Koh Tao, the Divers paradise. As many like minded backpackers before me I have came to this island as a traveller to do one specific thing, my Open Water PADI course.
Did you know that this place, famously known as ‘Turtle Island’ is second in the world when it comes to the number of annual certifications per year? For an island that spans over only 8 square miles that’s pretty impressive!
There are over 50 dive schools here which means choosing the right place for you can be quite daunting, so I’ve decided to break it down a bit.
After days of researching, asking around and weighing up pros and cons we finally came to a decision. Please note that I have only booked our course today, and we start tomorrow afternoon so feedback on the course itself will follow.
Sairee beach is where it’s at in Koh Tao for nightlife and restaurants. It’s quieter in most parts of the island with some bays in the south west being non existent to nightlife. So if you’re coming to Koh Tao just to do your OW or SSI course, or just want to stay somewhere that’s a bit lively, I’d highly recommend finding a place along Sairee beach, most of the best dive schools are at the North end.
After trip advisor, nomadic Matt and lonely planet, I decided on a top three that we wanted to go and have a chat with:
Scuba Junction (great reviews on lots of blogs)
Simple Life – professional and organised looking school
Roctopus (no. 2 trip advisor)
Frequently mentioned also includes DJL, blue ban, crystal dive and Impian Divers But o believe these are all big dive groups. This means that the schools take up to 16 people to teach at a time. As a completely inexperienced diver who is not 100% confident, I feel much safer learning in a small group where more attention is focused on each individual, hence why I chose to look at three that do the courses in groups of 4.
So here’s my personal low down:
A friendly woman welcomed us in and showed us a clear itinerary of the 3.5 day course. She explained it well. Unfortunately there was a bit of pressure to book because of the new year and she couldnt promise any accommodation for us because of how busy it is this week being new year and all.
– 8,600 baht includes all material and online manual instead of the dive book (saves backpack space and more Eco friendly)
Liam and I were greeted by a friendly young lady who gave us a very fast and brief low down of what the 3 and a half days entails. (yes I’m aware you’ve told 1000 people before me but hey it’s the first time I’m hearing it from you please slow down)
They dive in small groups, your initial training is in the sea and not a swimming pool for practice dives. It was the most expensive at 10,800 baht. Though because ‘it’s Christmas’ it is discounted to 9800.
Apparently the reason this is more expensive than other schools is because Scuba Junctions OW course includes diving insurance, and a computer watch while your diving to show how deep you’re going.
There is also accommodation options that SJ can put discounts on for divers.
I read on Nomadic Matt that Scuba Junction requires a medical check up letter if you have a medical condition. I was pretty sure I wanted to go with this school after reading some good things but was worried about the doctor sign off requirement. This is true but please note; all the diving schools here require a medical note if you have a medical condition not just Scuba Junction.
Fear not my iller friends, all you have to do is go the a diving consultation clinic and get your blood pressure taken.
It cost me 200 baht and I had a note 4 minutes later. Romeo Done.
Last stop on the map..
We were greeted by two lovely guys as we walked in, Nick and Dante, one American, one English, both of which shook our hand and introduced themselves, and started chatting away asking about our holiday etc (this had not happened in our previous encounters at the other two schools..I couldn’t even tell you their names.)
Everyone seemed really nice and friendly, it was explained to us why schools dive in different places dependant on weather etc. and there was a clear explanation of the itinerary. Roctopus even have their own hotel as accommodation 5 minutes up the road. It’s only 600 baht for a double room.
We’ll be staying there as of the 1st Jan, but as we start our course tomorrow, there going to pick us up from our hotel for free until then. How lovely?!
Better still, the 3 and a half day course was the cheapest at 8,500 baht.
To be honest after all this, the choice was easy. It’s true what they say, it’s not the school you go with, it’s the instructors you connect with.
So let’s hope that Roctopus lives up to our expectations!
Did you do your open water course on Koh Tao?
Would you recommend it?