**Disclaimer: I received this Open Water dive package for free through a partnership with Go Beyond Asia. I enjoyed myself so much that I paid for the Advanced Open Water Certification with my own money and received no additional discount beyond the usual offer from Coral Grand Divers.
Scuba Diving in Thailand
We all know I went to Thailand for the primary reason to climb my face off. That happened. Multiple times.
But what you may not know, or forgot, but probably just didn’t know/care, is that I also went there with the intent of getting my PADI scuba diving certification. I dove one time for 40 minutes the last time I was in Cozumel, Mexico, and I was hooked. I’ve been a water baby my entire life and being able to stay underwater for 40 minutes at a time, 100 feet underwater is f*cking AWESOME!
Before I get into the diving, we have to back up to the month I lived in Chiang Mai.
Go Beyond Asia
While living in Chiang Mai, I did what I always do: work from a coffee shop. On this particular day, at this particular coffee shop, it was particularly busy. Unlike most places in the U.S., people started sharing tables, and I happened to get seated next to Berit Bonde of Go Beyond Asia.
Go Beyond is an adventure tourism company that coordinates adventure tour packages going off the beaten path that bajillions of tourists have traveled before. They have tour packages in just about every SE Asian country and include scuba diving (duh), city tours, jungle trekking, zip lining, private cabins in Myanmar, and off-road quads, motorcycles, and mountain biking. Oh how relevant to my interests!
One thing led to another, and we were able to work out an agreement that I’d be able to get my dive cert when I visited Koh Tao. YASSSSS!!
Open Water PADI Dive Certification
I got my certification at the 5-Star PADI Dive resort of Coral Grand Divers. The certification itself includes 4 days of classroom, pool, and ocean diving. The package offered through Go Beyond also comes with basic lodging.
On Day 1, you meet with a dive instructor, get a brief overview of the course, and they hand you a tablet loaded with all the course work. You watch a few movies, bullshit a little, and leave the room with 3 chapters to review and pass the tests.
Day 2 consists of classroom review and your first pool session. (Pro tip: there is a swimming test and treading water test.)
On Day 3, you finally get in the ocean for your first two dives! And another pool session. Which order you do them in just depends on the weather, number of students, and how well you’ve mastered the classroom material and your first pool session.
Day 4, the last day, you get two more open water dives and have to take the final test for your certification.
Throughout the whole process, you have the same dive instructor and group sizes range anywhere from 1-on-1 (which is what I had) and up to 4 people. That’s critically important to develop a relationship with your instructor so he can get a feel for the type of diver you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and what your favorite beer and shots are when you’re done for the day. Gosh, divers like to party. Who am I to say no?
(I say that jokingly, but it’s never ok to dive under the influence or extremely hungover. We’d just have a few drinks and call it a night.)
The atmosphere is generally relaxed, people are always smiling, and you instantly bond with your fellow students from around the globe. You are all there for the same reason after all.
Some of the skills you learn are quite intimidating at first. Taking the regulator out of your mouth underwater while continuing to breathe out might be a little scary if you’re not incredibly confident in your breath holding skills. From there, you advance to taking the entire mask off your face while still breathing through the regulator, but you’re not allowed to plug your nose. I can tell you, it’s kind of a mind fuck to do that and probably the trickiest thing I experienced.
The last skill that’s a little different, is breathing through half your regulator. You do this to simulate your regulator being stuck wide open and it dumping air into your lungs at the max rate. There’s no way you can keep your regulator in and breathe normally if that were a real world scenario. So, what you do, is just put half the regulator in your mouth and you’re basically just breathing bubbles. It’s bizarre, man!
You also learn how to read a dive computer, monitor your oxygen, adjust your buoyancy, equalize the pressure in your head, and get a brief intro to orienteering and navigating underwater with a compass.
Advanced Open Water PADI Diver
As I mentioned, I had such an amazing time with everyone at the resort and the dive instructors I decided to stay 3 extra days and get my advanced open water PADI diver certification with my own cash. Why wouldn’t I? I got to go diving 5 more times!
Here, you have a little leeway on what areas of specialty you’d like to learn. There’s advanced buoyancy, navigation, marine life identification, photography, deep dive, night diving, wreck diving, and propelled vehicle operation (just going off the top of my head).
I opted for advanced buoyancy (because floating completely inverted is fun), deep diving (because it’s an unreal feeling to be 100′ underwater, and I was hoping to get hypoxia), wreck diving, navigation (because ‘eff getting lost underwater), and night diving.
At this point, you’ll have your same instructor for 9 dives, and they should be comfortable with your skills. These dives are a lot less about ‘not dying underwater,’ and more about leading dives and enjoying yourself with what you’ve already learned. And oh the things you’ll see.
Above and Beyond the Package Price
I would be remiss to tell a story about the resort staff at Coral Grand Divers. On the day I showed up, I didn’t realize it until later, but I was beginning a 24 hours of hell in the form of food poisoning. I was originally in a fan-only room per the package with Go Beyond, but once the food poisoning got out of control, I couldn’t stand to be in a fan-only room in 90 degree weather.
At one point, I couldn’t even walk and was about one more trip to the bathroom away from going to the clinic. Right before that, I managed to stagger to the front desk and tell them what was going on. I asked them to upgrade me to an air conditioned room, regardless of cost. They saw the state I was in, upgraded me for free, and allowed me to leave my luggage in the old room until I was well enough to collect it myself.
I am not some hot shot famous person, and I’m not entirely sure they knew of why I was there and what I was doing for them from a business agreement standpoint. That leads me to believe they would have done this for ANY of their guests. I cannot thank them enough for this because I did NOT want to go to a clinic for an IV of fluids.