Diving courses on Samui - how to choose

By Anna McCarthy

The Gulf of Thailand is good diving region

Visitors from across the world head to the coasts of Thailand for some of the best diving and indeed most competitive prices in the sport to be found anywhere in the world.

Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s top holiday destinations. First-timers arriving here are astounded by the beauty of the island, made all the more enticing by the laid-back tropical way of life that sets the pace for a holiday of pure relaxation. The entire island is encompassed by stunning beaches and clear waters, which are overlooked by swaying palm trees that send gentle whispers through the soft breeze telling you to ‘slow down’.

Many tourists come simply to lounge the day away with a good book under the sun’s dazzling rays. But many more take advantage of the wealth of underwater wonders and book themselves a dive trip with any one of literally hundreds of dive schools located on the island’s various beaches.

Choosing a dive school is often one of the most difficult considerations you will have to make, after deciding to take the plunge to dive while on Samui. There are so many schools offering all levels of courses and all at fiercely competitive prices. One of the first things that you should take into account is the company’s safety procedures. One good way of deciphering whether these are up to par is to ask other divers and so some background work on the reputation of the company.

To take a dive in the ocean, you must first complete a PADI course, which will award you with an internationally recognised certificate. There are various levels, but to qualify to hit the waters you must start as a beginner and work your way up. The fees for these courses on Samui are among the lowest in the world and include theory classes, practice sessions in a swimming pool and a number of dives out in the vast expanse of the ocean, as well as equipment hire, a qualified instructor leading you all the way and a little added help from a dive master.

Samui is an ideal place to learn diving

Most people go as far as the second level, called the advanced level certificate, at the very least, but for many Koh Samui proves to be the ideal location to get a rescue diver or dive master certificate. These both take a few months to complete and could very well be the perfect excuse to hang out on this tropical wonderland for an extended period.

Once you have secured the appropriate qualification, the sea is your oyster. Sitting on a beach looking out to the gentle ripples of the Samui waves, few people realise the universe that exists underneath. From multicoloured corals, to swarms of thousands of species of fish, there is a whole world to be explored and adored.

First-time dives can be a little nerve-racking. The sensation of being catapulted from a zone where everything moves at what we see as a normal pace to a labyrinth of slow motion meanderings can be a shock. But stay calm and remember all that you have learned in the class room, and you will feel like you have been handed an experience like no other on earth.

Dive companies will know the best sites to take you to and the right times for the best visibility. Visibility is a major factor in any dive. When it’s low, diving can be disappointing; when it’s high, expect joyous adventure.

There are a number of main dive sites off the coast of Samui. One of the most famous for its beauty is Sail Rock. Here you will meet a host of marine species in an array of colours - the most coveted spectacle being the whale shark, only visible at certain times of the year. One of the most interesting features of this site is the Chimney Rock formation, providing a novel swim.

Nangyuan Pinnacle is a shallow area located a short swim from the main island, while Twins is home to a spectacular range of fish, including clown fish, sergeant major fish and the delicate pink anemone fish. Shark Island is another very popular site, named for its population of harmless yet stunning leopard sharks, and is home to large gardens of multi-coloured corals.

Once you have explored all of the major sites around Koh Samui, neighbouring Koh Tao is another of Thailand’s top destinations for scuba diving, with endless sites to explore. Whatever level you are or whatever you may be looking for from your diving experience in Thailand, it is sure that Koh Samui will provide you choice offerings of some of the best diving in Southeast Asia.

Ultimately, where you choose to take your diving course depends on where you are staying, since there are several dive operations near each major beach. Not all of them offer courses, but those that do all adhere to a similar PADI standard and take about four days to complete. Prices generally varying according to the extras that are packaged in, such as complimentary dives. Shop around, google ‘Samui dive courses’ and choose one that best fits your itinerary. There are simply too many for us to recommend!

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