We arrived at the Seogwipo port in the late morning and decided at the eleventh hour to join the Jeju submarine tour. With 1 hour to spare, we decided to explore the little island Saesom (Bird Island). Saesom can only be reached via the Saeyeon bridge. This bridge beckoned me from day 1 of my arrival. From TGG's balcony, the illuminated bridge at night was akin to a light beacon in the dark. It was opened to public in 2009 and was modelled after the traditional boat of Jeju. Touted as the longest footbridge in Korea, visitors can be seen streaming to and fro the bridge at all times. The bridge was wide and arched with a mast-like structure standing tall and proud in the center of the bridge. It offered beautiful views of surrounding islands dotting the blue sea and Mt Halla in the background of Seogwipo town. Mid-way, we spotted a grey heron feeding at the foot of the bridge while women divers were busy diving further afield perhaps for abalone, seaweed and sea cucumber. The bridge was divided into 2 levels with the upper deck linking directly to Saesom. A spiral staircase leads visitors to the lower deck. At the end of the bridge, there is a resting platform that allows visitors to rest and recharge.
Saesom, in local Jeju dialect means bird island. It has a 1.2km trail that hugs the circumference of the island. The trail can be easily completed within 30 minutes. The trail offers interesting views of the spectacular views of the sea, of Munsom island and 2 red and white lighthouses nearby and of Mt Halla towering over Seogwipo. There is not much flora or fauna on the little island. We completed the trail within 40 minutes, taking our time to admire the scenery and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Most tourists avoid the island, chosing to stop at the observation platform before heading back across the bridge towards the port again.
The submarine tour is perhaps the steepest tour I had paid for during my visit to Jeju. At KRW 51500 per person for 40 minutes, I felt a tinge of pain when I opened my wallet to dig out a wad of notes. The Seogwipo submarine tour was opened in 1988 and was then, the only one offering submarine tours in Asia. The submarine JIAH is docked near Munsom island. We were ushered on board a ferry that brought us to the submarine. The ride was short and spiked by humorous commentary from the captain of the boat; unfortunately in Korean. Prior to boarding the submarine, everyone had their photos taken (for sale at the end of the tour) before we climbed down the narrow staircase into the small submarine.
The submarine was made in Finland and spans 22m by 4.6m wide. It was cramped but each couple had a port window so that everyone would be able to enjoy the ocean views unobstructed. The submarine dives as deep as 30m. Non-Korean speakers were issued with a sheet of paper that provided a summary of the dive, the types of coral and fish that could be seen as well as tips on how to take a good picture from the viewport. As we slowly submerged, I could feel my lung constricting and could not stop coughing. What made my experience worse was that my camera decided to die at this moment (fortunately, I had a smartphone). I was also disappointed that the submarine merely submerged downwards and did not travel beyond the Munsom island confines.
To attract fish, a diver swam around the submarine, stopping at each port window to allow everyone a chance to take pictures of the schools of fish following him. The children were delighted, so were the adults for that matter. The highlight was when the submarine reached a depth of 30m and switched on the lights, illuminating the coral- Mandrami. A series of flash inside the submarine closely followed with squeals of awe emitted from almost everyone. Again, we had a lively commentary with lots of laughter during the tour; we were unfortunately, not able to understand and join in. Still, we were happy to sit back (cough notwithstanding) and enjoy the magic of the underwater world. The entire tour, inclusive of transfers to and from the submarine took about 1 hour. Visitors were then directed towards a booth next to the pier to select the photos that were taken prior and in the submarine. In all, we did enjoy the tour of the underworld (although I still feel a tinge of pain whenever I remember the price of admission).
Free entry from sunrise to 10 pm daily
Free entry from sunrise to 10 pm daily
Departs every 40 minutes from 7,20am to 6.40pm
KRW 50000 for the tour
KRW 1500 for the Maritime park admission fee