09Once back on shore we cleaned our gear and hung it to dry.  We walked around the area looking at beach entry sites for training and night diving…yes there is plenty of night diving here!  The waters around the dive shop have plenty of shallow areas to conduct shallow training dives as well as deep dives only a short swim away.  Simply put this place was amazing…and we will definitely be arranging a group trip back.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.01.24

Dive Sites:

  • #1: Gwaneumdo(island) – pyeong bawi(flat rock)
  • #2: Jukdo (island)

Costs:

  • Basic Room at dive shop 50,000 krw per room per night (floor sleeping)
  • Dive/Boat fees: *90,000 krw per person per trip (2 dives)
  • Air only (no nitrox)

*price can be more depending on number of person on boat trip.  Usually there is a minimum amount due to fuel costs.

Dokdo

Many westerners don’t know about Dokdo.  Dokdo (island) is contested by the Japanese for ownership.  However it is currently occupied by Korea’s police and there is also a couple that lives on the island.  It was no small feat the we actually were able to set foot on the island.  There is no proper dock for the ferry to offload/load passengers.  The police and crew assist passengers getting on and off the ferry by holding a small ramp that rocks wildly in the waves.  The weather held out long enough for us to touch down on Dokdo however we weren’t allowed to climb the top due to time constraints.  The waves were knocking the ferry around and we were called back to the boat early.  Thankfully we were able to take a few snap shots (even with our banner) to make this amazing event.  Especially since we traveled 1 hour and 50 minutes from Ulleongdo to get there.  The water were amazingly clean and clear.  People were scurrying about to snap photos of their pilgrimage.  After 15 minutes or so we were getting back o the boat and headed back to Ulleongdo.

So much to do

There is so much to do for non-divers that everyone had fun even on dive days.  The minimum amount of time needed to log some dives and sightsee is a 4 day weekend.  First and last days being half travel days, 1/2 day of diving, and 1 1/2day dedicated non-diving (to include Dokdo)…this is enough to scratch the surface.  When we go back we will be focusing on diving and logging many dives in the area.

The only downside…

The only and yes only downside to Ulleongdo is that if you do not like Korean side-dishes or seafood you need to bring your own food supply.  Everything has seafood in it here, which is good but it is nice to have some western friendly food…for us we like at a minimum to have a western breakfast.  We really like eggs sandwiches.  I will say one caveat…the hotel we did stay at had a great coffee/breakfast shop and the lady did let us know that if we told her in advance she would have made us egg and toast for breakfast (for a fee of course).  The shop did serve fruit and nut yoghurt which was great but didn’t quite fill us up for all the walking, hiking and diving we did.  We will definitely take the lady up on her offer for western breakfast.

Simply put if you need non-seafood or western meals we suggest you bring some brats/hotdogs or peanut butter and jelly.

More information…

However if you are interested in what else we did besides diving (along with pricing information) please check out the BackpackBees Blog (post pending).

Memorial Day & Buddha’s Birthday 2015

Post-Dive Picture 38th Parallel DiversPADI Drysuit Specialty diver and PADI Divemaster were the two certifications earned this weekend.  There is no doubt that we made the most of a 3 day weekend. For the American’s it was Memorial Day weekend and for the Korean’s it was Buddha’s Birthday. Needless to say the dive shop and hotels at the coast were packed!  We got to meet some of our South Korean Facebook Followers and dive with some new friends as well…welcome to the 38th Parallel Divers Club Dave, glad to log some dives with you.

Despite some pretty strong winds the waters on the east coast were amazing.  This weekend probably ranked in the top 5 weekends for visibility in the past 5 years.  Definitely nice to jump into the water with conditions like this.  The ocean was super flat all weekend and little to no surge or current, even at the dive sites.

New Divemaster Dan with Instructor LarrySince most of us have been steadily knocking out certifications of students we decided to take this weekend for ourselves and make is a calm, lazy fun weekend.Congratulations to Dan on finishing his Divemaster certification (we know this was a long time coming), welcome to the pro ranks!  Congrats to Divemaster Jeff on earning his drysuit specialty as well.

We did several beach dives at Namae-ri Beach as well as several boat dives.  Our first boat dive was at Steel House.  Steel House is a 10m tall structure that rests in 30m of water.  Great for buoyancy practice swimming through all the beams.  We also dove Concrete Cubes, and just like the name says it was a Jeff and George Safety Stopbunch of concrete open cubes that allow for divers to swim in-between and around.  We saw a nice school of smaller sized fish and lost of small growth.  West Ridge was another dive site that we were able to log some time onto.  This site offered a natural rock formation and minor wall to swim around.  A nice dive to see rock formations and small growth, even some nudibranchs.

It would be an understatement to say the shop was packed.  Namae Scuba had extra staff on hand and both boats in the water for divers.  They also shuttled divers back and forth to the beach for shore diving.  There were several clubs diving with 38th Parallel Divers as well as 80+ college girls from the Suwon Women’s college.  Most of the girls were doing PADI Open Water Diver with some finishing up Advanced, Rescue and Divermaster.  Namae’s resident Course Director was also conducting an IDC (Instructor Development Course) for a few future dive instructors.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 16.29.53Despite all of this going on we can’t say enough how great their staff is.  They always make sure to keep us informed on dive conditions and dive times.  Namae staff also makes sure we have everything we need and make every attempt to help us work out any minor equipment issues anyone might have.  These guys are a great operation indeed…thanks Namae Scuba!

We are back!!

First Dive Trip 2015

Ok Ok we know…we have been gone a LONG time.  Since the PADI IDC, IE, Specialty Instructor Course and finally obtaining several Master Scuba Diver Training ratings we decided we would treat ourselves with waiting for some warmer weather before beginning the season.  We had a great weekend.  We met some new divers Jonathan and Stacey (my apologies if I misspelled either) and logged a few dives.  We are currently uploading the photos and will be editing the video shortly.  Check back in the next day or two for the video and photos.

Thanks again to Namae Scuba (aka Namae Dive Center) for an excellent weekend!

Yeongdeok Daejin Scuba


1412064200223What a weekend !!! The past weekend was a big one filled with a lot of adventure and new experiences. We went down to explore the seas at Yeongdeok (The town famous for crabs) It was a long drive but also a beautiful drive to get to the resort. As we stopped at the resort we were greeted with big smiles and willingness to help us get started. The one boat captain called on his daughter who is a junior in high school to come help us with some English translations. Our first dive was a beach dive to just to get everybody use to the water again and we also did a search and recovery dive. We did a deep dive to 26m which was cut short due to poor visibility. We decided to continue diving the following day in hope for better conditions. We had 1 night diver which we conducted in the comfort of the harbor and actually saw an abundance of sea life down in the dark. 

The evening was quite eventful. One of the owners of the resort invited all of us to join them for dinner and the nightly festivities which included barbecued pork belly to fill the bellies of just about the whole town and by my standards it was the best pork I have ever had in Korea. This was followed by another instructor making a chicken soup and another instructor serving us some sea cucumbers and so on. Felt like each instructor took their turn in serving and sharing some new experiences with us. And among all the festivities and feasting we promised our fellow Korean divers that we would dive with them the next morning at 7am pffff. That seemed like a good idea at the time. 

The next morning we were all finally ready at 8:30 and did our first dive for the day down to the wreck again with much more favorable conditions. The thermocline hit us quite hard at 19m but the visibility was much better and the wreck was really cool. We explored the wreck and then the resort instructor guided us to the underwater crab statues. After that dive some breakfast burritos were served up and thanks to Sora for pre-preparing them some studying and Knowledge reviews followed. Our last 2 dives were Search and recovery dives in which almost everyone were certified for.

Yeongdeok was an amazing experience with some fantastic people who were really kind and helpful to us. We would love to return to this gem of a dive site. Thank you to all who made this possible…CONGRATS to the new specialty and Advanced Open Water divers from this past weekend!  We are always looking for more 38th Parallel Divers!