Jul 25 2012

Choosing a dive centre on Ko Tao

Published by at 6:11 am under Ko Tao

Thailand’s Ko Tao has somewhere in the region of 40 dive centres, so choosing one can feel daunting, particularly if you have never dived before. As with any choice, you need to keep in mind what you are looking for during your experience; don’t waver or compromise, and you should get what you want.  So, what should you be looking for when it comes to diving on Ko Tao?

What the hell is this thing again?

What the hell is this thing again?

Ask about group size. Classes are allowed to have up to eight students in a course but this can be increased if more dive professionals are assisting on the course. This is an important thing to consider if you want a more personalised course, but also if your priorities are more geared towards meeting and socialising with new people. Do consider that the beginning openwater course runs over three and a half days, and this is standard whether there are eight or more in your class or just two. Clearly you are going to get more time and attention in a smaller class. If you are looking for a private class, ask — some centres will offer this for a little bit extra.

Ask about boat size, too. Some quite large dive boats on Ko Tao take 60 or more divers; if you would like a quieter experience then the smaller operators’ boats carry around 25.

Operators hire many multilingual instructors, so if English isn’t your first language and you’d rather complete the course in your mother tongue, you can look for a centre that offers this.

Now we're talking.

Now we’re talking.

Check precisely what is and is not included in your course. Find out what the centre’s refund policy is if you can’t complete the course for whatever reason. And find out what happens if you need more time to practise something: do they give you more time, charge you more or put you back to the next day?

Some centres have accommodation, and some help you select and book your accommodation, but do consider its location.  Learning to dive is tiring so you want to be ensured a good night’s sleep.

Exploring the deep blue.

Exploring the deep blue.

Many online forums can help you with reviews and feedback from centres, so do your research ahead of time. Also keep an eye on the blogs and social media of the centres that you like online, which should give you a flavour of their personality and passion. If you have not booked in advance, you can simply wander in and talk to the staff. Have a look at their equipment and facilities while you are there; you may not yet recognise good from bad, but you will recognise care and their willingness to spend time with you to explain answers to your queries.

While it’s not directly related to the quality of your course, in these days of responsible travel you’d be remiss if you didn’t check a centre’s commitment to the island and ocean environment on which they rely.

In such a competitive market, discounts and incentives are offered, but don’t let these sway you. Getting what you want from the course is more important than saving a few hundred baht. You are only going to learn to dive once, so make sure you choose right.  You wouldn’t sky dive with the cheapest operator just because they were cheap – would you?

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9 Responses to “Choosing a dive centre on Ko Tao” ...

  1. Jakeon 25 Jul 2012 at 7:46 am

    Hi, I was just wondering if anyone would give me a idea of how much courses like this run. I know it varies but a ballpark number would help me a lot. Thank you in advance.

  2. Ayeshaon 25 Jul 2012 at 8:09 am

    Expect to pay 9800B for an Open Water Course, 8500B for Advanced Open Water and between 700-1000B per fun dive. Fun dives tend to get cheaper the more that you do and may be discounted after completing a course – but on the whole 700B is the cheapest you can expect.

  3. Rolandon 17 Jan 2013 at 2:20 am

    Hello, Im wondering would it be reccomended to wait till we arrive on the island to find a dive centre or try and book a course ahead of time. My wife and I are Open water divers and are hoping to complete all the courses to become Divemasters while in thailand. Is it un-reasonable to ask for a discount on a package to do the three levels of training to ge to Divemaster? thanks for any suggestions, cheers.

  4. Ayesha Cantrellon 17 Jan 2013 at 6:36 am

    Hi there!

    As you are actually coming to do a number of courses then checking out the dive centers personally is not a bad idea. I would recommend that you do some research before you come and have a list of ‘favorites’ and then personally pop in and check them out to see what you think. You could do our first course with one and then make some fun dives at others too so that you can get a feel for each center before choosing one to take your Dive Master course. Its important that you get the correct environment for you for this course – you will be committing to the dive centre for 6-8 weeks so you do want to get it right. Some centres will offer you a discount based on taking all courses, but again – choose what is right for you rather than saving a few baht – you only get to do the training once and it is the foundation of your dive career so make sure you get the best for you.

    If you do arrive at a busy time its a good idea to have at least a few nights accommodation booked so you are not feeling pressured and can have a look around in a relaxed manner.


  5. clioon 12 Feb 2013 at 12:06 pm


    I’m thinking of doing the online E-learning course to prepare for doing the PADI Open Water diving course on Koh Tao next month. It makes sense to me to get that bit out of the way so that I don’t have to spend time sitting in a classroom – I’d rather be outdoors!
    The thing is…. if I do the online course (which costs about £85) does that mean that I don’t have to pay the full 9800Baht for the practical part of the Open Water course or do they charge this regardless?

    Also, I see that the SSI E-learning course is free but is recognized in the same way that the PADI E-learning is?

    I’m a bit confused so any info would be great!!


  6. Ayesha Cantrellon 14 Feb 2013 at 8:08 am

    Ok – so if you want to do PADI you need to do the PADI eleanring.

    If you want to do SSI you need to do the SSI online training.

    SSI is free, yes where as as you have noted PADI is not.

    Each dive centre is different as to weather they reduce the price however as the course price is very cheap on Koh Tao anyway – if they do reduce the cost of the course, it will be minimal and not directly related to what you have paid for the elearning.

    SSI is internationally recognized the same as PADI so you have no restrictions for using the license anywhere.

  7. Peteron 15 Sep 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Hi, sorry I don’t want to advertise here but I’m just looking for a German speaking dive school on Koh Tao for me and my wife (we are both non-divers yet). I postet on several (German) Dive Websites now but never got a reply. Well we found two schools we might want to check out. One is called Bans and one is Tauchen mit Stefan (both are German speaking). Someone has any experience with one of these schools? Thank you! Peter

  8. Ayeshaon 16 Sep 2013 at 9:35 am

    The majority of dive centres on Koh Tao will have German Speaking instructors….so I would actually advise tit still to choose the centre based on the above points and mail them to check that they have German speaking instructors that you can book for your course. If a dive centre haven’t answered your enquiries it says something about their customer service.

  9. Peteron 22 Sep 2013 at 8:01 am

    Ok thank you Ayesha! I will do this!

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