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

Big Blue Diving - Koh Tao - Thailand - Displaying items by tag: KOH PHANGAN

 

 

Anyone working in the dive industry will have no doubt at some point in their careers had this very argument; is the divemaster (DM) or the instructor a better job? Ask a divemaster, and they’ll give you the opposite answer to if you ask an instructor, every single time. So who is right? Which is better? Let’s look at the facts right here:

 

 DMM

Divemaster

So what exactly does a DM do?’ I hear you ask. The truth is…pretty much everything needed to run the dive centre!

 

Here at Big Blue the DM on land is responsible for organizing the boats, signing up new divers onto the relevant trips, assigning instructors/students to the correct vessel whilst also deciding which dive sites they’re going to, and ensuring the correct amounts of dive equipment are on the boats ready for the students to use. This seems like a lot, right? That’s because it is! The DM is essentially running the whole dive centre, and without them the place would fall apart very quickly indeed. They also act as the intermediary between the ground staff, captains and management, and are expected to be able to quickly fix any problems that arise in a collected, composed and calm manner.

The land role of the DM, therefore, isn’t the greatest part of the job at all. Quite stressful at times, many decisions need to be made very swiftly whilst knowing in the back of your mind that just one small error could be make or break someone whole dive experience.

 

DM

The reason why the DM job is regarded as one of the best in the world is obviously not for the land based role, but the underwater part. With most of their work being done underwater, every day they are lucky enough to lead certified divers around the best sites, with their safety and enjoyment being of particular importance of course. Whilst guiding underwater their chief role is to find incredible marine life (that most divers wouldn’t be able to spot themselves) and…point at it!

Yes, that’s correct – pointing at beautiful things for a living. What a tough life they lead...

You can see now why so many divers aspire one day to become a real life Divemaster, after all it’s being paid to look for cool stuff just as we do when we’re on our holidays diving for fun, the only difference being that we have to point at it too! It also means that we’re not diving with beginner divers like the instructors, so we don’t have as many depth limits and are encouraged to use features like swim thru’s and play with currents to excite and challenge the divers we’re leading. As the best DM in Thailand (true fact, my mam told me) I know my heart would be broken having to dive our best deep sites like Sail Rock, Chumphon and South West Pinnacle but stuck at 18 metres as I’m teaching an Open Water course, or every other day diving our shallow beginner sites at such dizzying depths of around 8 or 9 metres maximum – this simply doesn’t happen to us DMs!

 

 padi dive instructor teach kids

Instructor

After reading all that about us lovely DMs there’s no way that the instructor role can be worth going for…or can it?

 

I think it all comes down to what sort of person you are, and what you’re hoping to get out of your diving. The instructors are there at the frontline of diving, taking new, nervous Open Water students and turning them from crying/bolting to surface/ripping out regulator divers and (in just days) transforming them into safe, competent and confident Gods of the ocean, gliding around the reefs without a care in the world. This obviously leaves a huge sense of reward for the instructor, and I’ve no doubt that the majority of us would love that feeling of accomplishment when we’ve completed something challenging and created these wonderful new divers – it’s a feeling that’s not always easy to come by in life and it’s right here every single day for the dive instructor.

I also think that the instructor role is a lot more simple than what the DMs must do (but I’m sure lots of instructors may argue with me on this one) as they have it all wonderfully laid out for them. The boats are organized, the equipment packed, tanks provided and dive sites chosen – all they have to do now is be a damn good instructor, and they’re a winner. The DMs however absolutely must find amazing things underwater, or they’ve failed and their divers will surface unhappy – I know just how worrying it is halfway into a dive when you’ve found nothing special!

Oh, and did I mention that the dive instructors get paid a hell of a lot more than the DMs, who make just enough to get by on?

banner padi dive instructor

 

To conclude, the best is what you believe to be the best. If you thrive under a bit of pressure and only want to dive the sexiest deep sites and not have to deal with problems associated with first time divers than DM is definitely the choice for you. If you want to come back from your dives feeling rewarded, having been directly responsible for changing someone’s life for the better, than maybe it’s time to that instructor course!

 

You can sign up for your DMT here and the Instructor training right here

 

 

Koh Tao is a very popular choice for those wishing to undertake their Divemaster training or ‘DMT’, and with over 90 dive centres to choose from finding the one most suitable for you has never been harder, and that's not even thinking about the dive centres on our neigbouring islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan!

 

Here we will look at my Top 10 reasons why there’s no one better than Big Blue if you want to do your Divemaster training here in SE Asia:

 

  1. Take as long as you like – The DMT can be done in just 4 weeks if you’re in a hurry, but when time isn’t an issue then it’s no problem to spend as long as you like getting to know the dive sites before getting signed off as one of our new Divemasters – after all, with over 25 sites to learn why hurry when you can dive as much as you like during your training!

 

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  1. Large, comfortable boats made for divers – With two large diving boats (rather than the usual small ex-fishing boats favoured by most of our rivals) you can really enjoy the travel time before and between dives with over 90% of the boat covered – essential in the heat (and rains) of Thailand. Also their size and weight makes them a lot more stable in rough seas – take note those of you who get seasick…
  1. More dive sites to learn – With no restrictions on where we can send our boats and regular trips to Sail Rock and Samran Pinnacle when conditions allow us, you’ll get more dive sites than those diving at the smaller dive centres – the bonus of diving at a well-established dive centre with 27 years of experience in these waters.
  1. Separate boats for the certified divers – In my opinion absolutely THE most important factor to consider when committing to at least a month of diving around Koh Tao is whether you’ll have to go to the same beginner dive sites every day, after all Koh Tao has a lot more first time divers than those already certified. If we had just one boat it would mean precisely that, and we do feel sorry for those out there missing out on so many excellent but challenging dive sites around the island. What’s that, Big Blue have three boats and can go wherever we want, regardless of how unsuitable it is for new divers? Where do I sign up!

 

andros dive web

 

  1. Make yourself very employable on Koh Tao – directly linked to the previous reason, if you’re planning to look for Divemaster work after your training has finished then do you want to know just a handful of dive sites, or do you want to know them all? Our fresh new DMs generally know more of underwater Koh Tao than 90% of the other DMs on the island that have trained elsewhere!
  1. Learn from the best – Divemasters don’t often stay in the job for too long, as the pull of earning lots as an instructor usually kicks in after a few months of long hours and little pay. At Big Blue however we have a team of DMs with thousands of Koh Tao dives between them (DM Steph alone has over 3000) so when you want to know what that obscure nudibranch is, what to expect when exploring off-site or just how to organize a boat as efficiently as possible then experience wins out every time.
  1. Beachfront location = great atmosphere – With limited space on the beaches, not all of the dive centres on Koh Tao are blessed with what we’re enjoying every single day – sunset facing beachfront classrooms, dorms, bar, restaurant, coffee shop and training pool. We defy anyone to not instantly relax when they see what we’re so lucky to have available to us, and of course the atmosphere around the resort reflects this. Come join us one evening for a sunset drink and see for yourself, you may never leave!

 

PADI Scuba Diver

  1. Diving 365 – High season? Diving. Monsoon season? Diving. Christmas Day? Diving. Martin Luther King Day? You get the idea! As one of Koh Tao’s only dive centres that are diving every single day of the year, rain or shine, you can be sure that if you want to really get as many dives as possible during your DMT experience then Big Blue is the place for you.
  1. Fill the tanks on the boat – Now this is one that a lot of potential DMTs don’t think about when shopping around for the dive centre most suitable for them, but it’s something that can really suck when diving every day – moving full and empty tanks to and from the dive boats. Tanks are heavy, so inevitably who gets the job of moving all the cylinders needed for the dive trip: that’s right, it’s the lucky DMTs. At Big Blue however we have our compressors on the boats, so all the tanks we need are sitting there filled and waiting for us when we get there – no need to move them back and forward every day!
  1. Dive for free forever! – This is an incredible perk, and one that may end up biting us on the arse in the future with so many happy new DMs leaving with promises to return as soon as their finances allow it: once you’ve become a fully-fledged BB Divemaster, you can return and dive for free with us as much as you like, for the rest of your life! Suddenly the little extra it costs to do your DMT with us is looking like quite the bargain, right?

 

 

Read more about Divemaster training at Big Blue right here

The Wonderful New World of Underwater Koh Tao

It’s been a while since I gave you an update on the diving we’ve been enjoying around Koh Tao recently, for no reason other than we’re trying to keep it secret so we’re not swamped with divers looking to see some incredible marine life – and believe me, we’ve been seeing some truly amazing things so far this year!

After the spectacularly whaleshark year of 2017 when so many of these big spotty monsters were seen that people were actually asking to not dive with them (as they’d ‘seen them too many times already’!) 2018 seems to following nicely in the footsteps of its older sibling and is even trying to take it one step further by showing us things we previously wouldn’t dream of encountering underwater 

                                                               

Guitarfish                                                                                      guitar shark 1600x900

These weird-looking things are part of the ray family, and I suppose from their name are supposed to look like guitars, if guitars looked like a spiky evil shark-thing. Guitarfish are bottom feeders, and like to bury themselves in mud or sand and eat crabs, and clams and worms in typical ray fashion.

There were reported sightings of guitarfish close to Shark Island a year or so ago, but as there were no photos the identification was never confirmed and they were forgotten about until last week, when a pair were spotted chilling on the sand at South-West Pinnacle!

Eagle Rays                                                                               Eagle Ray 140 1024x576  

Now this is something that’s been recorded before around Koh Tao, but very rarely indeed until a month or so ago when they were seen at Chumphon Pinnacle, White Rock, Japanese Gardens and even just off Sairee Beach on a number of occasions – in fact we saw more in 2 weeks than we’d seen in the previous 5 years, which was just great thanks!

These large species live in the open ocean rather than on the sea bottom like most rays, and feed on hard-shelled, bottom-living clams, snails and hermit crabs. Known to live as long as 25 years, they are what we could call ‘frequent flyers’ as they’re often seen breaching the surface with giant leaps!

 

False Killer and Pilot Whales                                                          FKW lifting heads while surfacing 331

Around May/June each year we’re visited by a few false killer and pilot whales who like to follow the boats, leap about a bit and then disappear as soon as we try to enter the water for a better look – they’re very shy of humans, we thought, and to be honest who can blame then?

This year was very different! For almost the whole month of May we had groups of both visiting us at different spots around Koh Tao, with pods of false killer whales being seen just a little south of Shark Island pretty much every day. These were a lot happier to be around us, and on a few occasions we were able to swim with them too.

 

                  pilot whale3

Both part of the dolphin family, they are found all around the world. The most common around Koh Tao are the short-finned pilot whales which are often confused with our other visitors, the unfortunately-named false-killer whales. Not considered a killer whale or even closely related to the killer whale, they’re named because of the shape of their skulls. Daft!

 

 

 

Lionfish                                                                              Lewis Kirkpatrick - AMRAE Productions

Rarely seen on the dive sites of Koh Tao, the lionfish is one of the most strikingly beautiful fish we have in our waters here in the Gulf of Thailand. Preferring to hide out in the deep sand away from our underwater pinnacles and reefs, to get to see one usually meant that you were lost or out looking for them purposely in the middle of nothing…but this year tells a different tale!

First there was one sitting on the HTMS Sattakut wreck, then a little later another appeared right in the middle of South West Pinnacle (thanks for the photo Lewis Kirkpatrick). Just as we were celebrating our good fortune with these two we had a sudden outbreak of them on the shallowest points of Chumphon Pinnacle, with at least TEN different fish hanging out there now, with their old hiding places abandoned to our delight.

A very photogenic fish, they’re also carrying a LOT of poisonous spines that they use to defend themselves, however they tend to be non-aggressive and usually shy away from divers (I'm trying to forget the time I was chased by a gang of them in the Similan Islands).

 

 

What’s the Story? 

So what’s changed to bring all of this marine life to us?  It’s something that’s being debated everyday here, but unfortunately it seems like the most logical theory for it may end up being a problem that could affect all of us diving here on Koh Tao.  In the deepest parts of the oceans surrounding the island we have had what’s being nicknamed ‘the dead zone’, a layer of black gunk which could very likely be mats of cyanobacteria where nothing is living due to the low levels of oxygen in it (in some cases they’re totally free of oxygen), leaving hundreds of bottom-dwellers dead or dying – in particular crabs and shrimp. As this anoxia is a death trap for our marine life, a lot of divers here believe that the creatures that would usually be well away from our divesites - the lionfish are a perfect example – are now seeking refuge on shallower parts which still have plenty of oxygen for them to thrive – like the shallow top of Chumphon Pinnacle.

Of course this theory is precisely that; just a theory, and it could be down to a number of other factors that affect the creatures down there (the large amounts of planktonic matter in the water right now is one factor that could be affecting the marine life) so keep your fingers crossed that it’s not something that’s going to lead to a mass die-off, and all these amazing creatures are here to stay for a very long time!

 

 

 

 

Thailand is world famous for its incredible dive sites, and with regular sightings of whalesharks all year round now on Koh Tao and the opportunity to bump into manta rays and leopard sharks on the Andaman side of the country there’s never been a better time to experience the best places Thailand has to offer for the scuba enthusiast.

In this blog we’ll be taking a closer look at what are regarded as the best dive sites to visit next time you’re in Thailand, and please feel free to offer suggestions of your own!

 

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‘Hin Daeng’, Mu Koh Lanta National Marine Park

Literally translated to ‘Red Rock’, this excellent divesite is located in south of Koh Phi Phi and Phuket on the west coast of Thailand. As you can see from the map it just breaks the surface and reaches depths of around 60 metres at a lovely steep wall covered in red soft corals which give the dive site its name. Best visited between November and April, there’s always a chance to see whalesharks, manta rays and even leopard sharks on occasion.  Jackfish are always present in great numbers, and it’s a lovely site to explore if you’re interested in the smaller things out there with many different types of nudibranch, shrimp and others to keep the keen macro photographer happy.

Hin Daeng

Its neighbor, ‘Hin Muang’ or ‘Purple Rock’ offers equally as wonderful diving, this time with more purple soft corals. It takes about 1-2 hours to get to these sites by speedboat from Koh Lanta or Koh Phi Phi, and is well worth the trip.

These sites are best dived with the SSI or PADI Advanced certification already due to its often challenging currents and depth.

 

 

 

richelieu rock dive site map

Richelieu Rock, Surin National Marine Park

 

Discovered as a recreational scuba dive site by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the 80’s (with the help of local fishermen) and arguably the number one site on this list, this underwater gem is world famous as being ‘Whale Shark Teritory' and draws many visitors every day because of this fact. Situated a little south of the Burmese border east of Surin Island it’s easily visited from Khao Lak and Phuket on Liveaboard or day trips, and is full of life with plankton flows ensuring the presence of big fish, in particular schooling whirls of barracuda, giant trevally, dogtooth tuna and of course the majestic whaleshark if you’re lucky.

whale shark richelieu rock

Beautiful corals, seahorses, ghost-pipefish, lionfish, harlequin shrimp, nudibranch and the chance for the rare flamboyant cuttlefish make this a must-see next time you’re diving Thailand – try to do two dives here if you really want to discover the whole site!

 

 

                                      

 

20 chumphon pinnacle

Chumphon Pinnacle, Koh Tao     

By far the most visually impressive site close to Koh Tao, this now legendary pinnacle is easily the best chance to see the whalesharks in the Gulf of Thailand (along with Sail Rock, next up on the list). Perfect for both SSI/PADI Open Water and Advanced fundivers and students, we always know that our divers are going to return from this site totally addicted to scuba diving! Once home to bullsharks and reef sharks, it's a fully submerged granite pinnacle 14 metres at its shallowest point and reaching as deep as 47 metres off the northern tip (towards a secret pinnacle nicknamed 'The Castle' due to its shape). It's surrounded by schools of barracuda, large grouper towards the ocean floor and beautiful schools of fusiliers being hunted by passing king mackerel, trevally, queenfish and rainbow runners.

chumphon

Can be dived all year round, with the best months for whalesharks usually April – June.

 

 

 

sail rock

Sail Rock, not far from Koh Tao/Koh Samui/Koh Phangan

With no other dive site for miles around, Sail Rock is renowned for being the undisputed number one dive site in the whole of the Gulf of Thailand. The only site for miles around, all of the larger species in the area are attracted towards it which inevitably makes it a great place to see whalesharks and the other big stuff that hangs around our sites – in 2017 there were at least 102 whalesharks sightings here, the most ever seen in the history of Koh Tao/Koh Phangan diving!

Batfish at Sail Rock

Once home to bullsharks (come back soon please!) it's covered in pelagics - schools of chevron and pickhandle barracuda, along with batfish, queenfish and tonnes of fusiliers! The edges of the site are usually home to prowling King Mackerel over a metre long and huge, fat grouper lurking at depth, which are always looking to feed on the smaller fish that blanket the dive site.

 

 

 

 

 

king crusier map

King Cruiser Wreck, between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi

Originally a car ferry in Kobe, Japan, the King Cruiser was bought by Thailand’s marine company and used as a passenger ferry between Phuket and Phi Phi when it hit ‘Anemone Reef’ in 1997, and sank with no casualties due to the help of nearby dive and fishing boats. The wreck is 85 m long by 35 m wide, and has four decks with large walkways and windows. It lies perfectly upright at 33 metres at the deepest point, with the shallowest point being the captain’s cabin at 12 metres – strong currents and its depth make it unsuitable for Open Water divers however. 

turtle diving krabi

The wreck acts a home to hordes of scorpionfish and lionfish, and is also a feeding ground to enormous schools of snapper, batfish and trevally. Octopus, eels, turtles and the odd shark have also been known to make an appearance, so keep your eyes peeled!

 

 

So how many of these have you dived? Do you agree with our Top 5, or would you put something else on the list? Let us know through our social media!

 

 

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!

 

As one of the longest running scuba diving schools on Koh Tao, we've probably been asked every question about diving you could think of, in particular regarding the Open Water license that so many of our students come especially to do here on Koh Tao - after all it is renowned as being the cheapest place in the world to do the Open Water course! Even compared to our nearest neighbours on Koh Phangan (approximately 10,000 baht without accommodation) and Koh Samui (approximately 15,000 baht without accommodation) we manage to provide high quality, professional and above all safe Open Water diving courses to all those backpacking Thailand and choosing the mighty Big Blue for all their diving needs.

One of the questions we're asked time and again is regarding the two major Scuba Diver Training agencies we have today:

PADI - (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the world’s largest scuba training agency. PADI Instructors can teach independent of a dive store.

SSI (Scuba Schools International) is the world’s largest store based training agency. SSI Instructors and Dive Masters must be affiliated with a physical store.

From personal experience, people come to Koh Tao usually with the intention of doing 'their PADI', as the team at PADI Marketing do a bloody brilliant job at promoting their brand with posters, magazine spreads, the huge banners and stalls at every dive expo on the planet. SSI on the other hand have a much smaller marketing budget that they gain from smaller dive agency fees, smaller certification cost fees and smaller staff budgets. There are actually over 120 dive organisations in the world that can give you an Open Water license, other popular ones being BSAC in the UK, CMAS over Europe, Naui in the USA and my new all-time favourite, the Polish Tourist Country-Lovers Society Underwater Activity Commission, which sounds much sexier.

 

So what's the difference then?

 

INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED?

Any of the dive organisations in the world can give you the Open Water license, and with it you can dive in every dive centre in the world for the rest of your life - an SSI diver can of course dive in a PADI centre or the other way round, for example. In fact, no dive centre can turn you away just because you have a different license to what they offer!
They are also completely interchangeable – you can get certified as an Open Water Diver with SSI, then Advanced Diver with PADI, then Rescue with NAUI and so on up to instructor level, without being made to repeat courses.

COST OF CERTIFICATIONS
SSI is usually cheaper, as they don’t insist that the student buy a manual/app for the course. You can borrow one of our books or use the app for free!
PADI, however, do insist on purchasing the materials – no matter if you are traveling around the world or learning at home. They feel that post-course review of materials is important to maintain knowledge-levels. They offer an e-book in case you don't want to carry a pretty heavy book around with you for the rest of your trip. Here at Big Blue that adds 1000 baht to the course price, the price of an extra dive at the end of the course and a couple of beers to help wash it down!

ONLINE LEARNING
Both SSI and PADI offer their students the option to start the practical portion of the lessons online, which will save time and gives divers more time to just dive. The difference here is both cash and longevity: SSI’s online learning is free, whereas with PADI you will pay about US$150. PADI offer you access to their system for one year from when you sign up, whereas with SSI it’s there for you all the time, even after the course. If you choose not to buy the book, you can simply log in and use the site as a review when you want a refresher later on!

SAFETY
Science, skills and techniques are exactly the same, meaning no difference in safety at all

EASE OF LEARNING
With SSI the course is taught with an 80/20 approach, meaning the instructor can adapt 20% of the course to fit the pace of learning, ensuring a student focused training programme worked around the needs of the students - after all everyone learns at different paces.
PADI however insists skills are performed in rigid sequence with no room for manoeuvre for changing water conditions or student learning pace. If you do change the order they dictate, they've broken standards that must be adhered to - a big no-no for a dive instructor!

Is this relevant to you as a student then? Imagine you're having problems mastering a skill with PADI who say that skill 'A' must be followed by skill 'B' and so on… As you struggle your confidence will suffer, and we have to get you to complete this particular skill before being able to move on, asking you to try one more time, and again...often embarassing and humiliating the student especially if the other students had no problems! Being forced to try something you're having bother with again and again doesn't seem like the best way to teach, in my opinion - and I'm a PADI diver myself! With SSI your instructor can move on, do a couple of 'easier' skills to boost your confidence then come back to the problem area at a later time when you seem to be more comfortable - a much better teaching technique than the 'try it again, try it again' method, and one that leads to a lot less students having to drop out of the course because they got stuck on something.

SSI also allows our instructors to add information and/or skills if that improves the quality of the scuba license. For example, if you want to know more about the whalesharks that we see here sometimes, we are able to spend some extra time talking about the dangers they face, what we can do to help and so on - making the course a lot more enjoyable!

 

CONCLUSIONS
Overall, the courses teach the same information because they adhere to the standards set forth by the WRSTC - the governing body of scuba-diving worldwide. Remember, no matter which organization you take a course with you will use the same kind of equipment and see the same marine life underwater.
A lot of divers working in the industry will tell you that it does not really matter whether you choose SSI, PADI or any of the others on offer out there, after all when you finish you get a scuba certification card and you can dive anywhere in the world.

Here at Big Blue we make more money from the more expensive PADI course, and all of our instructors can teach both PADI and SSI. They actually get paid more for teaching PADI Open Water, but if given the chance to choose I'm sure every one of them would go for SSI simply because it's more focused on the learner and any problems they may encounter during the course, making it easier for both student and teacher and therefore resulting in a lot more successful, freshly certifed Open Water divers!

 

 

Book your PADI or SSI course today on our website www.bigbluediving.com or come to to us in person when you arrive on Koh Tao - courses start at 5pm every day of the year! 

 

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