Koh Tao, Thailand
I am sitting at the Koh Tao pier in Thailand watching tourists move slowly in line, towing their luggage towards a massive, sleek passenger boat. From this same pier, I too took a boat, but it wasn’t to go back to the mainland or to stay on a nearby island. I went out, at the crack of dawn, for a day of diving.
Trip Advisor‘s number one dive school happened to be a brief walk from our bungalow. Six of us first-time divers gathered together for class sessions, but broke off into groups of three when in water. Two truly outstanding dive master instructors were assigned to manage and graduate us premies.
The starter course takes you from know-nothing to a certified PADI (Professional Association of Diver Instructors) open water diver. After the course, your name will be accessible worldwide in the PADI system and allow you to dive to a depth of 18 meters.
While this dive school opportunity is offered by businesses all over the island, Ocean Sound is particularly brag-worthy. A real downer to traveling is coming across scrimper services, or businesses that take your money and try to give you as little in return as possible. Ocean Sound required less money and gave extravagantly more than we were expecting.
The two OS owners we met were both former teachers. One was a kindergarten teacher in Denmark and the other a public school teacher in Canada. You could believe it from their genuinely kind-hearted demeanors.
My mom and I took the course together and figured that my Down Syndrome sister could just stick with us wherever we’d go. Taking Grace into consideration, the owners thought ahead to our boat time and suggested that she stay behind at the OS studio.
They figured that there wouldn’t be much space to sit with all the commotion of the divers on board and not much supervision for her while we were all below the waves. The owners freely offered to look after her instead. It is not often that we find people we feel comfortable leaving Grace with for any amount of time. The owners were blue moons of trustworthiness and professionalism.
Things like having wifi and water to fill up our bottles, coffee and tea available to drink in the studio, fresh fruit, cookies and more coffee and tea aboard the boat and breakfast provided on our early morning dive were more than we expected. It created a chilled out, community environment.
After the course finished, we were invited to stop by anytime for coffee, wifi, or to fill up our water bottles. My mom remarked that it is service and kindness like this that pushes an establishment to the top spot of an industry.
Big thanks to the stellar staff. Our instruction was exciting and clear, our instructors funny, competent and reassuring. The passion for diving and aquatic life was apparent (and a bit contagious.)
We completed four dives in the open sea, but began in a salt water pool. Half of our group moved on to continue their education and broaden their certification to advanced status.
If you are interested in the underwater world or just in learning a new skill, shoot OS an email and inquire about their (in my estimation: budget backpacker) prices, classes, and accommodation. We thought that the reasonable price was due to it being low season. Turns out that all the diving classes remain at a fixed rate all year. Though if you decide to get accommodation through OS, it is possible that the room will be a bit more in high season.
Go for it!