Ko Tao has somewhere the region of 40 dive centre so choosing which one can feel quite daunting particularly if you have never dived before. As with any choice you need to keep in mind what you are looking for in your experience, don’t waver or compromise and you will get what you want. So what should you be looking for?
Ask about group size, classes are allowed to have up to eight students in a course and this can be increased if more dive professionals are assisting on the course too. This is important if you want a more personalized course but also important if you wanting to meet and socialize with many new people. Do consider that the open water course runs over 3 and a half days and this is standard weather there is eight or more in your class of just two, so clearly you are going to get more time and attention in a smaller class. If you are looking for a private class, ask, some centres will offer this for a little bit extra.
Also ask about boat size too, there are some quite large dive boats on Ko Tao taking 60 or more divers, if you would like a quieter experience then the smaller operators’ boats take around 25.
There are many multilingual instructors on Ko Tao, so if English isn’t your first language and you rather compete the course in your mother tongue, look for a centre that offers this.
Check what is and what is not included. Find out what the centres refund policy is if you can’t complete the course for whatever reason. Find out what happens if you need more time to practice something too? Do they give you more time, charge you more or put you back to the next day?
Some centres have accommodation and some help you select and book your accommodation but do consider its location. Learning to dive is tiring so you want to be ensured a good night’s sleep.
There are many online forums which can help you with reviews and feedback too – so do your research. Check out the centres that you like online too, keeping an eye on their blogs and social networking will give a flavor of the personality and passion. If you have not booked in advance then you can simply wander in and talk to the staff and meet the team and do this in person. While you are there, have a look at their equipment and facilities too, while you might not yet recognize good from bad, you will recognize care and their willingness to spend time and explain.
In such a competitive market discounts and incentives are offered but don’t let this sway you. Getting what you want from the course is more important than saving a few hundred baht. You are only going to learn to dive once, so make sure you choose right. You wouldn’t sky dive with the cheapest operator just because they were cheap – would you?
This article was written for and first published on Travelfish.org. It is reproduced here with kind permission !