A few points about learning to scuba dive in Thailand
If not the cheapest place in the world to earn your certification for scuba diving (Utilla holds that privilege I believe) it can be the most relaxed and rewarding one around.
Our author, Peter Smith diving a wreck in Phuket, Thailand
Many travellers coming to South East Asia have diving in mind and have rightly indentified the area as a great place to learn. Gap year students and others heading towards Australia will have noted it is a lot cheaper to do the course before arriving in Oz.
So what does it take and what can you expect? Do you have to be careful on the dive shop you choose? Where is best? Questions like these run through the minds of potential divers all over the world and Thailand is no different.
There are several courses and experiences available for the novice diver and we should take a moment to outline them and explore the differences.
Discover Scuba Diving
This is sometimes referred to as a resort course or a try dive. Usually there will be a short pool session with an instructor or divemaster followed by one or two dives in the sea with an instructor. There may be a certificate of the dives afterwards but this is just a record and no qualification is gained. You can however dive all over the world like this in the company of an instructor and is suitable for those of you not wishing to take a complete course
Peter’s students embarking on their first dive
Here is a halfway solution, it takes two days only and the resulting qualification will limit you in the depth of future dives, and supervision requiring an accompanying instructor or divemaster will always be needed.
Open Water Diver
This is the one to do if you have the time and funds; after completion you will be able to dive with a buddy without supervision and opens up the world of scuba diving.
Let’s break down the course, what is entailed and what criteria must be met.
- First off you don’t have to be a great swimmer, being able to do 200 metres comfortably will be enough. As far as general health goes there are a few absolute disqualifiers but most people are fit enough. Prior to any training you’ll need to complete a health questionnaire and when necessary a doctor’s certificate may be required.
First comes the pool based learning
Some people are worried that it will take too much time from their vacation but if you can handle reading a book on the beach, watching a few videos and, of course, scuba diving there should be no problem.
- The dive centre should supply a text book included in the course and the theory should take a couple of mornings. Confined water practice sessions are usually done in a local swimming pool and then there are four scuba dives in open water with exercises and exploration included. The course can take 3-4 days depending on the availability of the pool and weather.
- When choosing a dive shop you would be best served by one adhering to one of the larger certifying agencies such as PADI, NAUI or CMAS. These operators must follow proven and recognised standards in their teaching and have professionally qualified instructors.
Learning to dive amongst beautiful surroundings
Some locations to be frank run a bit of a factory, Koh Tao being one of them, however they are cheap! Phuket has a great range of top notch operators with some excellent boat diving for students including Phi Phi Islands, Racha Yai. Even the Similan Islands are easily accessible.
Most of the islands and coastal areas of Thailand offer scuba instruction so finding a place should be easy and reservations will not be necessary. Even off season it is possible to learn, the conditions may not be ideal every day and it may take a little longer but the underwater life will still be there.
The waters around Thailand teem with life, from the gentle leopard shark to the mighty whale shark (don’t worry both are harmless), minute clown fish, blue spotted stingrays, moray eels, colourful parrot fish, trumpet fish plus outstanding coral reefs and several great wrecks.
Travellers come to Thailand to appreciate the outstanding beauty and culture; the more fortunate ones get to experience the wonder of the oceans as well. Will you be one of them?