Photo Courtesy of Ban's Diving Resort
Three friends and I had been in Thailand for about two weeks when we took a ferry over to the nearby island of Koh Tao to take a scuba diving certification course. Famous for diving, Koh Tao has some of the most gorgeous, pristine waters in the area, and we could hardly wait to get our grubby little hands on some diving equipment – provided, of course, we passed our classes. Jittery with anticipation, we hopped off the ferry and were greeted with total chaos: the second we stepped foot on the dock, we were surrounded. People were shouting, running, hauling holding billboards, brochures, and signs this way and that – all claiming the diving resort they represented was the most luxurious yet the cheapest; the one that offered the most dive time, the most shark sightings, the best instructors, and safest equipment possible: in short, the one that made all your diving dreams come true.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.on-koh-tao.com/
Luckily, before we lost our heads completely in the sheer madness that was the pier, we remembered a few friends we’d met earlier had recommended Ban’s Diving Resort. Pushing our way through throngs of people, we miraculously located a representative from Ban’s. Without questioning prices or accommodation, we threw ourselves onto their tuk-tuk and away we went. We were warmly greeted, and before we knew it, we were settled into a large, airy room at an extremely reasonable price (as three of the four of us would be taking a diving class, we were given a generous discount).
Ban’s Diving Resort is phenomenal. Located on Koh Tao’s main beach, Sairee Beach, Ban’s is clean, bright, and open, full of lush flowers and vegetation their capable staff tends to regularly, with an open air restaurant featuring both excellent food and stunning views of Koh Tao’s famous sunsets. There are shops, restaurants and bars located nearby, pools for swimming and diving practice, friendly, helpful staff and loads of other travelers all ready to embark on diving adventures.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.taucher.net/
Ban’s Diving offers a full range of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) scuba diving programs, from beginners who want their open water diver certification, to advanced dive master classes for those who want to become diving instructors. Ban’s offers courses in 15 different languages, and all instructors are fully certified, knowledgeable and incredibly friendly. An open water diver course, which is what I took and therefore am most familiar with, is a three and a half day course which involves a combination of lectures, DVDs, notes, quizzes and four carefully supervised dives. All students are required to take a final exam before receiving their certification. This class costs 9,800 THB (approximately $286 USD), and is completely worth it.
On your final dive, a professional cameraman will follow your class through the water. Students are encouraged to make fools of themselves for the film (as if encouragement were necessary), which will then be custom edited to a DVD. On the last day of class, everyone in your course will have dinner together and then watch the DVD as a group. If you like, you can then purchase one to take home - of course, it costs extra, but it’s fun to have, even if watching isn’t even close to actually being there. I made my family sit down and watch it as payback for all the home videos I’ve been forced to sit through.