Jul 25 2012
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?
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.
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.
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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