Ever wanted to go down to the depths of the ocean to get that quiet time? Let us warn you, the floor of the ocean isn’t really all that quiet as you think it is. This and more is what a couple of adventure junkies discovered on their maiden scuba diving adventure. Meet Santosh, a techie, for whom adventure is part of life. The biggest on his bucket list in 2016 was an underwater adventure – scuba diving in Thailand and to get certified too.
Here’s their account of their adventure – scuba diving in Thailand and also a couple of tips for those who aspire to be divers. This is how you get to become a certified scuba diver! If you need help getting to these places, reach out to us!
Scuba Diving in Thailand
Scuba has been on my mind ever since I had a casual conversation with friends who had explored this sport. After much of research (which also I will share with you), we zeroed in on a small island call Koh Tao in Thailand. We registered for the first level of professional scuba diving course – ‘Open Water Diver Course’ certified by PADI. And if you are thinking scuba, you must know PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
Our brief itinerary – a 6 days vacation with the first two days in Koh Phangan for the full-moon party celebrations post which we would travel to Koh Tao to take up the course. The course was of a 4 day duration, covering classroom sessions, confined pool sessions and ocean dives. We were among a group of 7 who registered for this certification course.
Day 1: The Koh Phangan Party
Our vacation started with the happening Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan, an island in Thailand. All you party animals out there, this is where you should head! Music buffs rejoice, you get to hear a widest range of music from across the world. It is called the Full moon party because it is held on a full moon night, but it’s most likely that you forget to look at the moon. After all, it’s not easy to take your eyes off the dazzling lights on shore! An evening of partying later, we headed to Koh Tao the next day to begin our dive course.Insider Tips: Want to know what else you can do in Thailand? Have a look here.
Day 2: Discovering Koh Tao
The ferry ride to Koh Phangan was a 4 hour long one, rough seas and pouring rain made it a slightly tiring journey. But we soon overcame this with the excitement of arriving at the small island. Koh Tao is a little green gem set amidst the brilliant turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The island is named so after the sea turtles that have made the shores their home. Pristine white beaches, little hills and a whole lot of greenery makes this island a most serene vacation spot.
Insider Tips: We had a lot of options to choose from, we picked Ban’s diving resort and it was a good decision too. It is a huge resort that offers dorm facilities to deluxe rooms, restaurants, supermarkets, swimming pools and what not!
Day 3: Back to School
This was our back-to-school day! We said hello to our dive masters, Chris and Tom, who prepared us for the three day schedule. We even got a little homework to do! Be prepared for some tropical weather, incessant rains, and the sun, too. We came to realise later that rainy days don’t affect dive classes much, as there is always something to learn! We had an evening of leisure to explore the tiny island that measures just 21sqkm.
If you are of the adventurous sort, there are plenty of hills to hike on. Want to laze around? The beaches will welcome you! And after all that, there’s dinner waiting at the resort’s restaurants. If you are a vegetarian though, like me, you will probably alternate between red curry and green curry!
Insider Tips: There are bikes available for rent here, just be wary of scammers asking for your passport to be handed over. Shark island nearby is great for snorkelling. Freedom beach is where you might forget that you have return tickets back home!
Day 4: The Physics of Scuba
We were all set to start our classroom sessions. Our dive master, Chris had over 10 years of experience and had logged in over 1000 dives. Sounds pretty intimidating, huh? But school-like sessions didn’t stop us from having fun. Breakfasts in class and a casual atmosphere ensured that we didn’t feel bored. Before we hit the pool for some basic lessons, we had an idea of the equipment used and how it plays a major role in diving. Oh, and here’s a warning – if you think Scuba diving is all about fun, be warned. There’s a whole lot of physics that you need to brush up on! This was the first time I ever found myself showing interest in buoyancy, pressure and related concepts! Had I known back then in school, that these would have helped me scuba, it would have been a different story!
Diving schools work on a buddy system – where your chosen buddy is responsible for your equipment before you dive. Dives are never alone, always in pairs, so one can keep an eye on the other. The pool session was probably the most exciting thing we’ve ever done, and it became our favourite in the next couple of days.
Insider Tips: If you have eye-power and wear glasses, ask for masks that are made with these adjustments.
Day 5: The first real scuba dive!
After more pool sessions, we were scheduled to have our first real dive in the ocean!! We were tested for our breathing control and understanding of sign language before the dive. The excitement was palpable in the group, we couldn’t stop grinning all the way to our dive site.
The only thing between us and the waters now was a rope. The rope led us to what we came for – our very first underwater exploration. At the risk of sounding cliche, I can probably say what I saw below was the most breathtaking sights ever! Literally that – you almost forget to breathe! When we learnt to relax, it felt like we were in the middle of a National Geographic show – shoals of little fishes, coral reefs and a myriad of colours all at once.
We didn’t know we had spent 28 minutes on our first dive and had gone to a depth of 12 mts until our dive master told us that. The only downside? We didn’t get to see any sharks! Leisure time for the rest of the evening – island local street walk, Thai foot massage. And to complete the day, some home work too!
Day 6: The Big Day!
Final day. No Classroom. Big day – 3 Ocean dives to complete together in one stretch! Each dive within a gap of one hour. Dive, exploration under water, learning buoyancy control and to reach neutral buoyancy, swim around with folded hands, swim along with thousands of fishes, touch some corals, what not. It only got exciting with every hour! We spent 40 minutes on our final dive which was the longest during our course and went on to 15 mts depth.
Back to shore!
The last dive was inspiration enough for us to think of taking up the advanced diving course. We filled up our PADI log books on our 4 dives, filled up our forms to get the certificate and PADI ID card. We were finally certified open water divers!
Check these before you go!
- If you are looking to get certified, you should look at PADI or SSI. They are the two biggest diving certifiers who are globally recognized.
- Ensure the diving instructor is certified, having a look at the number of dives the instructor has done also helps.
- Check if the diving equipment is up-to-date, look at reviews on the internet.
- A pre-requisite for diving is that you don’t fly for atleast 24 hours after diving.
The Scuba-Beginners Bucket list
Here is Santosh’s bucket list of best places for scuba diving for beginners across the world.Take your pick and of course we are just a note away!
1. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Gili Trawangan is one of Indonesia’s best and safest scuba diving destination. The Turtle capital of the world, as this island is known is the best bet for both beginners and the expert divers.
When to go: All year around except the November rainy season.
Where to learn: Manta Dive
2. Riviera Beach, Florida
This is a popular diving spot and a beginners delight, as it has only 12 feet of water. And if you are a fan of seafood, even better to book your dinner at the Riviera Beach Marina for the catch of the day.
When to go: June to August
Where to learn: Florida Keys Diving Centre
Best place to sight sharks and lovely snorkelling options too. Try the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles for diving and snorkelling.
When to go: All year round, except December to February which are rainy.
Where to learn: Big Blue divers
4. Donsol Bay, Philippines
The sleepy little town of Donsol came into the limelight of divers only as recently as 1998. Shark spottings are quite high here. Great if you are looking at a digital detox location as well as brushing up those diving skills too.
When to go: July to August
Where to learn: Bicol Dive Centre
5. Byron Bay, Australia
A great place for beginners because of accessibility and budget. Also because of the best tropical marine life that can be spotted under water – over 1000 species of fish, turtles, rays and of course sharks!
When to go: May to September
Where to learn: Byron Bay Dive Centre
And we also have a set of South East Asian scuba diving spots – have a look!