Koh Tao is 2nd only to Cairns, Australia in number of diving certifications every year. People flock from all over the world to take their first breaths underwater and many never leave and continue to become instructors. You can see why as it is inexpensive, there are 100’s of shops to choose from, the weather is beautiful and the living is easy. The typical course will take 2-3 days depending on the level and will cost under 10,000 Baht including accommodation which is under $300 USD.
When you are choosing your dive school you should do a lot of research. There are big, medium and small schools. If you choose a big school with lots of people you should be a more advanced student as you won’t be getting as much attention. Small schools will give you the most amount, be the most expensive and may not have certified as many people. I would go with a medium school as they still certify a lot but they typically only take 4 students max per instructor.
I decided to get my Advanced Open Water Certification because I wanted to go deeper and do a night dive. It is also a lot less expensive in Koh Tao. Getting your Advanced Certification requires less studying but more bravery because you are doing dives you have never done before. There are two required dives – Deep and Underwater Navigation – and you choose the other three, for a total of five dives. During the Deep Adventure Dive, you learn how to plan dives to deal with the physiological effects and challenges of deeper scuba diving. The Underwater Navigation Adventure Dive refines your compass navigation skills and helps you better navigate using kick-cycles, visual landmarks and time. The other knowledge and skills you get vary with your interest and the adventures you have – photography, buoyancy control, fish identification, exploring wrecks and many more.
Dive #7, Adventure Dive #1 Peak Performance Bouyancy
Japanese Garden sits directly opposite Twins, separated only by the sand bar which joins the two peaks of Koh Nanyuan. The coral reef and structure is what you come here to explore because of the variety. There are Towering Compact Coral and Lobed Pore Coral heads intersperced by fields of Lettuce, Staghorn, Mushroom and Slipper Corals. You can see Giant Cuttlefish, burying Sand Dollars and Saddleback Anemonefish.
We learned how to maximize our bouyancy with weights and breathing and the differences in equipment and wet suits. We went through jungle gyms underwater and lifted weights with only our breath. I loved this exercise and it helped me immensely. My dive instructor said I was very elegant in the water after this.
Dive #8, Adventure Dive #2 Navigation
Twins are great for new divers as well as learning navigation skills as it is shallow in depth. It is known for their rare saddleback clownfish living in the anemone which were a fun site to see.
We only went to 15M and learned how to navigate with our compasses. It was fairly straightforward and something I learned in my Open Water Course. I spotted Nemo!
Dive #9, Adventure Dive #3 Night Dive
White Rock is one of the largest areas of any dive site on the island. It has a wide range of sea life, from butterflyfish to angelfish to blue-spotted stingrays. I was able to see all three. The stingrays are so beautiful to watch as they quickly swim away. Lucky divers may spot a sea turtle passing through.
While many people are very scared to dive at night, I was so excited. We were so lucky to see the stunning sunset over the boat as we drove to our site and see the stars and moon as we came up. On the night dives it is common for many people to have a hard time equalizing their ears so it’s good to take it slow. It is also good to dive a familiar location so you don’t get lost or have a hard time navigating. When you are underwater at night it feels like you are in outer space. Everything you saw during the day looks different and you can really only see what you have your flashlight on.
Dive #10, Adventure Dive #4 Deep Dive
Chumpon is covered with colorful sea anemone and surrounded by large schools of fish. We saw the giant barracuda. Some can get lucky enough to see the whale sharks here. For the two weeks before our dive there were 2 whale sharks swimming there.
My deep dive was the most exhilarating experience. I felt like I was completely floating and there were 100’s of feet of water and millions of fish all around me. (there was) Once you get to 30m, or 100 ft you don’t see as much wildlife and color isn’t the same at that depth. Everything looks brown. We took a water bottle full of air to that level which immediately compressed and when we went to the surface it exploded. That is what happens to your lungs if you hold your breath at depth levels like that.
Dive #11, Adventure Dive #5 Computer Dive
We went back to White Rock for this dive and went 18M deep. We learned how to use our computers on the deep dive as well as this fun dive. The computers are really essential and easy to use. They help you stay safe at various depths and for different amounts of time.
I am so stoked I got my Advanced Open Water Certificate. I can now dive with more advanced divers, do night dives, deep dives and dive wrecks. Most importantly though, I feel like I am much safer with the advanced navigation skills and buoyancy control. I highly recommend diving Koh Tao and if you are getting certified that is the place to go.