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A Guide to Choosing the Best Dive School in Koh Tao

A Guide to Choosing the Best Dive School in Koh Tao

So, you’ve decided to learn or hone your skills in diving and have chosen Koh Tao, Thailand as a great location to do so. Congratulations on this decision as this is one of the best places in the country to improve your diving skills!

Choosing the right diving school, though, can be pretty daunting as there are around 70 schools for you to choose from. No worries; we’re here to help you choose the best one based on your needs and preferences!

How do you choose the best diving school in Koh Tao? 

To choose the right Koh Tao diving school based on your skill level and needs, you have to pick your preferred location, determine your skill level, select your preferred course, check the school’ s reputation and visit the school in person.

Once that’s all done, you can then attend the course and complete your training and earn your certification!

We break down the steps you need to take in order to choose the right school that will hone your diving skills and knowledge!

Step 1: Choose your preferred location

Before deciding which diving schools to consider, you have to know where you want to actually do some diving. Koh Tao has some very popular dive sites for you to check out and depending on the location of the school, may or may not be visited during lessons.

In addition, choosing the best location based on your preferences will save you big on transportation and hassle. Most of the diving schools in Koh Tao are generally located in three areas: Chalok, Mae Haad, and Sairee. 

1. Mae Haad

Depending on your preferences, these locations can give you a different vibe and flavour when it comes to honing your diving skills. Mae Haad is located in the centre of Koh Tao, where you and most other guests and divers will usually arrive on the island.

2. Chalok

Chalok is more laid back and quieter compared to the other diving locations making this perfect if you want to relax with your family and friends after a day of diving. 

3. Sairee

Sairee, on the other hand, is a great choice if you want to party the night away. This is all thanks to the restaurants, clubs, bars, and the vibrant beach scene on site which you can check out after completing your course requirements for the day.

Step 2: Determine your diving skill level

Different schools will also offer different diving courses depending on your skill level. You need to choose which schools can give you the best training and value. based on your current diving knowledge and experience.

 For this step, we’ve decided to categorise the different diving schools you can consider based on what type of diving you want, your skill level, and the size of the school:

Small Diving Schools for Beginners and Special Needs

Diving Schools: Ocean Sound, Hydronauts

Small diving schools can cater more to certain special cases and customers with special needs. Here,  instructors can give you extra attention if you want to take your time learning how to dive or if you’re still unsure about diving the depths of the ocean.

There’s a downside to all this though, as small diving schools tend to borrow pool space and boat space from larger schools. This means that your schedule and locations with these smaller diving schools can vary quite a bit.

Big Diving Schools for Intermediate and Sociable Divers

Diving Schools: Crystal Dive, Big Blue Diving, Ban’s

These big diving schools, on the other hand, are considered behemoths able to provide tons of divers with multiple open water sessions per week. 

They also have instructors who can speak different languages allowing you to choose which one you’re comfortable with!

These kinds of diving schools are perfect if you want to meet new people while honing your diving skills. It’s also something you should look at if you’re already confident heading out alone without the special care or attention of an instructor.

However, big diving schools may also be a bit too large for comfort which some beginners may find less-than-ideal if you need some specialised attention from instructors or if you’re someone who needs to build up your diving confidence.

Medium-Sized Schools for Experts and Confident Students

Diving Schools: Sairee Cottage Diving, Master Divers

Mid-sized diving schools can offer the best of both worlds. They can still give beginners and expert divers specialised attention.

These students can also socialise with the other divers here during lessons or after completing a course. Going to a medium-sized school is something we’d recommend if you want to improve your skills but also meet new people in the process.

Step 3: Pick which course you’d like to enrol in

Once again, the right diving course depends on your skill level (along with your availability and budget, of course). There are a couple of them to choose from here but the most common diving course you’ll encounter here is the open water course.

1. Zero to Hero

A lot of other divers visit Koh Tao just to finish their open water certification but then they eventually decide to stay to become dive instructors as well. There are also packages here called “zero to hero” (offered by Sairee Cottage) offering complete diving lessons.

If you’re confident you can take it all in, then go for this all-in-one package. However, if you really want to make your way from beginner to diving instructor and all the way to diving master, we recommend that you take these lessons one step at a time.

2. Half-Day Diving Courses

There are also courses offered by diving schools specially designed for tourists who are still unsure if diving is for them or those who are strapped for time. 

These courses are usually just half-day experiences and are commonly called “Try Scuba Diving” or “Discover Scuba Diving”. You can try this out too if time is an issue or if you just want to test the waters when it comes to diving. 

3. Open Water Certification

The standard package to go for here is still the open water package which will take you around three to four days to complete. During this course, you need to watch some videos, read some books, take tests, and dive into sites that you need to visit.

This may all sound too much but don’t worry. The academic part of the course can be handled by a 10-year-old so it shouldn’t give you much trouble. Here’s what an open water course schedule currently looks like:

Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll get your open water certification card (how to get scuba certification in Koh Tao Thailand) which will let you do dives across the globe for up to 18 metres deep. If you want to progress your diving career, then you can take the advanced open water course afterward.

4. Specialised Diving Courses

You don’t have to limit yourself to the open water courses offered here in Koh Tao, though, as there are other diving courses you can try out. Some courses include specialised skill sets such as conservation diving, photography diving, and more!

Step 4: Research the reputation of the diving school

When choosing the right diving school, you need to do the research. Here you can do an online search and check out a couple of factors to ensure that you not only get the most appropriate and ideal diving school for you but also good for the community.

The first thing you have to look for is the diving school’s accreditation which could come either from PADI or ISS.

1. PADI

This is the leading scuba diving training organisation in the world. The numbers are in favour of PADI with around a million certifications each year for their partner and affiliate diving schools.

One of the major advantages of diving with a PADI-accredited school is that you get to learn from some of the best in the business. Thanks to the organisation’s extensive network, the best instructors are usually under PADI’s management.

In fact, if you decide to become a diving instructor yourself, we recommend getting affiliated with PADI. Instructors of this organisation are allowed to do freelance work which means more employment opportunities.

2. SSI

Here’s another powerhouse when it comes to diving school organisations controlling around 50% of the schools here in Koh Tao. The main difference between these two is that SSI has all of its diving schools’ academic courses done online or via its free app.

PADI also has some courses available online but if you want to choose an organisation that is more environment-friendly, then SSI might be the best affiliation to look for when choosing your diving school.

Keep in mind, however, that regardless of which affiliated organisation you get, you’ll still be diving at the same destinations, seeing the same marine life, and using the same brand of equipment. It’s your attitude that will make all the difference when learning!

3. Eco-Friendly Diving Schools

Lastly, you may want to check the reputation of the diving school you want based on how eco–friendly they are. These diving schools should have reviews and their mission statements (on their website) which can give you an idea of how eco-friendly they are.

Environment-friendly diving schools should have sustainability in mind and have goals of preserving the ecosystem they operate in for future generations to enjoy. 

You’ll know they’re serious about this if they regularly do coral restoration projects and dive clean-ups. Doing so will obviously reduce their impact on the environment and we highly recommend you go for these diving schools.

Step 5: Visit the diving school in person

We highly recommend that you visit the diving schools you prefer in person before enrolling or signing up for any of their lessons. This is important for you to be able to check out their facilities and logistics.

Three of the main things you need to look out for include their dive site, their classroom, or their equipment.

1. Pool or Ocean

Now depending on the school, you’ll either get pool or ocean dive sites or both. Smaller schools usually don’t have their own pool and are limited to just ocean dive sites.

Both pool and ocean diving can have their own benefits. Pool diving will offer you no distraction unlike the ocean while ocean diving will give you a more realistic feel of what open water diving feels like.

This is something you need to consider once you check out your preferred diving schools.

2. Classroom

Remember that a significant chunk of your diving lessons in Koh Tao will be spent in a classroom. As such, you need to check if the school’s room for its students is comfortable, clean, and suitable for learning the basic skills of diving.

3. Equipment

Lastly, you need to check out the school’s equipment. If you’re a beginner, simply look for brand-new or well-kept equipment. 

Knowing that the school has reputable diving equipment brands is also a big plus. For this purpose, you should keep an eye out for Aqualung, Scuba Pro, or Mares– big-name brands within the diving community!

Step 6: Take the course

Now that you’ve decided which diving school to go to, go ahead and take the course. Once you’re done, let us be the first to congratulate you on accomplishing this milestone!

Don’t forget to secure your open water certification as it will serve as an official document if you want to dive around the world. Also, you can then decide which advanced diving lesson you’d like to try out next– the choice is really up to you!

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