Throughout the past 6 months, we’ve climbed mountains, motorbiked through an entire country, braved thunderstorms like no other, whilst all the time being surrounded by the sea and you know what we just hadn’t seen yet? A single bloomin’ fish! We couldn’t wait to get diving qualification so we could finally venture into the deep blue seas that constantly surround us throughout our travels.
Koh Tao, Thailand is world renown for being the one of the best places in the world to get your diving qualification - mainly because of the price of the courses (cheap, cheap!) and also due to the beauty of its’ waters/dive sites, just off the south coast of Thailand. Fun fact - a third of the worlds divers today, actually received their first diving qualification in Koh Tao!
We chose Carabao Diving School in Koh Tao as it was the cheapest school we found, with some of the best reviews and accommodation! We paid 8600 Baht (£195) each for our SSI open water diving qualification and 3 nights accommodation. The accommodation was amazing, there was a huge pool next to a big apartment complex. There was a bar opposite the pool that played the best music and served alcohol until around 11pm. The restaurant on site had an awesome menu, however we spent the few days ordering cheap and tasty chicken salads and Pad Thais from ‘the sandwich lady’ stall, next door to 7-11, just up the road from Carabao divers.
Now, you might be wondering why we chose an SSI qualification instead of a PADI qualification, which seems to be the most popular. Well, not only does Carabao only offer SSI qualifications, but we learnt during our time here that they are literally both the same! They both follow exactly the same regulations and are recognised qualifications all over the world. Therefore, SSI or PADI makes no difference.
But we'll let you into a little secret! SSI is cheaper and if you're travelling, much more convenient because all the information you need to read is found on an app, instead of a big book you have to then carry around!
We arrived on our first day here at around 3:30, after an incredibly choppy boat ride from Ko Phangan. As the course starts at 4:30 on the first day, we chose to start our course pretty much as soon as we checked in that day.
The first day of the course includes introduction to diving videos and individual reading using the SSI app. As it was just the two of us on the course, our diving instructor (Froggy) said that we could do this in our room instead of the classroom. The videos were, well... a bit boring to watch but it has to be done and it’s really interesting if you actually listen to it! There’s some really good information in the videos too that will help you with the theory on day 2, so don’t nod off until the very end! The next job was to go through the first 3 chapters that had been assigned to us on the mobile app containing all the theory for our SSI open water course. We read through all three chapters before we went to bed that night, thinking it was going to be a doddle and wouldn’t take much time. FYI - they do! We were up till fine 12 o’clock having gone to bed at 10! Each section takes at least half an hour to properly read through and if done properly (not skipped like I tried to do in the first chapter), you’ll pass the quiz at the end of each section no problem.
On day 2, we spent the morning in the classroom discussing the theory side of diving (talking about why we would be doing the things we would be doing in the sea - ya get me?!). It was really simple when it was all explained, Froggy was brilliant teacher and made us laugh the entire time he taught us. At the end of this session, we got our kit ready and went through all the safety checks that we would have to make, on a real canister and buoyancy aid.
After lunch, the second half of the day was spent in the pool. We got geared up, did our safety checks and did the whole lesson underwater. In the pool, we practiced skills such as buoyancy, ascending and descending and other safety measures such as retrieving your breathing device, emptying water from your mask and sharing air. We practiced all of the hand signals and even practiced how to get rid of your diving buddies cramp whilst under! The session was awesome and we both felt so confident afterwards. We couldn’t wait to get down and dirty with the fishies the next day!
That night, another 3 chapters were released onto our SSI app, which were to be completed by the morning as we would be taking the big exam then. So, you guessed it, we spent the night reading and revising after a good old Pad Thai.
On day 3, we had another morning of theory before we took the big test. Word of advice - the big test is comprised of the questions from the quizzes at the end of the chapters on the SSI app. Therefore, if you get these right and revise them, you’ll pass the exam! We got 96% and 98% (very chuffed that I’m the latter after Jac and I had a bet about one of the answers on the quiz which we both differed opinion on!)
In the afternoon, we hit the big blue! We got all of our kit ready and got onto a long tail boat with around 15 other divers. The boat dropped us off to the bigger Carabao Diving boat that was out at sea. We were assigned a canister, got all our equipment ready, had a coffee and some pineapple and hit the ocean.
It was a little nerve wracking trying to remember all of the stuff you had been taught previously, but after a few puffs in and out underwater it all comes flooding back! (mind the pun)
Diving under the sea was literally unbelievable, as you can already imagine. Jac and I instantly fell in love with scuba diving from our first dive! We dive down to 10 metres on both of our first two dives, which doesn’t seem like much but there is so much to explore just 10 metres deep! The coral reef is beautiful, a little brown and broken in some parts unfortunately, but stunning in most of the rest. The colours and marine plants are amazing. We swam down at one point and waved our hands above these multicoloured plants that looked like pipe cleaners, they all shot back into a rock when you waved your hand above them, it was so cool to see!
We saw so many cool fish! We saw big ones, small ones, spiky ones, fat one, goggly-eyed ones, rainbow colour ones, buck-tooth ones... he did actually tell us the name of all of these ‘ones’ afterwards but obviously we can’t remember. We’ll leave that to good old David Attenborough to tell you in his ever-so-soothing voice.
We practice our 3 skills underwater which went... swimmingly! (cracking myself up with these now) and then came up to surface for 10 minutes before jumping back in for our second dive of the day.
On day 3, we completed 2 more dives, including a 18m dive which was awesome! Mostly because saw a motorbike that had been thrown into the sea on this dive, just sitting on the ocean floor. Either that or someone’s definitely parked it in a silly spot before a night out and forgot where they left it! You can bet they didn’t feel so fin-tastic in the morning! (thank you thank you, I’m here all night folks)
After 2 awesome dives, we surfaced and had completed our open water diving qualification. It was such an incredible experience at Carabao Diving Centre and we would recommend this centre to anyone if they are looking to do the same qualification! If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the second below we would love to hear from you. You never know, we could meet in the middle of the ocean diving in the same part of the world one day!
When we're free