A Guide to Becoming an Open Water Diver in Koh Tao

A Guide to Becoming an Open Water Diver in Koh Tao

When we left the UK in January, I wasn’t planning to go diving while we were out here. Sure I knew about it…put on loads of gear, jump off a boat and then get eaten by a shark. No big deal.

Only as we met more and more people who loved it, did I consider that it would be an interesting thing to do. Then, finally I committed, and dragged Lucy to Koh Tao so that I could become yet another statistic.

Koh Tao – not bad, not bad at all

Koh Tao is basically the diving Mecca for cheapskate backpackers. Not only is it a gorgeous little island, but it offers pretty much the cheapest place in the world to become a certified diver.

Whoa whoa whoa. What is this certified malarkey you’re chatting about Oli?

Well, in a nutshell, to dive anywhere in the world you have to have completed an Open Water course. This is an introduction to diving; it involves learning some of the theory, taking a test, and practicing how to recover from some potentially stressful situations when you’re down under the surface. The Open Water course allows you to go no deeper than 18m (60ft). 18m is actually quite a long way. Especially when you’re surrounded by water, so don’t worry about that!

This Open Water certification is why people flock to Koh Tao. As I said, it’s one of the cheapest places to get it, mainly because there is so much competition – there are now 55 dive shops on the island.

An example of the “flocking”. Also, please note horrendous dress sense of travellers!

All that competition can mean that it’s difficult to decide who to dive with. Each dive shop has it’s different style, group size, costs and instructors. Lucy directed me to Alex in Wanderland’s diving post (Actually on Nomadic Matt’s site, but whatevs). For those of you who follow us, you’ll know that Alex is the third person in our relationship, as I think Lucy might actually love her more than she loves me.

Anyway, I chose Roctopus Dive, who offer SSI Open Water Courses from B8500 (£170/$280). You can tack on accommodation if you want, but we found better value outside of the dive-shop approved spots.

Whoa whoa whoa again…who is SSI and why is he here??


Well, SSI are just one of many certification agencies in the diving game. PADI is the biggest, and the one that most people have heard of, but SSI are very similar, and actually cheaper than PADI because PADI make you purchase your textbooks, whereas SSI do not.

Top Tip – You can certify with ANY agency, and be qualified to dive anywhere in the world.

The actual course is a lot of fun, and takes 3 and a half days. Within this, you normally have 5 dives, and you practice the skills I alluded to earlier on. These mainly involve the “what do you do if you lost x?” Where x is your mask, or respirator (thing you breathe out of), or buddy (person you dive with).

Diving at sunset

As well as the diving, there is some class work, homework and also a test. Sounds like a barrel of laughs hey?! Well actually it is, especially if you enjoy 80s and 90s music. The videos you have to watch are rife with it.

Boy there were a lot of definitions up there. Bet you didn’t expect to learn that much when you clicked through did you? Well, you’re welcome. But thank me later, I’m out diving.

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