Help me grow some gills in Thailand
May 3, 2011 2:29 AM   Subscribe

Please help a total novice scuba-dive in Thailand and have a great experience.

Hello, I will be in Thailand from May 12th - 22nd and would like to spend most of my time learning how to scuba dive. Since this is my first time and I am using my vacation days to learn this, I want to try to be as prepared as possible.

What I am thinking so far is to go to Koh Tao and take a PADI certificate course with Master Divers. I'm considering taking their PADI Open Water Course and then perhaps their PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course. I am hoping to focus on underwater photography.

Some of my questions:

-Anything I should reconsider in my plan?

-Has anyone had experience with good instructors in Thailand (Master Divers seems to have an online presence, but I'm not too sure about other instructors or other courses offered)?

-Should I consider any alternatives to Koh Tao? (I already have my flight ticket, but I could travel to surrounding countries if it's worth it)

-Would I get burnt out if I spent my entire time scuba diving? (I've been traveling for a little while and am getting sick of temples, so want to focus my trip on learning something)

-After getting my PADI, should I stay on Koh Tao, or try another island? (I do not want to spend too much time traveling between locations, but if something is worth it, I don't want to miss it)

-Should I take a break from scuba diving to do see or do anything else?

-Are there any websites that I should check out that will give me some pre-course information on scuba diving and underwater photography?

-Anyone have any other advice?

Thank you all very much~
posted by Knigel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The site has some online courses and information to get started with. SCUBA diving is great fun, but if you don't know what you're doing, get lazy or over confident or just unlucky sometimes it's also a very good way to die. Even though the open water course only lasts 3 or 4 days, you can't go from being a total novice to an accomplished practitioner in ten days flat so I'd strongly recommend you don't dive alone even after you've done your course and always concentrate on the diving first and the photography second. You should also work on your fitness because it's a lot harder work than it looks.
posted by joannemullen at 3:10 AM on May 3, 2011

Best answer: Would I get burnt out if I spent my entire time scuba diving?

One of the top holidays of my life was when I spent two weeks diving in the Maldives. Given the restraints of offgassing, remember that as a novice you will probably only be able to make three or at most four dives a day. Have a companion, reading material and/or laptop for sorting photos (if possible) for down time between dives. After your training, pack in as many dives as you safely can - bearing in mind that you have to stop diving at least 18 hours (preferably 24) before flying!

Protip: ask your dive master about local cleaning stations. While they're being groomed, the fish practically pose for the camera. But whether you take pictures or not, it's completely fascinating. One dive, I was able to hang out for almost two hours. It's one of my life's best memories so far.

And as joannemullen says, fitness is key: the fitter you are, the longer you'll be able to make your tank last.
posted by likeso at 4:42 AM on May 3, 2011

Response by poster: Likeso, thanks a lot, I hadn't even thought about the flying issue.
posted by Knigel at 4:52 AM on May 3, 2011

I dove on Koh Tao last year and it was GREAT! I went with Easy Divers and they were very good and very professional. I just did fun dives though; I didnt take any courses with them.

Are you flying in and out of Koh Samui? You can always give yourself a day or two after your done with Koh Tao and stay on Samui for a few days to see the big buddha and a few other sites.

Dont know if youre into the rave/beach party scene but the next Full Moon Party is scheduled for 18 May, so you could always head over to Ko Pha Ngan and party that night and relax the next day.

Do you already have an underwater housing for your camera? I went with a Canon but I hear the Sony's are nice also.

Have fun, I miss Thailand!
posted by Fiat124 at 6:03 AM on May 3, 2011

Response by poster: Fiat124, Thank you. I'm going to fly into Suvarnabhumi and go from there. I'll probably rent a camera. I have a Nikon d90, but since I haven't even tried scuba diving, I'm not ready to throw down for a body.

Thanks for the heads up about the full moon party. It's good to know that it's on during my trip. I don't know if it's my thing this time, but I'll keep it in mind~
posted by Knigel at 6:17 AM on May 3, 2011

Best answer: PADI (and maybe others?) has an option to complete most of the classroom work for OW certification online and then do your in-the-water training with an instructor. If you can find an instructor/class to work with this, it will allow you to have more days for diving. Tour guides (e.g. Lonely Planet) will list dive shop options, and you can check the PADI and NAUI sites as well.

If you want to do a ton of diving in a limited time, I'd consider getting nitrox certified instead of / before advanced open water. Nitrox (oxygen-enhanced air blends) can extend your dive time in some circumstances and I never got a headache with nitrox like I usually did with air.

If you find that you like / want to continue scuba, seriously consider buying your own gear after your OW class. It makes a huge, huge difference, and rentals are so expensive that it pays off pretty quickly. Dive computers, particularly, paid off pretty quickly and are easy to transport when you leave. If you do rent, see if you can keep the same rig day-to-day and always thoroughly check all your equipment before you leave the shop.

Also, you can buy a decent scuba camera for a couple hundred bucks. Make sure you learn how to white balance!
posted by momus_window at 10:22 AM on May 3, 2011

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