Learning to Scuba Dive in Koh Tao

Sunset Koh Tao Thailand

I’ve wanted to learn how to scuba dive for a long time. I took a class in Michigan a couple of years ago, but didn’t do the open dives in time. So I knew that when I went to Thailand getting certified to scuba dive in Koh Tao would be at the top of my list of things to do (along with seeing the lantern festival and trying the infamous Thai whiskey buckets).

As I asked around for recommendations for good dive shops, several people recommended Big Blue Diving in Koh Tao, an island just off the eastern coast of Thailand.

Taking the Open Water class in Thailand was significantly better than taking it in Michigan for a few reasons.

First, it’s Thailand, enough said.

Besides that, you are diving in tropical waters with all kinds of colorful fish, corals, and other sea creatures. The island of Ko Tao is a dive junky’s paradise. There are over 50 dive schools, lots of restaurants and cafes, great nightlife, an abundance of attractive people learning to dive, and some of the best dive sites you can find. Most nights I ended up chilling at the bar at Big Blue with the people I’d gone diving with that day.

The Open Water Course

While at Big Blue, I did my Open Water Diver certification allowing me to dive to 18 meters / 60 feet, a deep water adventure dive that certified me to dive down to 30 meters / 100 feet, and a few fun dive afterwards.

The Open Water course takes 3-4 days to complete, although it’s very relaxed. It went something like this:

Day 1: You’ll spend the first couple hours sipping coffee(s) while listening to a bit of lecture and watching a few videos, followed by an afternoon in the pool where you’ll learn all of your basic diving skills.

Day 2: Again, it will start with a couple of hours of lecture in the morning followed by 2 open dives out in the ocean to practice the skills you learned in the pool, controlling your buoyancy, and just getting comfortable being underwater.

Day 3: You’ll go out on the boat again and do 2 more open dives. Then in the afternoon, you come for a bit more lecture and take the final exam. It’s a 50-question test that only took me about 10 minutes to complete. If you get a perfect score, your instructor will probably buy you a beer that night. I missed one question (so close!!!) and thus had to buy my own first beer that evening.

Learning to Scuba Dive

My instructors, Rich and Marty, were great. They were a lot of fun and made some of the rather dull lecture material more interesting. Also, they were really patient with the group to make sure everyone fully understood what they were doing.

Once you complete the course, you get 10% off any other diving you do, including the Advanced certification. I was planning to do this as it only takes 2 more days, but was running a bit short on cash. So to maximize the amount of diving I could do, I did several fun dives instead. It’s not like I won’t be back soon.

The Facilities

There are 2 locations you can stay at while you’re diving. Big Blue 1 is the original and where you collect your gear every morning. Big Blue 2 is a bit newer and where most of the Open Water students stay because the dorms are about 10 steps from the pool (above). This is convenient when you’re really tired in the morning (read: hungover because the dive masters kept buying you beers the night before). I stayed in a 4-person A/C dorm, but was by myself in the room for half of the time I spent there.

Big Blue Diving Pool

The 2 sites are just a short walk down the beach from each other and I spent a lot of time at both. They both have restaurants and are right on the beach. Most of the entertainment happens at Big Blue 1. Most nights they had fire dancers on the beach, which is somewhat mesmerizing.

Pro Tip: The blueberry lassies at Big Blue 1 are incredible and may change your life. It is highly recommended that you consume several per day, including before diving, after diving, and any other time of day really. I don’t know what makes these smoothie-like concoctions so amazing, but Rich got me hooked on them and I couldn’t stop. I’m pretty sure I drank 3-4 per day while I was there. It got to the point where as soon as I walked in the restaurant someone handed me one.

Being underwater is a whole new world to explore. After your first couple dives it becomes natural like anything else. Except when you swim through your first school of thousands of fish. That’s a strange feeling.

Diving Through School of Fish

I’m in love with diving! I did 9 dives the week I was in Koh Tao and couldn’t get enough. It’s been about 2 months since I was last underwater and I’m almost going through withdrawals. I can’t wait to go diving around the world because there’s so much diversity of aquatic life. All I know is that I’ll have my GoPro with me trying to get some great photos along the way!

Nick Huggins
written by: Nick Huggins
Follow me on Twitter: @MrNickHuggins or at!

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