17/18 Moo 1, Koh Tao Suratthani, 84360 Thailand         Info @ Big Blue Diving        +66 (0) 77 456 050

BIg Blue News

"So what exactly is a refresher?"

 

This is one of the questions we’re asked here at Big Blue on a regular basis from our certified divers, as for those who haven’t dived in a while or are feeling a bit rusty will need do the refresher dive - also known as a ‘scuba tune-up’, ‘skills refresh dive’ or ‘scuba review’. It is essential for a number or reasons, which we’ll look at in this blog.

Scuba diving is one of those unique activities that safety issues arise not so much from a diver’s lack of ability or knowledge but what is going on inside their head. A small problem can easily be blown out of proportion in the mind of an out-of –practice diver, and lead to a full-blown panic situation. A panicked diver is not only a danger to themselves but also to their buddy, the divemaster or instructor, and the triggers for panic can often be something as small and simple as badly-fitting equipment or a bit of water in their mask. 

It’s because of this that both PADI and SSI actually suggest that divers who did not dive in the last six months should take do a refresher dive, as during it you will (re)learn the essential skills you may have forgotten during the period you didn't dive, as well as a review of:

  • Your underwater buoyancy skills
  • Your general knowledge about safety and underwater communication
  • How to retrieve your second stage and mask clearing
  • How to get in the water safely

Obviously, to say that everyone who hasn’t dived in more than 6 months is quite a broad assumption - experienced divers who have not been diving in over six months are usually their own best judge if they need a formal course to regain their scuba skills, however every diver who had not dived in a year should seriously consider the course. 

 

bcbc

 

So…do I need to do a refresher?

As you no doubt know, when you received your original certification card you were given a diving license for the rest of your life. There is nothing stopping you from renting or filling a dive tank and doing a dive on your own, but the fact is it might be the last thing you ever do! If you have been away from diving too long, your skills will definitely diminish and the refresher dive will give a nice, slow and shallow introduction back into the wonderful world of scuba diving safely and competently.

As well as being essential for you, the diver, to enjoy your dives with us safely and without incident, it also ensures that the rest of your diving group is diving with someone who knows exactly what to do if a situation arises out of the ordinary, and has a good grasp on the techniques required to dive properly without ruining the dive for everyone else – none of us like to be stuck in the group with the diver running into the back of us, kicking up the sand, panicking and running out of air well before the rest of us!

 

 

BBBBBB

 

 

 

What exactly do we have to do then?

The first part of the refresher is always the quick checklist of theory questions, which talk about what to do if you get separated from your group, what to do if you get too cold, and a few decompression-related situations. Usually the Divemasters will use these questions to get a general idea of what your performance will be like underwater – the questions are very simple and usually just require a little common-sense to get the correct answer, so if you got lots of them incorrect we know we’re going to be in for an ‘interesting’ time…

The next step is to practice again how to put together your equipment, do the necessary personal checks on it, and then you’ll have your dive briefing where your dive leader will go through all the different signs you’ll be using during the dive, and also talk about the natural features of the dive site and what we’re likely to encounter.

After the brief we then kit-up, and do the buddy check on your dive partners equipment – a very important part of any divers preparations before the dive, regardless of experience. Incidentally, when diving on holiday I always judge my dive centre of choice on whether they insist on the buddy check or not – if they don’t, then it shows that they’re not taking safety seriously and I’ll move to a different dive operation.

Next up is the exciting, in-water part – we start by demonstrating how to enter the water safely using the ‘giant stride’ technique, and like with all the skills you’ll be practicing your dive professional will do it first, then you have a go. When we’ve all safely entered the water we will swim to a shallow part of the chosen divesite, and descend onto the sandy bottom – usually you’ll be at a depth of around 2 metres for this part, and we spend about 20 minutes going through essential skills with the mask and regulator. This is then followed by the best part of the whole refresh, the diving part! When the skills are completed, we slowly start to creep deeper, usually reaching depths of around 10 metres, and reacquaint ourselves with the buoyancy control needed to dive properly– in particular the use of our breathing to move us up and down in the water, and how to control our movements in the water without damaging ourselves or the coral. It’s usually another 30 minutes or so of diving if you’re breathing slowly, making the refresher about one hour underwater – plenty of time to become used to the equipment again on a shallow, easy site free of current, but still with the beautiful marine life and corals that Koh Tao is famous for!

As the air in the tank is beginning to get low (and after your dive leader has sent up their surface marker to warn boats of our ascent) you will then finish off the refresher by correctly and slowly ascending back to the surface. Once back on the boat we will then discuss any problems that arose, what we could maybe do differently the next time we dive, and then it’s back to land to clean the equipment and celebrate the successful completion of your refresher, and subsequent re-entry into the world of scuba diving!

 

 

B

 

We do the refresher dives every day here, starting at 11.30 am. You can book them in person, or online at www.bigbluediving.com

With over 85 dive centres now on Koh Tao, choosing which one to do your PADI/SSI Open Water course with has never been harder. Talking to the dive centre in person is something we highly recommend, but with each of them doing their utmost to sell you on their own particular store it's good to go with some ideas on what you're looking for before booking your scuba license.

So what facts should we take into consideration when deciding who to grace with your presence and go scuba diving with? Here we're going to talk about a few things to have a think about before making that decision:

Large or Small?
Each has their pros and cons, and it really depends on what you want from your new dive centre - do you want one-on-one with the instructor and diving from a small boat, or do you prefer to have a few others also learning with you and a larger boat? Diving is a very social experience, so personally I like to have a few others around so I have the chance to make friends with a bunch of people, and the large boats are a lot more comfortable in waves due to their increased weight - take note those of you who can get seasick!

 

                                                                                                 

Pool Training or Immediately in the Ocean?
For a nervous diver, the choice is very simple - find a dive centre that uses a pool to learn to dive. To immediately be jumping into the ocean with around 15-20 kg of equipment many people have never seen in their lives can be very intimidating, and here on Koh Tao you've then got a 20-30 minutes swim to get to the beach area to practise for the first time, with snorkellers, swimmers, kayaks, current and visibility to think about as well as all the new skills you need to learn. To learn all the new techniques in a pool before getting into the sea is a lot less nerve-wracking - after all you're just stepping into a shallow pool - and there are never snorkellers, kayaks, currents etc.. Another negative point about immediately learning in the sea is that you now have a time limit to get through all the things you need to successfully complete before being allowed to go on to the next part of the course (as the boat needs to get back before the sun goes down) whereas the pool doesn't go anywhere, giving the instructor the whole day to ensure that the student is totally comfortable and safe with this equipment before even considering getting into the sea.

We believe here at Big Blue that letting our students spend all that time in the pool is the safest way to teach them how to dive, so then when they're ready to ocean dive for the first time they're not terrified of the prospect but excited and raring to go!

Location
With so many dive centres on this small island there's not enough space on the beach for them all to have that ideal location right on the shore, so you'll find that most of the cheaper ones are located on the streets around Sairee, Mae Haad and Chalok - of course you will have a much better experience if your dive centre is situated right on the beach, as the natural beauty of our beaches can't help but inspire a student compared to those on a dusty street. So how do we choose which of these beaches is best?

For those who want to be close to all the action there's no better choice than Sairee Beach. With the best restaurants, bars and clubs on the island located around there and easily the best spot to view the islands incredible sunsets, Sairee is THE place to be if you want to be within walking distance of all the island's hottest spots, plus by simply heading to the north of Sairee you also get the peace and tranquility Thailand is famous for - but still just a five minute stroll down the beach to the busier parts!

For those who prefer more built up areas, or want to stay close to the piers for laziness reasons then Mae Haad is the place for you. With a few good places to eat, slightly more relaxed bars and no real clubs at all, it tends to attract the slightly older visitors to the island. The beach isn't as nice or clean as in Chalok and Sairee (due to the amount of traffic coming in and out of the port) but it's still a great place to relax and enjoy the sunsets of Koh Tao without as many backpackers around you.

Incredibly popular with the islands French and Spanish speaking contingent, south-facing Chalok Baan Khao is a smaller beach than Sairee and has a lot less people staying around it. One of the islands cheaper places to stay, it has a fair few budget Thai places to eat, and a handful of decent bars to enjoy afterwards. Those wishing to party may find it a little too relaxed, and the beach often suffers from the 'Low-Tide Blues' making it difficult to swim from there, but nevertheless it reamins a popular spot for those wanting peace and quiet above everything else.

 

 

                                                                                                  

Reputation
When scuba-diving 18 metres underwater on the deepest part of the SSI or PADI Open Water license, the last thing you want to be worried about is the equipment that's keeping you alive down there - and here lies the most important thing of all when choosing a dive centre - the quality, safety and reputation of the business. The safety of the diver must be the priority every day on every single dive, and this is where we can start using tools like Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and Facebook to filter out those dive centres that appear good on paper, but in reality fail to impress. We always recommend a dive centre that had been diving these particular waters for a while, as then you know that they've worked out precisely where to send their students for the best possible Open Water experience, and it's worth going for the bigger dive centres over the small if you're worried about your safety - the larger dive schools have bigger budgets, so can spend a lot more on essential safety items. From well-stocked first aid kits to tanks of pure oxygen on every boat, you can tell a lot about a dive centre and how seriously they take their divers safety from the contents of their first aid kits - so sneak a peak!

 

 

                                                                                    

Atmosphere
The final factor to consider when choosing your dive centre for that elusive SSI/ PADI Open Water is of course how you fit in with the people working there! The atmosphere generated at the dive centre is essential to cultivate the type of learning environment that inspires the students and makes them want to come back for more, and give their very best in all parts of the course. If you're surrounded by people you don't understand or get on with then immediately you're fighting a battle not only to complete the diving license but also to become a part of the group around you, which inevitably leads to frustrations. To find out if you are the right sort of person for the dive centre there's really no better way than to talk to them in person, and get a feel for the place before making that decision. If it's not possible to do this, then try shooting them a few messages on their Facebook page to see how they respond - you can tell a lot about the people from how enthusiastic or disinterested their replies are to you. Trip Advisor reviews will also tell you a lot about the atmosphere at the dive school from an unbiased source, so it's well worth trawling through a few to get an idea of what the place is like from the students themselves.

 

See you underwater!

 

Your html here