Safety is a key element to consider when undertaking any activity whether it be driving a car, crossing the street or undertaking more adventurous pursuits like rock climbing or scuba diving. Scuba diving has a fairly impressive record globally and accidents are few. I have dived in many countries around the world, often with a number of different dive operators and can honestly say that my safest diving experiences have been in Thailand.
I remember many an occasion when I returned to my home country, Australia, and chatted with people about my experience in Thailand. The dive industry representatives I met would often question the safety standards we would operate under, suggesting that the developing world must be somehow unable to deliver high quality experiences safely. This idea could not be further from the truth.
Koh Tao is the best destination in the world to learn to scuba dive
Dive experiences can be had in a wide variety of locations around the globe. From cave and cavern diving to strong current or waves and surf. When it comes to scuba diving, the environmental conditions are the primary variable that will always change with every dive experience.
Despite Koh Tao’s popularity as a training location, the island is blessed by ideal diving conditions for almost all activities. More importantly, diving is not limited to a season or time of year. Year-round diving is one of the most appealing features of this tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand.
Scuba diver training and gaining more experience Part I
Much of the training on Koh Tao involves introductory diving where participants have little to no experience. Benign conditions with little water movement and shallow sand bottoms are crucial to support such activities. Where people have easy access to clear, sandy bottoms, the ability to descend and gain buoyancy control early in the dive before helps all divers get comfortable with their surroundings.
One of the biggest dangers for divers the world over is diving in currents. Currents can be super challenging and one of the greatest fears of many divers is the idea of being swept away and being lost at sea. This outcome is simply not possible on Koh Tao. Koh Tao is sits in a part of the world where water movement and current are often conspicuous in their absence. Currents and water movement are some of the most challenging environmental conditions for not only new dives, but all divers. The lack of current and water movement allows new divers to learn and discover the underwater world without having to face this most difficult of early challenges.
Limited current also results in divers enjoying long, extended dive times as they don’t need to expend so much energy to combat the current. Air consumption is reduced which adds another level of safety to the dive experience by reducing the threat of out-of-air situation.
The importance of managing air consumption efficiently
Running out of air is another potential problem that can cause safety problems. Obviously proper training and dive procedures are the primary factor to ensure you never run out of air. The Gulf of Thailand is a shallow part of the world, and many of the dive sites around Koh Tao mimic this habitat by being fairly shallow. The dive sites are often (but not always) part of a fringing reef environment which means dive sites often start at the surface. Shallow sites and comfortable conditions help support divers in effectively managing their air consumption.
Tropical, clear, warm water scuba diving is unbeatable for fun and safety
If you’ve ever squeezed yourself into a tight wetsuit, you will appreciate the joy of warm water, thin wetsuits and comfortable diving. With average water temperatures around 29oC, Koh Tao boasts ideal water conditions for the most comfortable dive experience you will ever have. Water is a great conductor of heat and as a diver you will lose heat far faster than you do in the air.
Another reason you get cold is because as a diver you don’t move around so much. Cold water and associated hypothermia can not only cause a major risk of hypothermia, being cold simply ruins the dive experience. In Koh Tao, exposure suits, usually ‘shorties’, are worn year round. But to be honest, most of the time these are to stop the BCD from rubbing on your skin as much as it is to keep you warm. Depending on your tolerance for the temperature, there is every chance you could, like I have done for over 10 years, simply dive in a rash vest and board shorts.
The PADI diving agency is the world leader in diver safety and training
As the largest recreational scuba diving training organisation in the world, PADI have invested significant resources to ensure their dive training is both educational but more importantly safe. There is a reason why they are the world’s number one recreational dive training organisation.
The importance of continuing your education with PADI
One of the keys to safe diving is having dive leaders and dive professionals with the appropriate level of training to guide their service delivery. All staff at Koh Tao have undertaken extensive training courses to be considered for a position on the team.
All of our staff are trained in the provision of First Aid, Oxygen and have successfully completed the PADI Rescue diver program. This allows them to be able to conduct in-water rescues and assistance should the need arise.
All of the instructors on staff have completed their PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer program. This ensures they are more experienced than your average PADI Instructor. On top of all of this training, Crystal Dive staff, whether divemasters or instructors, are required to undergo comprehensive internships before they are eligible for employment. This ensures all staff are aware of the high standards the organisation expects, and are all well versed on the standard operating procedures under which the company operates.
Scuba diver training and gaining more experience Part II
Despite the training requirements expected of all Crystal Dive staff, many of the instructors and divemasters have practical experience that far exceeds the minimum requirements. This enables them to have extensive knowledge of the local dive sites and conditions that enhances the dive experience.
On Koh Tao, no divers are ever sent out on their own. All divers are led by either a divemaster, in the case of certified scuba divers, or instructor’s if divers are undertaking a course. Knowing a dive site helps dive leaders by knowing where boat traffic might be most common, and thus avoiding it when ascending or descending. Alternatively, the experience of dive leaders enables them to be attentive to the needs and requirements of their divers, notice potential problems early and implement solutions before they turn into problems.
Increase your knowledge and experience with PADI adventure diving
Koh Tao is the number one certifying location for new divers in the world. The main reason for this is both the price of training, which is some of the cheapest in the world, and the benign environmental conditions already discussed. There is a problem with this scenario however. As new divers learn in relatively low-risk, easy dive conditions, they are not necessarily prepared for other locations around the world.
The PADI Open Water Diver Course certifies divers to dive ‘in conditions as good as or better than your training’. Because conditions in Koh Tao are so ideal, they are unlikely to experience conditions that are ‘as good as’ their training. One way that many of the dive businesses on Koh Tao have managed this risk is through a heavy emphasis on continuing education.
Whilst it may sound like a sales pitch, continuing dive training beyond the Open Water Diver Course provides an exponential increase in the general safety of the individual diver. By completing the Advanced Open Water or Rescue Diver course, as a diver you are more likely to be competent and capable in a broader range of environmental conditions, preparing you for conditions that might not be as good as your training. This fact can’t be stressed enough.
Koh Tao offers the highest standards in diver training and safety
The island of Koh Tao relies on the dive industry as the backbone of socio-economic prosperity. People visit Koh Tao to dive, but they also stay in the hotels, eat in the restaurants and use the ferries to access this remote tropical paradise. Without the diving the tourism industry on Koh Tao would be severely compromised. Consequently as an industry the dive businesses across the island have invested enormously in dive infrastructure, high quality training and acceptable standards to ensure a safe experience is almost guaranteed. The island cannot afford to have accidents and this drives much of the industry standards in Koh Tao.
Koh Tao provides exceptional and outstanding dive experiences
Koh Tao has world class medical support located on the island, with a recompression chamber for the most serious of cases less than two hours away by boat. That said the most common medical issues associated with scuba diving are sunburn, seasickness and dehydration (all of which are preventable).
In all my travels and scuba diving adventures i have never felt more safe than diving in the safe, tropical waters around Koh Tao. Sure, I have a bit of experience. But the guidance and care shown by the dive professionals on Koh Tao is always exceptional, and this makes for a fun, and most importantly safe diving experience.
Nathan Cook M.Sc