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Doing your open water course here on Ko Tao will take 3 and a half days. But what if you don’t have that long? Learning to dive is best taken at a relaxed pace but if you are really short on time there are a number of things that you can do.
Firstly, you could consider doing your theory online before you get here. Both PADI and SSI offer you the facility to do all of your academic work over the internet. PADI charge for this but with SSI it’s free. If you take this option you can do your water work in as little as two full days. It’s better to have a little longer just in case you need the extra time to master any skills and techniques; learning to dive is performance based, not time based.
If you have a while before you come and you have a dive centre close to home, you could consider taking your theory and pool work with them before you leave. This is called an open water referral. Although it will end up costing you more money than if you had completed the whole thing here on Ko Tao, it will mean that when you get here you just have the four dives to complete. This can be completed in two half-days which means that you may have extra time to make some more dives or explore the island.
What not many people realise too is that there is actually a shorter course than the open water course, which is called scuba diver. Essentially this is just half of the open water course and can be completed in two days. You study the first few portions of the academics, the initial half of the skills and techniques required for the full certification, and the first two dives. This will certify you to dive to a maximum depth of 12 metres, always accompanied by a dive professional. This differs from the full open water, which certifies you to dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres with a buddy.
This level is also great for kids too. Ten and 11 year olds are not allowed to dive deeper than 12 metres until they are 12 years old anyway; this gets them in the water diving and enjoying the reef life without over-complicating things. Regardless of why you choose this level, the best thing is that it can be topped up to full open water later, anywhere in the world.
Your final option if you really only have a day or two here on Ko Tao is to take a taster dive, usually called a discover scuba dive or a resort dive. In simple terms this is the first quarter of your open water course. This is not a certification, but rather a simple, safe and fun way to get in the water and give diving a go. You will be taken through a safety briefing and some basic diving principles. You will go into very shallow water and be given some time to adjust and get comfortable. You will be taught some techniques to make your dive more comfortable and then you will go on a tour of the reef. The dive will be shallow, to a maximum depth of 12 metres, and if you like it you are likely to have the option of making a second dive too.
However as this is not a license you cannot credit what you have completed after you leave to any future diving course. You are only allowed to credit it towards your license if you follow straight on with the course with the same centre. It’s still a great experience and a lot of fun.
Ultimately I would recommend not trying to rush learning to dive as you can put undue pressure on yourself. If you have never tried it before and don’t have that much time then I would suggest just enjoying the ocean with a taster dive. You can find out if you like diving and then plan your next trip to ensure you do have more time to learn. While the experience doesn’t credit the course it will mean that learning to dive in the future is easier as you have already done it once and know what to expect.
If you have completed a few dives already through this programme and know you are going to love it, then consider one of the options for shortening your course.
Whatever you choose, give it a go and jump in. The waters and sites here on Ko Tao are great for learning and you never know, learning to dive might just change your life.
By Ayesha Cantrell
Last updated on 11th December, 2014.