PADI Open Water in Koh Tao
First of all, I, by any stretch of the imagination, do not claim to be an expert in diving. However, I do have first hand experience in going from having absolutely no clue about diving, to going to Koh Tao, completing my first ever dive and in turn, completing my PADI Open Water Certificate. Which consequently led to more diving in South East Asia and I’m sure plenty more diving across the globe in the future.
Koh Tao is well known for diving and there is certainly no lack of choice when it comes to dive shops, but with all that choice you might be thinking which one to pick?!
Which Dive Shop?!
First of all (this might sound obvious) it is important to find a dive shop that teaches in your language. The majority do teach in English, but there are various shops that teach in; French, Italian, Spanish etc. Most people on Koh Tao (like us) won’t have a clue what good dive shops look like and in turn, what bad dive shops look like. It might be worth doing a bit of research before choosing who to learn to dive with. Having a search on TripAdvisor or using well known travel guides such as Lonely Planet, will usually give you a list of reputable dive shops you can check out.
We had a search and looked at reviews and we ended up deciding to do our PADI Open Water with Siam Scuba Dive Center. I couldn’t recommend this place any more, we ended up being really happy with our decision.
It all depends on what you’re looking for which will determine the price of your course. There are certain dive shops which offer accommodation and meals including in the cost of your course, which would cost more than a usual course, but could in turn save you money as you wouldn’t have to find more expensive accommodation elsewhere. An Open Water course with including meals and accommodation, would usually cost around 9800 Baht ($275). Where a course without meals and accommodation would cost around 8500 Baht ($240), which is exactly what our course cost.
The PADI Open Water course was a mixture of theory and practical, overall, the course lasted 3 days. Each day was always something different, something we were yet to experience. Each dive we completed was a new adventure, being lucky enough to dive around new reefs, see marine life we didn’t even know existed.
The first day mostly consisted of getting a feel for diving – what it’s like to actually breath underwater, how the equipment works, how to stay balanced underwater etc. We completed a course called Discover Scuba Dive Course, this isn’t an actual certification, but the idea was for us to see whether we actually wanted to go ahead with our Open Water course, in effect we could have backed out after day 1 for a reduced price. Luckily we enjoyed our first day and we we went ahead with the course. Breathing underwater for the first time was certainly a strange experience, I panicked a little bit at first and nearly choked. Also, it’s quite difficult to get a hang of using the equipment at first, but with a bit of practice, we soon got used to it.
Unfortunately, the course isn’t all diving, it does have some theory involved. After completing the Discover Scuba Course, we made our way back to Siam Scuba and spent an hour or two watching, not the most exciting, but I suppose essential video based around health and safety while diving.
Finally the moment we were waiting for, our first proper dive. I’ve got to admit I was slightly nervous on the boat while we were heading to the dive site, however, as soon as I was underwater all the nerves disappeared.
Our first dive was at a reef called Twins. While our second dive was at another reef called Sairee Reef. Our deepest dive during day 2 was 12m. Some of the sights we saw while diving was nothing we imagined. We saw all kinds of tropical sea life, from huge turtles gliding across the reef to bright Red Sea snakes. The amazing thing was we knew we had an even deeper dive to come the next day, where hopefully we would get to catch a glimpse of even more strange and wonderful sea creatures.
In between dives we would learn more vital skills, such as removing, replacing and clearing the mark, weight removal and replacement and more.
I’m not sure whether the instructors did this for a bit of a laugh, but we also had to do a swimming test. This sounds easy enough, but after 2 months of drinking, eating and no exercise and with waves crashing against my face, it definitely wasn’t!
Like I’ve said previously, in an ideal world the course would have been all diving, but the theory section is important and day 2 ended the same as day 1 with an hours video watching and booklet questionnaire completing back at Siam.
Our final day began with a very early start. One of the very few times we were up and out before sunrise. We made our way to the boat and we were on our way to White Rock Reef by 6am. That was after we saw two people having a bit of morning sex in the water. The strange thing is they didn’t even stop when they saw us.
Anyway, moving on, as I said our first dive of the day was at White Rock Reef. Following our first dive, we made our final dive of the course, this was at a previous dive site – Twin Peaks. Our final dive was our deepest dive, 18m.
Completing our Open Water was absolutely amazing and it was well worth the money. Diving was a completely new and incomparable experience. I would urge anyone, if you get the opportunity, do your Open Water, so you are certified to dive where ever you want in the world up to 18m.
One of Koh Tao’s most popular dive sites. The site goes by the name of Twins or Twin Peaks, due to the two identical rock formations which make up the reef. The reef has a diving range of 5-20m, therefore making this an ideal dive site for all levels of diving experience.
It was here where we got our first ever look at a turtle in person. There’s plenty of other sea life that roam the reef, including; Blue Spotted Stingray, Yellow Tail Baraccuda, Sea Snakes, Clown Fish (also known as Nemo) and many more.
This dive site is perfect for beginners, due to its maximum depth of 10m. The reef consists of two large rock boulders and a shallow coral garden, which makes this site perfect for spotting a variety of sea life, including Blue Spotted Stingray and Barracudas.
This site is located a stones throw away from Sairee Beach. As with White Rock, this reef has a maximum depth of 10m. This reef is also great for snorkelling, if your budget won’t stretch to diving.
Koh Tao’s surrounding sea is littered with reefs which are used as dive sites. The above 3 are the only reefs that where we did dive during our Open Water. Information on what else Koh Tao’s reefs have to offer divers can be viewed on Siam Scuba’s website.