Koh Tao is where I fell in love with diving and it’s culture
It wasn’t just old men comparing dive logs and C-cards. It was a group of laid-back Generation-Y adults; people who are delaying the responsibilities of adulthood in the pursuit of adventure and underwater exploration. They are early to rise, early to dive, and early to party. They take everything to the extreme including safety. I felt a connection with this group of people.
Anyway, I took a ferry from Koh Samui (Muay thai training), got off at the dock, and signed up for an Open Water course at the first shop I saw, Crystal Dive Resort (on the left). Some people view it as a certification mill, but my experience there says otherwise. They did not skimp on training, equipment, or professionalism in any area. Two of the instructors were former military, and for those of you who should know, that means thorough training. Let’s get on with it.
It was a 4-day course and cost about $290 USD. This included a bungalow on the beach, full equipment, and the 4 open water dives that come with the course.
Day 1 = Classroom. Morning to afternoon is video sessions and coursework. Late afternoon is introduction to scuba equipment and a bit more coursework (if I remember correctly). The classroom sections are light so don’t worry about it ruining your vacation vibe.
Day 2 = Pool. You practice all skills in the safety of the pool before moving on to open water where you will perform them again on day 3 & 4. This is the time to work out any problems and to get familiar with your gear. The day ends with a 100 meter swim test and 10 minutes of water treading.
Day 3 = Open water dives 1 & 2. The dives consist of about 10 minutes of skill-work and end with a session of exploration/fun dive.
Day 4 = Open water dives 3 & 4. Same as yesterday but with different skills and you will be recorded throughout the day (the footage will be edited to music and available for purchase for about $20).
Congratulations you are certified to dive anywhere in the world up 18 meters in depth. The resort will offer you the chance to become Advanced Open Water certified with a 10% discount, TAKE IT. It’s 2 extra days, 5 dives, and certifies you to dive to a depth of 30 meters (100 feet) for $190 USD. Most shipwrecks are fairly deep (they don’t hang out in shallow water) and you’ll regret it later if you don’t get it now.
That night you will all gather at the bar (attached to the dive resort) and watch the video together from the days dive. Once you all get drunk enough you will head down the strip and the rest is blackout history.
Advanced Open Water
The advanced course consists of 5 skill dives and after completing each dive you will become certified in that skill. 3 of the dives are mandatory but you can pick the other 2. We picked peak buoyancy and wreck diver as our electives.
Day 1 = If you are hungover from last nights graduation don’t worry about it, salt water cures that shit. The first day will be Buoyancy, Navigation, and the night dive.
Peak Buoyancy = They have a dive site full of man-made obstacles for you to swim through and you will have to hover upside down and write your name on a slate. It’s pretty much a fun dive.
Navigation = You will build upon your compass work from your open water course, but this time you will have to navigate a square in buddy teams. After that it becomes a fun dive until your instructor picks a student (me) to navigate the group back to the boat.
Night Dive = Awesome dive. After dinner you jump on the boat, ride out, don gear, jump in, sink, and play with phytoplankton until the dive is over.
Day 2 = Day 2 is the big day everyone waits for, the deep dive at Chumphon Pinnacle. This is the place you are most likely to see a whale shark. No dice for us though.
Deep dive = This is a simple dive, but because it is deep, the level of risk is higher. Computers will be issued today so you can learn to operate them and keep tabs on no-deco time. Once in the water you will descend to 30 meters and perform various skills on a dive slate to prove the effects of nitrogen narcosis. After that it turns into a fun dive as you gradually swim closer to the surface.
Wreck diver = This is a fun dive. When I say fun dive. I mean you don’t learn anything. You just explore the shipwreck as a group. I loved it though, shipwrecks are the coolest thing in the world and if you disagree, you were a boring kid.
And just like that, you are an Advanced Open Water certified scuba diver and 90% of the world’s dive sites are open to your certification level. From now on every time you go to the beach, you can Google “closest dive shop” and just like that you have plans for tomorrow. Most people pay big bucks for a day out on a boat. Now you get that for free on your way out to the dive site. The world is yours, go explore.