Are you interested in becoming a certified scuba diver and not sure of where to get your “PADI”? Well look no further than the beautiful island of Koh Tao, the world’s most popular destination to earn a PADI Open Water diver certification.
It’s “Where the World Learns to Dive”.
As a PADI Instructor living and working on Koh Tao for over 15 years, I’ve witnessed many people walk in to Crystal Dive and the very first thing they ask is; “I want to get my PADI”, which always brings a wry smile to my face. It is both an indication of quality, but also demonstrates just how important brand recognition is these days.
What these budding scuba divers actually mean is they would like to enrol on a PADI Open Water Diver Course and become a certified scuba diver. There are many other recreational scuba training organisations in the world, but people are most familiar with PADI.
PADI is recognised as the world leader in developing scuba diving training programs and worldwide PADI is by far the most popular choice for scuba divers.
Quite simply, it’s “The Way the World Learns to Dive”.
The “Mecca” of Scuba Diving!
Located an hour’s boat ride from the neighbouring island of Koh Phangan – famous for the Full Moon Party – Koh Tao – translated to English as “turtle island” – has become synonymous with scuba diving. The first backpackers arrived on her beautiful shores in the late 1980’s and it wasn’t too long before the first dive centre opened.
25 years later and Koh Tao has grown into the number 1 destination in the world for people wishing to take their first breaths underwater, learn to scuba dive, and “get their PADI”.
This is why the island has become known as the “Mecca of scuba diving”, it’s on everyone’s bucket list and every backpacker, plus a huge number of flash packers, make at least one pilgrimage to “The Rock” as it is fondly referred to.
Why Koh Tao?
There are many factors. One, which we can’t deny, and is true in many people’s eyes, is cost. The price of an Open Water course on Koh Tao is amongst the cheapest in the world. Dive shops will also include basic accommodation which makes the deal even sweeter. But is it all about price? Absolutely not!
Koh Tao has developed immensely since the days of the first backpackers and the facilities offered by the established, reputable and most popular dive centres are second to none.
What differentiates PADI dive centres like Crystal Dive from other operations are the facilities in which your training takes place. Knowledge development sessions are conducted in air conditioned classrooms, making it more comfortable while you learn about dive theory. For Confined water, we have the choice of 3 purpose built swimming pools, all designed with scuba in mind.
A swimming pool offers perfect conditions, very important when you are taking your first tentative breaths underwater as well as the initial skill practice sessions where you will expect to master the basic skills necessary to be a certified scuba diver. Many places in Thailand conduct this session in the ocean, not ideal if there is any wind, waves and of course you cannot guarantee clear visibility.
Other benefits to getting certified on Koh Tao include both the quality and location of the dive sites. All Koh Tao’s dive sites are within a 30 minute boat ride, so no long boat journeys, nor full days at sea. The number of dive sites, along with their diversity means lots of options when selecting dive sites for PADI Open Water Diver training dives. Koh Tao has plenty of beautiful shallow bays, all boasting an abundance of marine life.
There is also a great selection of sites suitable for people wishing to take the next step and take the PADI Advanced Open Water course. These include the deeper outlying Pinnacles, a World War 2 era Wreck dive and a couple of sites with some great swim thru’s and caves to explore.
And of course, as we have been experiencing recently, there is always a chance of seeing the biggest fish in the sea, the majestic Whaleshark, a common visitor to Koh Tao with regular sightings all year round.
Koh Tao’s weather is fair to good year round. Over 300 days of sunshine a year means the water temperature is nice and warm (26-30 degrees). With little wind and rain, the sea is generally calm bringing good visibility underwater for the most part. On occasional windy and wavy days, it is very easy to find a sheltered bay away from unwanted conditions and especially convenient if you aren’t the best on boats.
And of course, another huge advantage is the quality of Instruction. The PADI Divemasters & Instructors on Koh Tao are FULL TIME diving Professionals and amongst the best in the world. They are teaching and diving every day and competition for jobs is intense. This means as a dive centre manager you are able to pick the very best applicants when looking for new dive staff. This is great for you, the customer, and another important consideration when choosing where you will “get you’re PADI”.
It’s Not All Scuba..!!
But it is not all scuba diving on Asia’s #1 island. The natural beauty and charm of Koh Tao, coupled with a relaxed and laid back atmosphere are the main reasons why Koh Tao is consistently named one of the world’s top 10 island destinations.
Offering a variety of activities including Muay Thai (Thai Boxing), Cross Fit, Mini-Golf, Rock Climbing, Abseiling, Wakeboarding and Trapeze (!), Koh Tao offers even the most active plenty to keep you busy during the days you’re not diving. And for those who prefer a more relaxing day? Why not check out one of the many Yoga schools on the island, take a Thai cooking class or spend the day on the beach or chilling around the pool.
Koh Tao is a foodie’s paradise. The islands dynamic restaurant scene offers a vast array of delicious food from all over the world. And when the sun goes down enjoy the vibrant beach bars, with resident DJ’s playing the latest tunes, allowing you to enjoy the laid back island atmosphere, all played out to a rustic backdrop.
Top of Every Backpackers Bucket List!
All in all, Koh Tao must be doing something right. Easily the most popular place to “get your PADI”, the island certifies more PADI Open water students each year than anywhere else in the world.
Combine this with Koh Tao winning the 2015 Trip Advisor awards for “Best Island in Asia” and it’s not hard to see why Koh Tao is top of most people’s “bucket list” when they embark on their trip around the world.
Choose PADI! Choose Koh Tao! Choose Crystal Dive!
Author: Matt Bolton (PADI CD 463559)