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October 8th 2013

08 Oct 2013 Written by 

Choosing a Dive Agency

SSI

Here at Big Blue, we teach people how to dive and certify them through a number of different diving agencies- The British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI), Scuba Schools International (SSI), Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Technical Diving International (TDI). For someone who has never dived before and is not familiar with the dive industry, it can all be a little confusing. So how do you choose which agency to do your open water course with for example? There are over 50 different agencies that are able to certify someone to dive as a recreational diver. They create and comply with strict professional standards laid out by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC), and their certifications are recognized worldwide. Each agency establishes its own agenda for diver training and issues certifications for all levels of scuba diving, from beginner to instructor. Courses vary slightly in their teaching methods for the beginner's level, but they all cover the same essential knowledge and practical skills development as set by the WRSTC.

The reason you have heard of some dive agencies and not others is mainly due to how well that company has marketed itself to the general public. PADI for instance has been around since 1966 and has spent a lot of time and money marketing itself. SSI has been around since 1970, but was more of a slow burner in terms of public recognition. This has changed a lot in recent years; Today, SSI is a Global company with more than 3700 Dive Centres, 31 Regional Offices around the world and materials in more than 27 languages, and in Australia more people are certified every year by SSI than PADI.

At Big Blue, most of the open water courses we teach are SSI. We are just as happy to teach PADI, but most people choose SSI after weighing up the differences, the main one being flexibility in how dive skills are taught that can make the course less stressful for the student.  SSI is also cheaper than PADI. Another reason is very Koh Tao specific- SSI has a Regional office here, and we are able to give students their certification cards at the end of the course, for PADI it has to be sent to Australia for processing, and can take over 90 days before the card is posted to the student’s home address- if you lose your temporary card during that period there is a danger you will not be allowed to go diving. Certifications by different agencies are recognised as valid licenses to dive no matter where you dive. You could do your SSI open water, PADI advanced, SSI rescue and divemaster and PADI instructor- they are all interchangeable. As a PADI open water diver you are qualified to dive to 18m. As an SSI open water diver you are qualified to dive to 18m. Each agency recognises the level of certification you have previously achieved, regardless of the agency you did it with.

Perhaps the biggest difference between PADI and SSI is that PADI instructors are able to operate independently, whereas SSI instructors must be affiliated with an SSI dive school to be able to teach. This means that standards and quality of teaching can be monitored regularly and directly on-site to ensure that the student is being taught correctly and safely at all times. Ultimately though, any course is only ever going to be as good as the instructor that is teaching it, and at Big Blue we take great pride in teaching new instructors how to do things properly, and only employ people who are able to demonstrate a professional attitude to teaching at all times. If you don't believe us, have a look at our trip adviser reviews.

Big Blue staff profiles

Ant Silwood- Wales... birthplace of the internationally renowned and critically acclaimed soap opera Pobol y Cwm. If you've never heard of it, then you need to stay in more, speak Welsh and live in Wales. If you're unable to do so, the spirit of Pobol Y Cwm has made its way to Koh Tao in the form of Ant Silwood, 53, the man with a million nicknames- Ant 1, big Ant, the other Ant, definitely not Ant 2, and, this isn't the Ant I was looking for.. A PADI and SSI instructor and TDI technical diver, Ant was trained at Big Blue and worked as one of our full time divemasters before taking the plunge to instructing. He's pretty good at both so our loss was our gain, hurrah! With some kind of background in IT or computers or sales, or possibly something completely different, he decided to leave the Sun-draped valleys one day and hot foot his way around the world, and only stopped by in Thailand to spread the word of a brilliant new soap opera he'd heard of. Very amiable, universally liked by his colleagues and students, Ant knows how to get the best out of anyone. His dancing on the other hand is a complete disgrace to all men his age. The only way he keeps his dignity is to do it with a wry smile on his face, and only ever to dance next to tech Ian when he's "making shapes". If you are lucky enough to be taught how to dive by him, treat him as a Mogwai from the film gremlins- instead of not getting him wet, just don't allow music to reach his ears at any point.

Ant-silwood

Carly Marsh- Smaller than Frodo Baggins, and sporting hairier toes, Carly, 64, is one of our full time divemasters. Her strengths are her obsession and ability to find anything and everything that moves underwater for her customers, her frankly suspicious strength when lugging tanks around, and her unceasing friendliness in spite of her hailing from South Africa. Her weaknesses are her unhealthy interest in necromancy and voodoo, and her inability to see over the counter in the Big Blue shop. Not something you can work on at her age- and no-one will lend her a stool due to the aforementioned hairy toes. Nicknamed prawn because of her uncanny likeness to the bad or good guys (Can't remember which) in the film district 9. If you ever want to know how Gulliver must have felt, come to Big Blue and seek out the prawn to take you diving, just don't pull off the head and throw away the shell until after your fun dive!

Carly

“Loved it!”

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 5 October 2013- I chose Big Blue as my diving school because of the reviews on trip advisor. After signing up I could start the same day with my open water course. At first I was struggling with the breathing under water (lets be honest, breathing under water, that's just weird), but due to the patience and professionalism of our instructor Daisy I soon found the confidence to really enjoy the diving. I enjoyed the diving and the atmosphere at Big Blue after diving so much I also booked my advanced course and some fun dives after that. I highly recommended Big Blue to anyone who is eager to go diving. Either beginner or advanced. The staff are really good, they know what they are doing and are just fun to be around. The diving school and bar are great to hang out after diving which made my stay at Koh Tao the best part of my trip around Thailand. I will certainly come back on another holiday!

Koh Tao dive sites: Japanese Gardens

The Two Islands of Koh Nang Yuan are joined by a thin stretch of beach. On the seaward side lies the dive site Twins, and on the other, between Nang Yuan and Koh Tao lies Japanese Gardens. This is a perfect dive site for teaching beginner divers on their first open water dives, or for anyone undertaking a try dive. It’s named after a cargo ship carrying bonsai tree seeds sank there, which allowed the coral to grow. No wait, that’s that blurred line between fiction and reality that everyone’s talking about. It was actually named because of the ornate arrangement of coral covering most of the dive site. The reason it’s perfect for open water dives is because it is pretty shallow, and there are large areas of sand breaking up the coral, it’s also well sheltered from bigger waves and stronger currents. The shallowest point is zero metres on the beach- you look silly wearing scuba gear and the tan lines are not very attractive. Heading out East towards Koh Tao will get you 12-14 metres before you’re off the dive site.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s only good for novice divers though, the wide range of different types of coral is reason enough to go fun diving there, and you can head North or South parallel with Nang Yuan for a nice little coast dive, and there’s loads of marine life to see. Nudibranchs galore, fusiliers, rabbit fish, a shoals of yellow tails barracuda, the occasional sea snake and porcupine fish, and triggerfish. There’s even lionfish and juvenile harlequin sweetlips to be sought out. You can certainly get your money’s worth there because your air will last longer as you don’t need to dive deep to see all the cool stuff. Definitely worth seeing.

 

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Read 1032 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 08:23

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