What is it like to dive in paradise? Well! Fortunately, I got the opportunity to find out in Koh Tao, Thailand! While traveling in the south of Thailand and exploring the many islands, beaches, and tropical paradise I talked to many other travelers and heard about the infamous island of Koh Tao.
The island is nestled to the north of the neighboring islands Koh Phangnan and Koh Sumi. I had heard that it is a popular diving destination and the cheapest diving location in the world!
You can get your PADI certified open water certification or advanced diving certification depending on your time, money, and interest to dive. I had never dived before but was interested in getting my open water certification.
Prior to arriving to the island of Koh Tao, I was staying on the island of Koh Phangan and was debating where I should go next. There were several other travelers that I was hanging out with and I have found that if you find other people that you jive with, then you should alter your plans if you have that luxury to do so. At last, I decided that I wanted to travel to Koh Tao and pursue my open water diving license.
How To Get To Koh Tao
The only option you have for getting to Koh Tao from Koh Phangan is via ferry. There are ferries that leave daily at different times. Keep in mind that different ferry companies have different departure times, speed, and cost.
You will most likely be able to book from your hotel, guesthouse, or wherever you are staying. After I booked my ferry ticket, I took a Songtau (Taxi) to the ferry terminal and waited in the blistering heat for the ferry to arrive.
The ferry ride was approximately 3 hours but was pretty nice and scenic. You can walk around on the boat and view the surrounding ocean from different vantage points or alternatively you can seat comfortably in the bottom of the boat in an air-conditioned open room. The boat ride goes by relatively fast and there are plenty of other people to talk to and share stories with.
Once Koh Tao comes into view, you can see guest houses dotting the hilly terrain of the island. The port of the island is heavily filled with boats of different sizes including speed boats, fishing boats, long-tail boats, and transportation vessels.
Once the boat got close to the dock, the walking pier that connects to the island appears structurally questionable as it appears to be built with drift wood. Everyone on the ferry is lining up and wanting to get off the boat quickly. While walking across the pier, I was conscious about where I was stepping.
Deciding On A Dive Shop
After departing from the ferry and the pier, you are bombarded by taxi drivers and people representing different diving companies trying to convince you to dive with them.
As described in previous posts I try to walk past all the noise and explore the area for myself. This allows me to get a feel for the town and ask questions about companies that interest me by walking into their shop.
There are over 70 dive companies on this small island, so competition for customers is fierce. Be sure to check out different operations and see what you like the best.
As I was walking around I walked past Impian Divers, located up the street from the 1st major intersection on the island. There was a gentlemen named Robert standing outside the shop. I approached him and asked him about what dive courses he offered.
Robert was easy to talk to and straight forward about what he had to offer. After talking to him for a while, I found out that he was from Holland which was cool because I have Dutch heritage. I decided to take the course through his shop and support the local Dutchmen.
Robert explained the course overview, what was included, and where I would be going on my dives. His shop is distinguished from other shops because his classes have a low student-instructor ratio that do not exceed more than 4-1.
The 1st day of the course takes place in the ocean whereas other companies run their 1st day in a pool. His instructional staff speak a variety of languages so depending on your ethnic back-round there will be someone that will be able to talk to you in your native tongue. His shop is centrally located and is an easy walk to the boat that takes you to different dive locations.
The price is 9000BHT or $300USD for a 4-day PADI certified open water course. This includes instruction, book materials, dive equipment, and transportation to different dive sites. Additionally, you get access to an accommodation that is right around the corner from the shop.
The 1 bedroom accommodation is nice and includes a bathroom but no air-conditioning. But there is a fan to keep you plenty comfortable. Another great feature regarding the location is that there is an amazing french bakery next door which has an appetite quenching menu and european style coffee. mmm… What else do you need?
The 1st morning I met my instructor named Dave whom was from England. He had a brilliant English ascent and used awesome English words such as, “mental,’ to describe things that are crazy, which I think is hilarious and I would bust out laughing every time he used it in conversation.
He had a lot of diving experience and was delightful to have as an instructor. An additional benefit is that I was his only student because it is low season and there are limited amount of students to go around. I was psyched to be the only student and get through the material at my pace. Awesome!
The 1st day comprised of diving basics, gear overview, and introduction to diving curriculum. Dave, my instructor was very entertaining and his instruction was clear and concise. After introducing curriculum in the morning we went for our 1st dive in the afternoon. The dive was in shallow water on the north western corner of the island at an area called, “Koh Nang Yuan.”
Dave led me in several basic exercises that I needed to demonstrate. I had to perform the exercises with proficiency and then we dived to a max of 5 meters. This area was very beautiful and had a variety of marine life including tropical fish, coral, and other sea creatures.
The following three days followed a similar schedule of meeting in the morning, going over curriculum, and then diving in the afternoon. The dives progressed in the skills that I had to perform and depth that we dived to.
The open water certification does not allow you to exceed a depth of 40meters. Each day included new dive locations that we were able to explore. These locations each had different features, coral formations, and sea creatures.
After each day I had to review the curriculum and read from a text book to prepare for the following day. Additionally, at the end of the course there is a multiple choice test that you must pass in order to receive the certification.
After the 4 days, I passed the open water certification and passed the test. Now! I can dive anywhere in the world where PADI is recognized! Dive on!