A month ago I visited Koh Tao, Thailand to complete my PADI Open Water Diving Course. It was awesome! I started the journey a little nervous as I had never dove before. If you are thinking of doing a diving course in Koh Tao, don’t worry! There are three reasons you should complete your diving course in Koh Tao, Thailand.
a) Koh Tao is the most tranquil, beautiful, tropical island I have ever visited.
b) Our diving instructor from Buddha View Dive Resort in Koh Tao made us feel as safe we could possibly feel.
c) You’ll make incredible friends while experiencing something life changing.
Before setting off on my journey through what to expect on your PADI Open Water Diving Course I’m going to give you an introduction to Koh Tao, in Thailand.
About Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao is an island in the South of Thailand named after its turtle-like shape. The island is part of the Surat Thani Province, a name you may have heard of if you’ve taken the boat from the mainland.
Koh Tao is tiny! Made up of just under 1,500 people, the island is a mere 21 square kilometers. Koh Tao, Thailand is less developed and less commercial than Ko Phangan and Ko Samui. In fact, it’s not commercial at all, which is why it is so peaceful. We stayed in the Buddha View Dive Resort on Chalok Baan Kao Bay.
I knew that as soon as we arrived I had to get started with my diving course at 4pm. That said, it was hard to concentrate on anything but the amazing, crystal clear sea and white beach on my doorstep. Despite the room not being as fancy as our place in Ko Phangan, our location in Koh Tao was on point! Plus, the room was free with my diving course so I couldn’t complain too much 😉
A nice big restaurant, an awesome barbecue every night, and some new friends to keep us company. What else could a girl ask for? I’ll go into this in more detail soon but you know those Belgians, Albanians, and French we met briefly on our way to Ko Phangan? There they were! Not only that, we got the added bonus of a cool Hawaiian couple– yes they are as cool as you think, they’re from Hawaii, duh?!
The PADI Open Water Diving Course in Koh Tao, Thailand
The PADI Open Water diving Course at Buddha View Dive Resort in Koh Tao, Thailand takes place over three and a half days. These are made up of:
- An orientation
- Knowledge development (simply known as theory)
- A little more theory
- Confined water training, i.e. diving in a pool
- Four PADI open water training dives
All this will run alongside some fun *sarcasm* homework, five stressful *sarcasm* modules with exams, and one final exam. The diving course costs approximately 9,800 Baht or 200GBP, a price lower than anywhere else in the world so make the most of it!
Day 1 Of The PADI Open Water Diving Course
Diving Course Schedule on Day 1: 4pm to 6pm
So, here comes the serious stuff! What to expect on your PADI Open Water Diving Course? Well, on the first day: not much. Tom and I were welcomed with open arms at the Buddha View Dive Resort. My instructor, Sandra, gave me an intro to the resort and some studying materials for my diving course.
Bare with me, the first afternoon isn’t all that exciting (that said, I met my diving course buddy: Lennaert, who is awesome). On the first day you will get the famous PADI Open water Diving Course manual and watch two hours of, sorry divers, not so interesting videos.
I say not so interesting, but they are really. It’s just I hate any form of studying. I can’t do it, it bores me, and unless I am going to learn an exceptionally impressive skill within that time, I shut down. Yes, closed minded, but true. Anyway, you’ll learn the basics of your diving course.
Module 1 and 2 of The Diving Course
The truth is, if you haven’t taken part in a diving course before, these sections are very important. Some of the subjects you will touch on include:
- Safe dive practices
- Scuba equipment
- The effects of pressure under water
- The buddy system
- Basic decompression theory
These sections will get you excited but also may leave you a little apprehensive for the rest of the diving course. The excited part is great! That’s how you should feel. The nervous part plays its role. One thing you will learn is to respect the sea. This may sound silly but as a person who spends at least a couple of hours a day in the sea, I’ve never respected her more than I do now that I have completed my diving course! Knowing about the risks isn’t about scaring the living daylights out of you. It’s about making you realise there are risks but with the right training, you can avoid them.
Day 2 Of The PADI Open Water Diving Course
Diving Course Schedule on Day 2: 8am to 11.30am – 12.15pm to 5pm
Day 2 is what I’m talking about! Another morning of theory, going into more detail about the topics outlined above. The theory side of the diving course takes a turn for the better. A more in-depth explanation about the equipment, safety procedures, the buddy system and so on. I enjoyed it *not being sarcastic in case you didn’t realise*.
By the time it got to our lunch break I was eager to get in the water, albeit the pool. We had about half an hour to eat and back to our diving course we went. Not before finishing the module one and two quizzes for good measure.
The Confined Water Training Part of the PADI Open Water Diving Course
Now, before I go into the pool training side of the PADI Open Water Diving Course, I want to highlight something that I didn’t realise. This is most likely me being stupid but I’ll take it. How heavy do you think a diving tank is? The answer is bloody heavy! Especially when you’re not expecting it and you’ve been layered with an extra few kilos of weights around your waist.
First things first: don’t expect it to be easy. Once we swam 20 lengths of the pool, got our wetsuits on, did our theory with the tanks, set up the gear, and did the buddy checks it was time to get in the water! Yey!!! Fins on, mask on, one foot in front of the other and we were in! The feeling of floating on the surface knowing you’re about to breathe underwater is awesome.
It may seem silly as you’re only in the pool the first time but bare in mind, next time, you’ll be in the sea. All types of living organisms swimming around you, going by their day to day lives- hmm, what a feeling.
During this part of the PADI diving course you’ll learn how to clear and regulate your mask under water, alternate air source use, control your buoyancy, communicate with hand signals, descend, and ascend. Aside from the valuable knowledge, you’ll be able to learn some cool underwater tricks (if your instructor is as cool as ours was!).
Day 2: done! Off to rinse off the kit, pack it away, and face a good night sleep. Let the excitement for our first real dive truly begin. All this after having a good jam on the beach with Justin and Jenae.
Day 3 Of The PADI Open Water Diving Course
Diving Course Schedule on Day 3: 8am to 11.30am – 12.15pm to 5pm
Oh, yes! Another morning of theory. But it’s not just any theory. You’ll learn about decompression. If there is one thing that worried me, it’s this. The idea of getting ill from not doing the stop/ decompression properly gave me the creeps. I’m sure it’s not as bad as it sounds but better to avoid I reckon. For those of you who don’t know, a decompression stop is a stop you make when ascending from your dive. It allows you to get rid of any nasty gases in your body e.g. nitrogen. Decompression sickness is when you don’t do the stop properly and these gases expand. It can make you very ill. This isn’t to scare anyone away! Our diving instructor, Sandra, told us she has never experienced it in the many years she’s been diving.
The third day of your diving course will enable you to plan your dives safely and keep your dive profile. Besides learning about decompression, you’ll get to grips with dive planning using PADI’s Recreational Dive Planner (RDP), and you’ll learn how to use a dive computer. These are two skills that you will practice again on the boat and in the sea.
The Diving Boat
Now onto the exciting (and pretty petrifying) stuff that will change your perception of the ocean and show you the time of your life. Out to sea! This part is the best part of the diving course. You’ll grab a taxi to the port with your equipment and get on a dive boat.
Dive boats are different to normal ones as they are specially designed to hold the tanks. Jumping on the boat was one of the most stressful times for me. Firstly, I don’t like boats and get seasick. Secondly, there were so many people and the boat was rocking which was scary (I know: LAME!). Lastly, getting equipment on while feeling sick knowing that you have to get it right otherwise it’s back out the water could give anyone an anxiety attack.
Your First Time at Sea During Your Diving Course
Once you’ve chucked on your equipment and done your buddy check you’ll be asked to approach the edge of the boat. This is my least favourite time. Knowing you have to walk far enough out the boat, without dropping your mask or slipping. So scary! I’m not sure if it was because of the waves or my fear of open sea. Either way, I felt sick with anxiety.
1, 2, 3, we’re in! Shit, the waves are still smashing me on the face, I haven’t inflated my jacket, or given the okay sign. Sandra is with me, everything is okay, I calmed down. Everyone huddles up and agrees to go down.
I never knew that doing a diving course would have this effect. All your worries float away. The only thing on your mind is the water and your breath. Instead of your heart pounding, it slows. There is no loud noise, no motion, no weight on your shoulders. The only way I can describe it is like a deep meditation. Forty-five minutes to an hour of breathing exercises. Ones that make you feel so complete, calm, and at peace with yourself.
A feeling that I don’t believe you can get from anything else. Or at least a feeling I have never experienced before now. This part of the PADI Open Water Diving Course isn’t just about teaching you how to respect the sea. It is about teaching to be at peace with it.
From the beginning, you will go through the motions of the diving course and put everything you’ve learnt to the test. During the first two open water dives in your diving course, your maximum depth will be 12 meters. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make your head explode like you’d think. I was worried about my ears and the pressure but with the right technique, it passes.
The coral reefs are beautiful! You’ll go to two different sites for about 40 to 45 minutes each. On the first two dives of our diving course, we were lucky with visibility. The water was as clear as glass with beautiful fish and other organisms going about their daily lives. From what I can remember our two diving course sites for the first day were Twins and Junkyard Reef. Two awesome spots with real and artificial coral.
Day 4 Of The PADI Open Water Diving Course
Schedule Course Schedule on Day 4: 7.30am to 12.30pm
It’s time for the last two dives of our diving course. The conditions were no better, the boat ride was longer but we were going down to 18 meters! Only two skills to go through to complete the PADI Open Water Diving Course and then we’re free to roam the big blue sea.
We saw more bright corals, stingrays, colorful tropical fish, shrimp, and all sorts of beautiful creatures. Unfortunately, the last day of our diving course did not introduce us to any whale sharks or turtles but hey, you get what you’re given!
Our last two dive sites were South West Pinnacle and White Rock. These were my two favourite diving course sites. There seemed to be more coral and the reefs were not artificial. We had a videographer with us from Buddha View Dive Resort who filmed the last day of our diving course.
After we got the two skills out of the way, it was time to enjoy the last 48 minutes of our diving course. We bobbed around looking for creatures and enjoying the pure peacefulness of the whole experience. So beautiful! It’s hard to put into words, let alone typing it out.
Passing Your PADI Open Water Diving Course In Koh Tao, Thailand
The diving course was over. Sandra taught us to fill in our diver’s logbook. A book which you will receive at the end of your diving course to log all your dives for future reference. We did the final section of our diving course theory test and there you have it: two new certified divers! After that, it was beer time! We sat at the bar watching the awesome video (see below) that had been put together for us. It was incredible!
We’d completed our PADI Open Water Diving Course! Aside from this, we now have the opportunity to explore the sea further in different locations around the world. A privilege few have, that offers an experience beyond this world.
A big thank you to Sandra and my buddy Lennaert for a great PADI Open Water Diving Course at Buddha View Dive Resort in Koh Tao, Thailand!
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All the best,