LEARNING TO DIVE IN KOH TAO

Updated: May 20

Danielle and I had a great time exploring Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan. We loved them so much that we decided to complete the popular trio of islands by visiting Koh Tao. Our intention was clear... scuba dive and get our PADI qualifications.


It was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. We swam hand-in-hand through thousands of fish, explored a shipwreck and saw all manner of other sea life. If you've ever thought about doing anything like this then please read on as we will run through everything below.


WHO TO GO WITH?

11,000BHT per person is the going rate for the PADI open water qualification, which is likely the cheapest you will find in the whole world. I wouldn't advise jeopardising your safety by going with a dive school that would be willing to do it for less, as they'll likely cut corners to make up the difference.


We went with Ocean Sound and would recommend them in a heartbeat! They gave great advice about things to do and see on the island and provided incredible diving experiences. Our instructor was Zuzanna and she was brilliant. She made the course super fun but also ensured we learned how to be respectful and responsible divers. If we come back to Koh Tao again then they're who we will be diving with for sure!

3 people are in the picture staring at the camera who all look very happy. Starting on the left is a young woman with her blonde hair tied back, wearing a white bikini with sun flowers dotted around it. The image cuts off just under her chest and she has a huge smile on her face which show her white teeth. To her right is another woman of similar height who is leaning in and making a surf style hand gesture with her thumb and little finger. She has long brown and blonde hair that is parted down the middle and runs down the sides of her face and continues beyond her shoulders to her chest. She has black sunglasses on and is sticking her tongue out through her teeth. She has a small red vest on with her midriff showing. Behind and to the left of her is a taller young man who is stood smiling at the camera. You can see a section of his black swim shorts and then he has a bare torso and wet dark brown or black hair. He has a big smile on his face showing his teeth and beard stubble. They image is taken on a boat at the port and you can see the overhead covering on this particular boat as well as the faint sight of other boats in the background.
We were delighted to have found Ocean Sound, and Zuzanna (middle) made the course so much fun

PADI OPEN WATER CERTIFICATE

Both of us had very little scuba diving experience but had at least tried it in the past. I regretted not getting my PADI qualification when I dived on Koh Tao back in 2014, so I was keen to get it this time. The PADI open water certificate requires you to do a variety of dives, some classroom learning and an exam. We did it all over 3 days and had no issues throughout the process.


Day 1 - Pool day and classroom learning: This first day is very important, and while you can do it in the ocean it's good to get some experience in a safe pool environment first. We learnt how to check, prepare and put on all of the equipment. Then we jumped in the water and learnt how to breathe, as well as clear our masks underwater etc. It still blows Danielle's mind that you can clear a mask of water while underwater.

A man and woman can be seen here tinkering with some scuba diving equipment. On the left you can see a woman standing, but bent forward slightly, facing the camera and wearing a dark brown bikini with her hair tied back. She is holding on to her inflatable scuba diving jacket and checking her equipment over to make sure it is safe to use. The jacket is attached to her scuba oxygen tank and you can see other things like flippers scattered around her. To the right is a young man who is doing the same thing and he is standing, but slightly bent forward, wearing black swim shorts and you can see a tattoo on his left shoulder. He has short dark brown hair. They are on dry land, checking their equipment over in a safe environment. They are on a brick platform with a small fence behind the pair stretching across the back of the platform. There are some trees behind them and a garden with plants surrounding a patch of grass. To the left at the back there is a row of scooters parked up under a bamboo shelter.
Both of us learning how to safely prepare and check our scuba equipment by the pool

Day 2- ocean dives: The ocean is a very different place from the swimming pool. It's nerve-wracking standing on the boat about to jump in...we were very grateful for day 1 at this point! We took it one breath at a time and before you know it you're in awe of all the incredible sights around you. We did 2 dives this day and learnt a bunch of skills.


Day 3 - Exam and final dives: We passed with 100%! As long as you've paid attention, had discussions with your instructor and read the material you are given then you should be fine. With that done we cracked on with the dives for the day. We made it to 18m this day, the max depth for a PADI open water diver.

A man and woman can be seen underwater while scuba diving. They are horizontal in the water facing directly towards the camera and you can see the oxygen bubbles rising above their heads. In the front to the right is the woman who has a mask on her face, her inflatable BCD jacket on and she is making a surf style hand gesture with her hands by closing her middle 3 fingers and stretching out her thumb and little finger. Her legs are mid kick behind her and you can see a huge rock that towers up from the bottom of the ocean to her left that is covered in coral. The man is behind the woman and to her right as he makes the same hand gesture bit with both hands either side of him. He is facing the camera and there are less bubbles over his head meaning he is likely taking a breath in at the time of the photo. He is wearing all the same equipment as the woman and they are both wearing short black wet suits. The rocks that can be seen on the right side of the image appear a green colour and then behind the pair is the vast ocean which ranges from light blue at the top to very dark blue below.
Once we were Open Water certified we managed to take our GoPro and get some great pictures

THE ADVANCED PADI QUALIFICATION

We had so much fun on this first course that we decided to go for the advanced too. By doing both courses through Ocean Sound we got a slight discount so it was 9,000THB each instead of 10,000THB. The advanced course allows you to reach depths of 30m, learn to navigate better and do some mobility training.


Day 1 - 2 dives at Chumphon: This is the best dive spot in Koh Tao, and you have to be able to reach 30m to see it. We didn't get to see one, but this is your best chance at seeing a whale shark! There were so many fish here it was crazy. It was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives and made the course worthwhile.


Day 2 - 3 dives (navigation, enhanced mobility and shipwreck): The Ship Wreck was the sole reason I wanted to do the advanced course. The first dive of the day was working on our navigation, and it was tough. We learnt how to use a compass underwater to reach certain points, as well as make it back to our boat safely. Next up was mobility training, which involved swimming through obstacles, upside down and backwards. We loved it, but next up was the big dive!

A man and woman can be seen here posing for the camera while scuba diving around an old ship wreck. The woman is tacking a selfie and you can see her right arm stretching out of the frame to tack the shot of them both. Her oxygen bubbles are slightly covering the man, but not enough to distort him too much. The woman has her oxygen mask in her mouth and her eyes are visible looking at the camera through her mask. She is making a piece sign with her left hand. The man is hovering above, and behind her. His face is partly covered by the oxygen bubbles from the woman and his snorkel is seen pocking out at the side. He is laid horizontal and you can see his body stretching out to his fins behind him. They are both wearing short black wetsuits and to the right of them is a towering ship wreck. The footage of the wreck is close but you can see the damage the ocean has caused to the structure as it rusts and is covered in ocean life. It looks to be the captains cockpit they are next to as you can see the windows to it in the shot. There are a host of tiny fish that have made this their home all swimming around the structure and through the windows. Behind them is simply the vast ocean which looks a mix of blue and green but nothing other than the ocean is behind the two.
While swimming around the shipwreck we made sure we stopped for a few poses along the way

We began to submerge and all of a sudden the outline of the ship began to appear. It looked like a ghost ship just hovering there. The visibility was excellent and there were so many fish, including a huge grouper in the captain's cabin. The whole experience was better than we could have ever hoped for, and something we can't wait to do more of in Bali!

A man and woman can be seen hovering upright in the water while scuba diving. They are posing for a photo while facing the camera and in between the pair is the outline of a sunder ship. The ship disappears after the front turret gun, and because of the murky waters at this depth it resembles a ghost ship. The paid are apart with the ship in between them. A woman is on the left with a man on the right and they look to be a silhouette of themselves. The ship between them disappears into the vast ocean behind. The shades of colour are more green than blue, and they get darker as the light struggles to reach the depths further down the image. The ship looks like it has been overtaken by the ocean as it is old, rust covered and home to all manner of sea life, barnacles and algae.
We managed to pose for a great picture with the 'Ghost Ship'

IT'S MORE THAN JUST A COURSE

These courses were excellent! we both loved the experience so much and will dive as often as we can from here on out. Danielle was even able to overcome a slight fear of the ocean. It's not a crippling fear, but one that caused her slight anxiousness. We saw animals up close that would have terrified either of us in the past, but you get to see how little they care about you being there. They simply go about their day as if you weren't even there, and that helped us both feel a lot more at ease in the ocean.


We've already started to research other dive sites around Bali that we can't wait to visit!


 

Anyone looking to explore more of Thailand can check out our travel guides for Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan.


Follow us on Instagram & TikTok as we tackle the what, where, why and how we’re doing this... as well as all the twists and turns along the way.



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