When you’re on an extended break from your normal working life, it becomes easier to make time for activities that might otherwise not be prioritized. This is how we found ourselves in Koh Tao, Thailand to do our PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications.
One week and 9 dives later, including a night dive, deep water dive to 30m / 90 feet and 4 sunrises (due to a 6am start-time 3 days in a row), we were happy to be certified and ready to dive around the world!
It was Santi’s idea to get PADI certified during our Round the World Trip so we could skip the requisite “intro” part that comes along with any fun dives you do as a newbie (watching a safety video, learning how to use the equipment in a pool, etc). Now we just had to pick this place to do it. Originally, we thought of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. I mean, what better place in the world is there than that? Especially coming from the US, that seems like the place to see amazing coral and fish. But after spending a few weeks in Australia and doing some other great excursions, we realized our budget would be hurting a bit if we did it in Cairns. Also now we were hearing about how great the Gili Islands and Amed in Bali were for diving. Since we were going there after Australia, that seemed like the right place…
But then we got to Bali during mid January, which turned out to be the rainiest month of the year! Our dreams of beautiful beaches, sunny skies and clear water were dashed upon arrival when it rained every day of our stay. Plus, getting certified was more money than we expected. In Amed, most schools charged 350-400 USD and in the Gili Islands, it was 420-450 USD. And this didn’t include accommodations, which we heard was a standard thing.
So we started asking around and learned about Koh Tao, a small island in the gulf of Thailand that is world-renowned for diving. We checked the weather and saw we’d be
there during peak beach season — sunshine for days according to weather.com. There are more than 70 (!) dive shops on this small island so we’d have plenty of options and prices were about the lowest you could get — around 270 USD for the certification and three nights accommodation. Sold!
We did research upon arrival in Koh Tao and ended up going with Ocean Sound Dive and Yoga. It’s located in Chalok Bay, a quieter part of the island (Sairee beach is a big party area) and had 1300+ 5 star reviews.on TripAdvisor. From the moment we walked in and met Will, one of the owners, we knew this was the place to be. Professional and friendly, they’ve got their pitch down and had two spots open for us the next day. With that, we were off to diving!
Koh Tao is truly amazing for the dozens of different dive sites, the clear water, the colorful fish and coral and the variety of dives you can do. By the end of our courses, we had:
- done a deep dive to 30 meters
- visited a shipwreck
- dove at night with torches
- done a fish identification dive
- learned at least 10 skills, including setting up all our dive gear, managing our buyancy by breathing underwater, and what to do if we’re ever out of air.
Most of the dives took place early in the morning so we caught the sunrise from their awesome boat rooftop three days in a row. In terms of fish, there were barracuda, snapper, giant groupers, anglerfish, butterfly fish, squirrel fish and so much more! There’s an amazing underwater world in Koh Tao that gave us a whole new appreciation for the ocean.
Most days we were done by lunchtime so we had the day to explore the island. Koh Tao has tons of great restaurants that are a mix of Thai and western so you can eat somewhere different for every meal and never get bored. There are cute little beaches to visit and plenty of bars and nightlight if you’re into that.
If you’re into diving, definitely check out Koh Tao and tell Ocean Sound that Ashley & Santi sent you!