Upon arrival in Koh Tao, we only knew we were going to be learning to dive here, on Turtle Island. We weren’t sure where we were gonna sleep or with which diving school we’d be doing so however. Brecht did do some research on learning to dive in Koh Tao and had a selection of diving schools in mind, but there are so many of them (more than 50 on this tiny island) that we wanted to check them out personally before deciding.
We wandered around the pier, trying to decide which way to start walking, when a taxi driver asked us where we wanted to go. We kindly thanked him and walked away from the pier. He didn’t take no for an answer and after the third time he offered his services, we negotiated a price for him to take us to Roctopus, the one on top of our list.
He dropped us off right in front of the entrance of Roctopus and ushered us to go inside (maybe getting a reward for doing so?). We got a warm welcome and lots of information about diving with Roctopus and resorts they worked together with. We felt relaxed and in good hands, so decided to just go for it and start the next day with a course to get Open Water 20 certified for ฿8500 per person.
The next day we met up with our diving instructor Emma and the other couple in our diving team, who happened to be from the Netherlands. Four students per team is the maximum with Roctopus, which is really a must, because you’ll get more personal attention and it’s obviously a lot safer, should something go wrong.
While you’ve probably heard or read more about PADI or SSI, Emma convinced us to certify with RAID, which allowed us more time in the water instead of watching videos. We discussed the schedule for the next three days and got some homework to read and quick quizzes to do that night. There’s actually quite a bit of material to go through, so definitely don’t underestimate this. It took about 3 hours before we were both finished.
On day 2 of our course we reviewed our homework with Emma and trained some skills in confined water (the pool, depth 1-3 meters). We got comfortable with all the diving gear, learned what to do when you’re out of air or there’s water in your mask and how to safely ascent and descent. All in the safe environment of a swimming pool to ease into it. After a long day in the water it was another 3 hours of reading and quizzing, so we were pretty exhausted and ready for bed at the end of it.
On the third day things started to get real. After a final exam we would get our wetsuits wet in open water (the ocean, depth 10-12m) for the first time. We went to an easy, shallow dive site and practiced all the skills we learned in the pool. There was already plenty of marine life to be seen, so we had to focus on not disturbing anything with our not yet perfect diving.
Afterwards we decided to buy our own masks for a better fit, making sure it wouldn’t let water in or squeeze our faces. Worth the investment, because an ill fitting mask can be a stressor which keeps you from enjoying the dive. There was still some room left in our bags so now we can snorkel and dive around the world.
Day 4 was an early morning: rise and shine at 5h15 to be ready at 6h sharp for our final day of the Open Water 20 course. A professional underwater cameraman from Fat Fish Movies joined us on our last two dives to capture us visiting marine life up to 20m deep. We bought the result for ฿1500 and were allowed to share it over here for your enjoyment. Our day starts at about 2:10, after the general Roctopus intro:
We definitely recommend Roctopus for diving on Koh Tao. They have a friendly and professional crew and it’s obvious that all gear is looked after and taken care of. As mentioned they’ll only take on 4 students per team (a must!) and have some great instructors with lots of experience.
Emma in particular is a fantastic diving instructor. I had problems with controlling neutral buoyancy (staying at a certain depth without ascending or descending), the most important skill in diving. She was patient and took me on another two dives (+฿700 per dive), to practice and perfect it.
At first, I was actually afraid to dive and had all these worst case scenarios in my head. Now I’m confident. I enjoy diving and am looking forward to our next diving course: Explorer 30. If it wasn’t for Emma, I’d probably given up on diving before entering the open water. Imagine what I would have missed out on!