Preparing for a Life Changing Experience – by Master Divers Life Winner Katie Woodroffe

Is it the 28th of August yet? That is the day I fly out of Birmingham and begin my journey to Koh Tao. I can’t hide the fact that I have been watching an endless amount of travel vlogs on the island- I could probably write an entire book on the paradise-like setting.

Really though, how does one prepare for something that promises to be a life changing experience? If I’m honest, I feel as though I have been preparing for this for a while. Since I left my last job and moved back to England from Thailand at the end of last year, I have made several changes in my life so that I could gear myself towards achieving a career in the Scuba diving industry. But none of this felt wrong or out of place, it all felt well timed and almost synchronistic with elements of serendipity intertwined into events. Maybe preparing for a life changing experience is easier when you’ve already envisioned it.
Either way, since this vision has become real, there have been a few preparations I have had to make to ensure my journey to my new home is as smooth as can be.

I Quit My Job…
Upon returning to England last year I began working part time at a pub that I worked at when I was 19. It was certainly strange going back and I bumped into lots of familiar people. Since finding out that I was the winner of Master Divers Life, I have handed my notice in and have already been saying my goodbyes to the people that I serve across the bar. I think I seem a little eager to leave, but I don’t mind.

..And got Myself a Visa
This went surprisingly well. I had gotten a visa for Thailand before, and remember it taking a while to sort out. But this time all it took was a few emails and a phone call and I was able to pick up my visa the following day from the Thai Consulate in Cardiff. Luckily, my boyfriend and I had planned this around a three-day trip to Pembrokeshire in South Wales, and we were in and out of the office in minutes.

I Started Packing (yes.. already)
It may be 4 weeks until I fly, but I have always been the kind of person to begin making a pile of things earlier than necessary! I always aim to travel light, yet always seem to take clothes with me that I never use (like the 50 bikinis I have already bought). In all seriousness, I will only be taking a bag or two with me, a carry on back pack and a larger bag for the hold luggage.

Finally, I Carried on Diving!
The weather here in England is ridiculously warm. It apparently is the hottest summer we have had in 100 years – don’t quote me on that though. But it has presented the perfect opportunity to make the most of open water diving here in the UK. I even dived without a hood and gloves last week, something that I had not yet done in the UK! I live right in the centre of England, so diving in the sea is not something we do often. However, we have a lovely quarry close by that I visit on a regular basis along with other divers from the centre that I did my Dry Suit Speciality and PADI Rescue Diver courses with. My Dry Suit Speciality was completed at a quarry called Capernwray back in February and the water temperature was a chilly 5 degrees Celsius – that is one memory of UK diving that I will not forget in a hurry!

It’s been a great six months with them, and I will really miss them when I leave. But I cannot wait to get back diving in the ocean again- diving quarries in dry suits really has been an amazing experience and I have enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, but there is nothing like the wonders and beauty of the deep blue (and the warmth of the tropics!). Until then, here is a photo of me on my last dive, on PADI Womens Dive Day, feeling all free and happy without the restriction of a hood and gloves!!

So that’s it really, I’ll be getting my head down at work for the next few weeks and when I begin my journey over to Thailand, I will be sure to capture some footage and throw a little vlog together once I have arrived and settled in, so keep an eye out for updates!

8 Easy Steps to Ensure Scuba Diving Safety

As most seasoned divers will tell you, Scuba diving is indeed an incredibly safe sport when it’s done properly. Well trained divers who use good judgement and follow the correct procedures have no need to be concerned. In fact, according to most research, diving is really no more dangerous than swimming. Certainly compared to many other adventure sports – and even many every day mundane activities that we do without hesitation! –  diving is very safe.

There are of course lots of things you can do to ensure you are well prepared and limit the possibility of running into any dangers or potential problems….

 

Dive regularly
Sounds like a no brainer, and it pretty much is! Those who dive more often will generally have better developed skills sets, more efficient communication and a more up to date base of knowledge – whether through having taken more courses, or simply through regular exposure to other divers with whom they share stories and information. The safest divers are those for whom basic skills have become second nature. For example a regular diver does not need to think too much about buoyancy control. They just naturally adapt their breathing to make small changes. Same goes for basic skills like mask clearing. If you were to ask a Divemaster how many times they cleared their mask during a particular dive for example, chances are they wouldn’t have a clue! They just do it by second nature.

diving-koh-tao-mangobay

Most divers readily admit that they would like nothing more than to dive more often. However for most people, and especially those living in colder climates, real world work and family responsibilities do tend to get in the way and it is not always possible to dive whenever you want to. Diving clubs do exist in most locations though, so it is always worth checking out a few options in your area. If cold water isn’t your thing, you may find that you’re happy just to jump in the pool every now and again and have a play around with your equipment, trim and basic skills. Even if you don’t physically get in the water at all, many local clubs have meet up evenings where you can share experiences and tips for future dive travel etc.

If you do end up dry for too long though, then it is always recommended to take a proper Scuba Review. Most major dive agencies recommend this after a period of 6 months, but there is no hard and fast rule. You’ll find each dive centre will have its different policies as to when they require divers to make a full scuba review, which will invariably take into account your number and frequency of logged dives, as well as the location of the dive centre itself and the dive conditions that are to be expected during your stay. For example if you are going diving in strong currents or reduced visibility, then a full refresh is definitely the way forward! A thorough refresher consists of some theory, a recap of equipment fitting and set up, as well as some skills practice. The vast majority of divers find it very rewarding, and in many holiday locations you’d be completing it in the sea, so chances are you’d get to see some fish and corals too! It really is a worthwhile experience though, as quite often divers are amazed at the wealth of information they have forgotten!

BCD Removal

Alternatives to refreshers include private guiding on a shallow reef for your first couple of dives of your trip, or perhaps a ‘check dive’ on the house reef – if shore diving is a viable option for the location. Our advice is not to skimp on refreshing your skills though. For a few extra bucks, you’ll have a much better experience overall if you spend a little extra time getting the basics sorted before heading out on deeper or more challenge dives.

 

Dive with a Reputable Operator
Again, sounds like a no brainer yes? But you’d be surprised! There are a whole host of dive centres out there and you’d be shocked how much ethics and morality varies between them. Some will promise top notch quality, service and professionalism and proceed to deliver it, whereas others appear as if they are just out to take your hard earned savings, with seemingly little care for your comfort or safety once you are through their door.

As with all areas of diving, the key is to use good judgement. This is especially true if you are choosing a dive centre not just for yourself, but for friends or family members who are travelling with you. It’s not worth saving a nominal amount to get the best deal if you’ll be using inferior dive gear or ill-equipped dive vessels, diving with inexperienced staff, or not learning in accordance with training agency standards. In this day and age, you’d expect adherence to agency and industry standards to be a given, but unfortunately quite often it’s just not the case.

learn-to-dive-koh-tao-sign

Try not to be too focussed on price and find a balance of value based on your expectations. After all, if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is! It’s absolutely worth paying a little extra to know the operation you choose won’t be cutting corners at your expense. The best way to explain it is by equating learning to dive to learning other adventure activities. If you were looking to go sky diving or become a hang glider or try white water rafter for example, you wouldn’t really shop around for the cheapest possible option. You’d choose the centre with the best safety, equipment, standards and reputation. Diving should be no different.

 

Adopt Good Buddy Team Procedures
Some divers have their own regular buddies, but many others rely on their dive operator to pair them up with a suitable buddy, who hopefully will have a similar skill and experience level to you. Depending on where they’ve trained however, this may not be the case. We’ve all seen instances where an Advanced level diver with all of their own equipment shows up and proceeds to spoil the trip with their bad practices, know-it-all attitude and sub-par skill set. So if you are getting paired up with an ‘Insta-Buddy’, spend a little time chatting with them prior to the dive and gauge for what they’ll be like to dive with.

Don’t skip the buddy check! No matter how familiar you are with your gear and your buddies gear, or how excited you are to get off the boat and into the water. Safety protocols in scuba – and indeed every other industry too – have been developed and are in place for a reason. That reason generally being that if they are not followed, things can go wrong.

buddy-check-bwraf

Before the dive, make sure you are comfortable with the hand signals and communication techniques you’ll be using before the dive. Once you are underwater it is too late to ask questions! During the dive, maintain regular communication to ensure comfort and safety.

Stay close to your buddy, and maintain an awareness at all times as to where they are in relation to you. If you were to need their help in an out of air emergency for example, you need to be close enough to reach them. If you are checking your gauges frequently of course this shouldn’t need to happen. But still, they need to be within reach for your safety – and visa versa. If you are on a training course, remain close to your instructor and follow their directions when requested. Their role is to train you in good practices, as well as ensure your safety throughout your dives, so they generally don’t appreciate you drifting too far from them.

 

Maintain Good Health and Fitness for Diving
The healthier you are in general, the lower your risk of suffering from a dive related illness. If you are unfit, overweight, badly rested, dehydrated or have any residual alcohol or drugs in your system for example, then you are already more likely to suffer from Decompression Sickness (DCS) than if none of these factors apply. So to make the most of your dives, maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle. When diving on vacation, make sure you drink adequate water (especially in hotter climates where becoming dehydrated is more likely) and are well rested before morning dives. It’s also a good idea to lay off the alcohol the night before. It’s a small price to pay for enjoying some amazing dives.

Don’t dive if you are not feeling well, or if you have a cold or are congested. This can be frustrating if you are on holiday and only have a set number of diving days, but it’s just not worth the risk. A blockage one day can turn into a full blown ear or sinus infection the next day if you push it – and any diver who’s ever suffered from reverse block will tell you it’s not an experience they’d ever want to repeat. Many illnesses have signs and symptoms which mimic those of DCS, so if you have been ill and feel better but are still not completely recovered, wait until all signs and symptoms have disappeared. An example of this would be Dengue fever which is a viral infection spread by mosquitos, and is common around Asia. When the fever breaks and normal health returns, a skin rash is common – just as it is with DCS. So if you were to suffer from a suspected case of DCS, physicians would not know whether your symptoms were fever related or dive related, making diagnosis and resulting treatment much more difficult.

Diving on Koh Tao

If you sign up to take any kind of dive course, you’ll be required to fill in a medical form. Certain medical conditions may prevent you from diving, such as active asthma and heart conditions for example. Whereas other conditions will require you to have a sign off from a Dive Medical Officer (DMO) or General Practitioner (GP) prior to getting started. If you take a diving holiday to a more remote diving areas, full medical services and consultations may not be available, so it’s worth doing the leg work prior to setting off on any conditions that need a physician’s sign off. In some areas the dive centre may be required by local regulations in terms of where you get your medical sign off, and who conducts it. This can sometimes eat into both your time and your savings to get organised properly, but it is imperative that you have the relevant consult. Be understanding that your dive operator is not trying to make the process more difficult for you by insisting on a proper medical, they are simply doing their due diligence to ensure the safety of you and other divers in their care. The golden rule is never to lie on the medical form! Not only is it a legally binding document, but if you lie on the form and then have an accident it’s unlikely your insurance will cover you – whether it’s related to the medical issue or not.

 

Dive Within Your Limits
Another seemingly fairly obvious one, but always something to keep at the forefront of your mind when planning dives. Your limits can be defined in many ways, first and foremost in terms of certification level as not only will different depth limits apply, but skill and experience levels would be expected to differ too. Whatever certification level you have, don’t be tempted to dive deeper than your licence allows, and stick to what you are qualified to do. If you don’t have a wreck or cave diving qualification for instance, then you should not be entering into any overhead environments. Bear in mind that if you stray beyond the limits of your current level and something were to go wrong, your insurance would not cover you.

Whale shark with divers

Each individual diver will also have limits in terms of comfort levels when it comes to visibility, water temperature, surge and surf, currents etc. Remember that every diver has the right to call off a dive at any time if they do not feel comfortable. So never allow yourself to be pressured to dive, or feel rushed to get into the water if you are not ready. Even during the dive it is absolutely acceptable to call it off if you feel out of your comfort zone and do not wish to continue. Equally, never put pressure on another diver to dive outside of their comfort zone either, and try to be understanding and supportive if they back out of a dive.

Dive in familiar equipment that you are confident using. Obviously it is not always feasible to take a full set of your own gear away with you on every trip. Plus if you are an infrequent or holiday diver, you may not have invested in larger items like a BCD or Regulator yet. However the main configuration should be the same, so if you are used to diving in a jacket style BCD for example, then switching to a backplate set up without the relevant instruction or advice would probably cause you discomfort in the water.

 

Take Continuing Education Courses
There’s no better way to stay current than investing in a continuing education course. After entry level certification the most popular course is the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, which allows you to explore different underwater environments – like diving deeper, on ship wrecks or at night. Advanced courses are great for developing your confidence and building on your scuba skills so you can become more comfortable in the water. And despite the name, you don’t have to be “advanced” to enroll. Most of the time you can sign up as soon as you get certified. This is a great way to get more dives under your belt while continuing to learn under the supervision of an instructor.

htms-sattakut-koh-tao

PADI Rescue Diver courses are also popular, and most divers who get Rescue certified say it was their favourite and the most rewarding course they have ever taken. A good Rescue course will make you far more aware of yourself and your dive buddy, maximizing safety and enjoyment, and gives you both the skills to avoid emergency situations before they arise, and the confidence to manage a real emergency situation should it occur.

There is a pretty endless list of Specialty Courses with the most popular being PADI Deep Diver, PADI Enriched Air Nitrox Diver and PADI Wreck Diver. Specialties are  a fantastic way to gain more skills, confidence and experience, and from the extensive menu available, there is always something to suit everyone.

 

Respect the Marine Environment
Abide by your parents favourite words “look but don’t touch”, or for a more Scuba applicable mantra “leave only bubbles, take only pictures”!

It is never OK to touch, pick up, harass or manipulate marine life. It’s as simple as that. Many of our favourite underwater inhabitants such as sharks, rays and turtles can become more susceptible to disease if we touch them. This is because their scales/shells/skins are covered in a thin protective layer of what scientists call biofilm. Once removed, they are at much greater risk of infection.

Turtle whilst snorkeling in Koh Tao

Corals are unfortunately very easy to damage too. Some corals are incredibly slow growing, and one careless fin kick can destroy up to ten years of growth. So it is imperative that you have good trim and buoyancy control, and don’t do any accidental harm.

Not only can you cause harm to marine life by touching or moving things, but the reef can also harm you. From sharp corals and spikey urchins to scorpion fish and stone fish spines, jelly fish stings and everything in between, coming into contact with marine life is just not a good idea. So do be aware of your surroundings, and if you do not feel you are in complete control of your movements, keep your distance.

 

Use Good Quality and Well Maintained Equipment
Another glaringly obvious one at first glance. Make sure you check the equipment you’ll be using thoroughly before it’s packed for the trip, and again during set up. If you are not happy with the quality of any of the rental gear, don’t be afraid to speak up. The better quality the equipment you use, the less chance their is of experiencing a malfunction. The regulator and BCD are generally the most important pieces of equipment your’ll need to check, as these provide your life support and control underwater. Don’t forget to check the tanks for visual and hydrostatic test dates too though.

The best way to retail control when it comes to equipment is to have your own. If you are using your own gear make sure it is up to date for service and maintenance. Each manufacturer’s guide will recommend a time frame, but for example with regulators the widely accepted consensus is to service once a year or every 100 dives, whichever is reached first. If you know that some of the parts for your set up are not common, then make sure you take spares with you. Many more experienced divers carry their own ‘save a dive kit’, with items such as fin straps, mask straps, mouth pieces, o-rings and cable ties for those little wear and tear replacements. If you dive regularly in hot locations, be wary of prolonged sun exposure, which can weaken or damage your equipment over time.

By following all of these recommendations you can minimise your risks and stay safe on any of your local dives or Scuba holidays. As you can see, most of it comes down to common sense and good judgement. Divers who treat both the sport and the ocean with respect, and dive with a healthy minds, bodies and attitudes, will experience no problems, and indeed nothing but pleasure in our amazing underwater world!

Things to Do on Koh Tao – Our Ultimate Bucket List!

Your flights are booked and ferry tickets confirmed. After what seems like ages of deliberation you have settled on the perfect place to stay. Now to the really important stuff: how are you going to make sure you hit up all the must-dos on an island with an overwhelming range of activities, beaches and viewpoints to keep you busy? If you’re struggling to decide which beach to visit, or where to watch sunset, then our handy Ultimate Koh Tao Bucket List will help you get the most out of your visit!

Dive Course
If you have never dived before and have to pick one dive activity to do, make it your PADI Open Water certification with Master Divers!

This course is designed for those new to diving and once completed, will give you an internationally recognised certification, valid for your whole lifetime that allows you to dive up to 18m depth anywhere in the world. This is a must do for anyone who is interested in our beautiful underwater world. Certified already? No problem, join us for your PADI Advanced Open Water or a Specialty Course, or even just some Fun Dives.

Insider’s tip: Save time on your holiday by completing the classroom portion before you get here with PADI Touch or eLearning. 

Fun fun fun with our range of PADI Dive Courses
Fun fun fun with our range of PADI Dive Courses

 

Day Trip
Visit the famous Koh NangYuan islands, just a 15 minute taxi boat ride from Koh Tao. You can snorkel all around the trio of islands where, at some times of year, you can even see Black Tip Reef Sharks! Don’t forget to take the walk up to the viewpoint and see for yourself why it’s one of the most photographed spots in Thailand.

Insider’s tip: Day-trippers make this little island busy during the middle of the day. Beat the crowds by arriving at 14:00 as the big tour groups start to leave. Head to the viewpoint towards the end of the day to have the views to yourself!

Koh Tao is full of postcard worthy beauty
Koh Tao is full of postcard worthy beauty

 

Sunset Cocktail
Sairee Beach enjoys sunset views the whole year round. There’s no better place to relax and watch nature’s nightly colour change, cocktail in hand, than reclining in one of Fizz Beach Lounge’s famous lime bean bags. Get there early to bag a front row seat to the action!

Insider’s tip: Lucky Lily Margaritas! Cocktails are strong so make sure you order some snacks from their extensive menu to keep you going until dinner.

Fizz at Sunset
Fizz at Sunset

 

Viewpoint
For an easy viewpoint hike, we love John Suaan Viewpoint, just 15 minutes hike from the end of the main road towards Freedom Beach. Situated on a small peninsula to the South of Koh Tao, it offers a stunning view looking back with the whole of Koh Tao laid out before you.

Insider’s tip: Visit the gorgeous Freedom Beach, just below the viewpoint and re-hydrate with a fresh coconut or enjoy some relaxing snorkelling after your hike.

Glorious views guaranteed at John Saun!
Glorious views guaranteed at John Saun!

 

Beach
Hidden gem Sai Nuan is just 25 minutes’ walk from Master Divers and is well worth the walk. Here you’ll find a classic old school Thai beach feel with palm trees fringing the white sands. There is a small restaurant and even a slack line to keep you entertained.

Insider’s tip: Take a mask and snorkel with you – black tip reef sharks as well as a resident turtle can be seen just a short swim off the beach.

Its lovely and quiet here in the mornings before the sun reaches its peak
Its lovely and quiet here in the mornings before the sun reaches its peak

Master Divers Marine Conservation Packages

 

As divers, we enjoy the thrill of experiencing a different environment, interacting with its inhabitants, and simply enjoying the beauty of the underwater world. Unfortunately, this environment that we care for so dearly is in danger of being damaged beyond repair. I think Sir David Attenborough said it best when he stated: “being in touch with the natural world is crucial”. This connection is vital; without a connection to the natural world, what motivation do people have to help try and save it? Here at Master Divers, we pride ourselves on our passion for conservation, with our eco instructors specializing in information related to the ocean, its inhabitants, and the threats that the ocean faces. Come and see how that knowledge is passed on through one of our marine conservation package courses!

“What humans do over the next 50 years will determine the fate of all life on the planet”- Sir David Attenborough.

It is a common belief that this revolution to help save the planet and its oceans starts through education. Learning about the aquatic environment, how it relates to humans, and what we as individuals can do to help is vital. At Master Divers, all instructors try to nurture an interest in the natural world and try to share this passion with our guests. In taking a course here, you will be able to learn more about the marine environment and how we, as divers, can work to protect it. We care deeply about our environment and work hard to do what we can, not only to mitigate our impact but help preserve and nurture what we have.  So we developed our Marine Conservation Packages for the dual purpose of helping our oceans, and also to help you, our divers, become more environmentally aware and active.

Marine Conservation Packages are available on both PADI Open Water, and PADI Advanced Open Water courses, and a conservation dive is included as standard in all of our professional level courses, as we believe ALL dive professionals need to have a base understanding of environmental issues so they can better educate their students.  What this means is that in addition to receiving the regular high-level instruction and materials, you will also receive the following:

 -Re-usable Master Divers Shopping Bag

-Reusable Water Bottle

-Project AWARE Dive against debris bag

-Conservation evening

-Conservation dive

Items from the green packages: re-usable shopping bag, Project AWARE dive against debris bag, and re-usable water bottle
Items from the green packages: re-usable shopping bag, Project AWARE dive against debris bag, and re-usable water bottle

 If you are not taking a course with us and still want to get involved, fear not, you can join us on a conservation dive and presentation for just 1500THB!

For the conservation evening and presentation, you get a meal supplied by the amazing Coconut Monkey beach cafe, which specializes in delicious and healthy meals. Your eco instructor will give a presentation on an ocean-related theme that is connected to the conservation dive you will be doing. Topics of these presentations are basically anything ocean related, but marine debris (plastics), pollution, and coral bleaching are personal favorites of mine. In my opinion, raising awareness of the risks that our coral reefs face is the first step to resolving these issues,  and are incredibly important subjects for all divers to learn about.

Coral Watch Divers Adi & Agnes from December 2017
Coral Watch Divers Adi & Agnes 

 

If this has peaked your interest, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email and book yourself a slot for a conservation dive, or add it to your existing dive course booking.

 

 

SCUBA Diving for Families in Koh Tao

Did you know that children as young as 8 can dive with the PADI Bubblemaker programme? And from age 10 upwards can take full scuba courses!

Scuba Diving is such a fantastic sport for the whole family! Not only is it a fun way to spend more time together, but diving also provides valuable transferable skills like communication, working with a buddy, caring for the environment, and spacial awareness… to name a few! Plus there’s the bragging rights when they get back home to their friends having seen a turtle, shark etc!

Junior Divers Open Water Course
Junior Divers Learning Hand Signals

 

However, there is lots to consider, as our customer Jacques and his wife found out when planning their trip…

“Going to Thailand on our first family scuba trip involved hours and hours of research to find the best dive operation. This was of utmost importance as our two boys 13 and 10 just qualified in their Junior Open Water course and dad wanted the first diving experience to be good as this would set the tone for their future diving experiences. ”

Many parents also worry that children will find the self study aspects of the course too difficult – especially with younger children. However in our experience this is not necessarily the case – in most instances, children are actually more eager to learn than parents are! The amazing thing about dive courses is that they provide a viable practical application to many things that are in the school curriculum back home, such as maths problems (RDP and dive planning) and basic physics (buoyancy and gas laws). Many teachers in a traditional school setting struggle to find a way to engage students on these principles, but for the scuba instructor this is no problem as their students get to see the results in real life under the water!

Jason with Jacques and his boys
Jason with Jacques and his boys

 

Diver safety can also be a common concern for parents. Will their children be safe underwater? Do they trust the Instructor/Divemaster to take adequate care of their offspring? Valid concerns for any safety conscious parent, but not a problem here at Master Divers. We take pride in being a family friendly centre with top notch safety standards and attention to detail, as Jaques and his sons found out…

“Having reasonable experience myself, with my boys obviously being very new to the world of diving I can honestly say all three of us were blown away by the experience we had. I arrived with my Rescue Diver qualifications and during my time with Master Divers I progressed through to Master Diver Level….Our boys progressed with a further 2 courses which included Peak Performance Bouyancy and Underwater Navigator. The number one thing that stood out to us about Master Divers was their detailed focus on all safety aspects without fail – the boys completed 28 dives in their time with Master Divers and dived with 7 different instructors and 4 different dive masters and every single one of them delivered detailed dive safety briefs before every dive and debriefed the boys after every dive.”

PADI Bubblemaker Course
PADI Bubblemaker Course in Progress

 

And it’s not just Jacques, many other parents feel the same way. The following quotes are taken from some of our Trip Advisor reviews from diving families we’ve hosted…

“Master Divers entertained my 9 year olds’ passion for sea creatures and fascination with dive equipment with great knowledge and humour”

“You can tell Master Divers is an operation that’s not following a “certification factory” model because you never felt like they were short cutting just to collect your money. Obviously, when it’s one of your children diving with you, this is extremely important”

“We were nervous of taking our children for their first open water dive experience – we needn’t have worried. The team here were amazing with our children and we felt completely comfortable with them taking them diving.”

Parents may also wonder about diving equipment for children. Will the tank be too heavy? Do we have dive gear in child sizes? Not a problem! Here at Master Divers we pride ourselves on having the best equipment for all of our customers. We have junior sized wetsuits, BCD’s, fins, masks, and even special junior regulators with shorter hoses so children can learn more easily without getting tangles up! We also have some 8 litre tanks, meaning kids can get in and out of scuba gear easily, and climb the ladder back onto the boat at the end of their dives without needing to struggle with unnecessary weight.

Scuba Diving for Children
Kids Can Dive Too!

 

You can read further about diving options for children on our previous blog post, and if you have any further questions or need more info please feel free to contact us directly.

Special thanks to Jacques and Anna for their fantastic feedback, you can read their reviews in full along with our many others on our Trip Advisor page.

Our PADI Tec Rec Gas Blender Course

Here at Master Divers we are incredibly proud to be running our popular Tec Rec Gas Blender course on monthly basis! With the same guaranteed ratio of 4 students to each instructor that we offer on all of our courses, we provide both student and instructor levels of training.

WHY TAKE THE TEC REC GAS BLENDER COURSE?

The popularity of technical dive courses is growing fast, and more people are diving with Enriched Air Nitrox than ever before. In fact, the PADI Enriched Air Diver course is now the most popular specialty on the market.  This means in turn that the demand for enriched air tank fills is also increasing. However, there needs to be someone qualified on hand to fill the tanks needed to meet demand. This is where the PADI Gas Blender course comes in…

TecRec Gas Blender Manual

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

The Tec Rec Gas Blender course will help you stand out on your CV, setting you apart from other Divemasters, Instructors and MSDT’s, and making yourself more employable! Having Gas Blenders on staff is important for all schools offering Enriched Air Nitrox to their customers. Aside from being a valuable asset to dive operators here on Koh Tao, it is also a required qualification for many staff working in more remote locations elsewhere, and on Live-aboard vessels too. Plus, as well as the standard PADI curriculum, we’ll teach you how to operate a compressor in terms of basic maintenance and procedures – something that all dive professionals should know something about!

Enriched AIr Nitrox (Eanx)
Enriched AIr Nitrox (Eanx)

 

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

The Tec Rec Gas Blender course will train you as a qualified Gas Blender, allowing you to provide gas mixes to all appropriately certified consumers. You’ll learn more about the physical properties of oxygen, its associated hazards, handling requirements and what cleaning equipment is necessary. Finally, you will learn the five methods of obtaining the desired enriched air nitrox mix, the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as the various methods used to obtain proper helium mixes.

It is a very hands on course but as with all of our programmes, there is a little self-study to complete beforehand! The Tec Rec Gas Blender Manual is included in the course cost, so between this and your instructor, we will familiarize you with the all of procedures and techniques needed to get you out there as a fully qualified Gas Blender on completion of your course (certification fees are also included in the price).

tec-gas-blender

THE SPECIFICS

You must be at least 18 years of age and a PADI Enriched Air Diver certification (or qualifying certification from another organization) to enrol.

The student level course costs 10,000THB, and is inclusive of all teaching materials, instruction, practice time and certification costs. If you’d like more info on becoming a Tec Rec Gas Blending Instructor, please contact us for more details.

The course runs over 2 days, and we do try to schedule it so it fits in best with the lives of working professionals. So typically the course will begin on full moon party day each month, and complete the day after, meaning you won’t need to miss out on group bookings for guiding or teaching. But as with any course, we can be a little flexible based on your requirements, so just let us know what works for you and we’ll try our very best to meet your needs!

So…what are you waiting for? Email, call or just pop in to book your Tec Rec Gas Blender course today!

Why PADI?

Why should you choose PADI over other scuba diving certifications that are available?

As you may already know, there are many scuba diving organisations in the world, each with their own education and certification systems. But how does PADI stand out from the rest? And why should you choose a PADI dive centre like us for your training?

For starters, PADI is the world’s leading scuba diver training organization. It stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors, which basically says it all! The PADI system of diver education is based on progressive training that introduces skills, safety-related information and local environmental knowledge to student divers in stages, providing maximum practice and realistic practical application in the process.

In the video below Drew Richardson, PADI President and CEO, shares his passion for diving and talks about the important role of divers as underwater ambassadors and custodians of our ocean planet.

Some Statistics

No matter where you choose to dive, your PADI certification card will be recognized and accepted. In the Worldwide Corporate Statistics 2017, which covers 2011 – 2016, we learn that;

  • Since 1967, PADI has issued over 25,000,000 diver certifications globally
  • PADI has averaged over 900,000 diver certifications each year globally for the last 20 years
  • PADI issues diver certifications in over 200 countries and territories around the world
  • PADI has professional members in over 190 countries and territories around the world
  • PADI Retailers and Resorts operate in over 150 countries and territories around the world

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The PADI Community

It really is a community in which you can interact, and not just in the water! Literally, you can travel all over the world and find PADI endorsements in every location! Have you discovered ScubaEarth yet? This is where you can share photo’s, experiences and find buddies. With PADI members in more than 175 countries and territories there is no shortage of fellow scuba addicts to connect with! There’s also a great PADI Blog which provides you with up to date information on all aspects of diving. Plus all your social media needs are covered with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their YouTube channel, PADITV, meaning you’re never far from any information you may require! Plus PADI themselves have international service offices in nine countries, so whatever continental region you are in, you can count on their support. Current statistics quote PADI as having a 55% of the dive training market worldwide. This means that more divers like you choose PADI over all of the other agencies combined!

They Rock Environmental Responsibility

PADI encourages all PADI Divers to take action and support Project AWARE. PADI courses embrace environmental awareness and actively teach the importance of protecting our underwater world. Without an array of beautiful dive sites and stunning destinations to visit, Scuba diving wouldn’t even exist, so PADI dive centers are encouraged to help towards a clean, healthy ocean planet.

Here at Master Divers this is something we stand behind 100% as we care deeply about our environment. We organise regular beach and ocean clean ups which consist of staff and customers. We even have our very own ‘Eco-Warrior”, Hayley, who make sure we actively stay on top and are keeping up with conservation news and issues.

Hayley Scuba Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand112kgs of rubbish and recyclable's collected by Master Divers in Koh Tao, Thailand

 Quality of Training

PADI has developed what instructors and dive centres alike believe to be the most instructionally solid system. All courses are based on a framework that accounts for all learning styles. So whether you prefer self study or a classroom environment, or whether you are a ‘watcher’ or a ‘doer’, your needs will be catered for. Plus study materials are available in a variety of media – online programs, tablet-based apps, manuals, workbooks  etc. So even before you meet your instructor you can already be learning in a way that works for you.

PADI Instructors themselves are trained and held to diving’s highest standards backed up by a solid, proactive quality management system. They work to strict educational standards which are monitored for worldwide consistency and quality. Just as scuba divers must earn PADI certifications, PADI Instructors must complete an Instructor Development Course that sets the industry standard for scuba instructor training. Each new PADI Instructor demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the PADI System and the ability to conduct PADI programs by meeting specific criteria. Before earning the PADI Instructor rating, all candidates are evaluated by a select group of PADI-employed Instructor Examiners. This ensures that the evaluation process is objective, fair and consistent worldwide. This is another way that PADI training stands above others in the dive industry. With other agencies, evaluations are often completed and signed off by the agency’s own regional managers, which brings up doubts over the objectivity of their assessments.

Do you need any further convincing? Master Divers is a 5 Star PADI IDC centre, meaning that we excel in using the PADI system of diver education to introduce people to scuba diving, and then provide the continuing education, support and mentoring that allows individuals to progress. Even if you have no intention of going as far as pro level (yet!), our 5 start status means we maintain a very high calibre of instructors to teach you your courses.

 

So what are you waiting for?

Book your ticket to Koh Tao, get that PADI certification and scuba dive with us!

What do potential new scuba diving instructors look for when choosing where to do their Instructor Development Course?

Our new instructors explain their reasons on why they picked Master Divers, Koh Tao, in order to become a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor!

Doing your Instructor Development Course (IDC) is a life changing decision on it’s own and there’s a lot more to it then just saying the initial ‘YES’! Choosing somewhere to complete your dive professional training can be a daunting and confusing task; questions need to be answered such as; where in the world is the best place to complete my IDC, which dive school should i go with, where will I work afterwards, will the connections I make be the right ones to advance my career?

The best way to go about answering all of these questions is ‘do your research’! Choose a Course Director and a professional development team who are there for you and  provide support and advice from the moment you initiate contact with them to throughout your career.

This is exactly what these guys did! Kaarin, Henry and Kevin have all just completed there IDC with Master Divers, so before the celebratory beers started flowing to easily, we took the time out to quickly ask why they chose Master Divers for their IDC?

The gang all together celebrating their IDC in Koh Tao

Kaarin, has been living in Koh Tao, Thailand for 18 months now and previously worked as a Divemaster, before deciding to do her IDC. She loves to dive and felt she was ready to take that next step to instructor level. Knowing the island well, Kaarin opted on Master Divers because she knew of Course Director, Gaz, respected reputation on the island, the support structure that Gaz provides with every IDC course he teaches, plus the high level of safety standards we maintain here at Master Divers.

Kaarin on completion of his IDC at Master Divers, Koh Tao

Henry, is from England, but completed his Divemaster here on Koh Tao in August. Henry knew straight away he wanted to progress to instructor level and worked as a Divemaster for a short period whilst he waited for the IDC to start. Henry informed us that he researched a lot for the right place to advance his career on Koh Tao and had heard a lot about Gaz and his method of teaching, so he set up a meeting to gather more information, and the rest they say is history!

Henry on completion of his IDC at Master Divers, Koh Tao

Kevin, is from Vancouver and a biologist. Again he put a lot of research into where he could do his IDC and came across Master Divers. He then went through our reviews and did more research into how Course Director, Gaz conducts the IDC and the reviews we have achieved as a dive center in it’s self.  What drew Kevin to Koh Tao and Master Divers was the amount of eco work we do here, as that, as well as a solid support network were the most important factors for him.

Kevin on completion of his IDC at Master Divers, Koh Tao

So from the above and in the words of our Course Director, Gaz Lydon, himself, the main advice would be “Don’t choose a location to complete your training, choose a support structure”… plus look into and research other factors that are important to you!

PADI Course Director Gaz Lydon in Koh Tao Thailand

Ignite your life today!

For more information about your IDC and Course Director, Gaz Lydon visit www.instructor-development.com

What are the benefits to scuba diving?

Why you should Scuba Dive…in Koh Tao, Thailand!

Did you know that scuba diving is one of the fastest growing extreme sports in the world today? What does the term scuba mean? Well, it was originally the acronym SCUBA, which is short for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus and every year, millions of people go scuba diving, whether for a course, an introductory dive, or because they already have their diving licence.

Scuba diving is the main activity here in Koh Tao, due to the awesome dive sites, colourful coral and plenty of marine life, it’s easy to see why people flock to Koh Tao every year in order to scuba dive!

White-eyed Moray Eel at Koh Tao dive site, Twins

But why should you scuba dive, is it just an extreme sport or are there benefits in donning a heavy tank on your back and exploring the underwater world? The answer is yes, and here’s why!

Gain strength & flexibility!

Just carrying the gear can definitely help you with your strength but also as you move throughout the water during the course of a scuba dive, your muscles tend to work harder than they would if you were outside the water. This is due to the resistance of the water but also the current. The more you dive and swim, the more your muscles lengthen, build strength and develop endurance as well as flexibility.

Control your breathing!

Breathing whilst diving is slow and deep, similar to the breathing we do whilst meditating, which is essential when conserving and optimizing your air consumption.  During a scuba dive, you breathe in and tend to breathe out slower which reduces the heart rate, promoting calm.

The wreck, dive site, koh tao, Thailand

Stimulate your mind!

When exploring the marine life surrounding you on your dive, your body is flooded with excitement, wonder and awe. Seeing the sheer variety of underwater life and the amazing colour of the corals and  is enough to put anyone in a good mood. Seeing certain colours can also help to change and improve your mood

Release those endorphin’s!

Scuba diving stimulates your heart, body and mind! As mentioned before, when we breathe underwater, it should be slowly and deeply. Whether in cold or warm climates, when you’re doing what you love combined with holiday, adventure, excitement and lifetime experiences, this ‘time out’ gives your body a chance to rest and bring it back to a natural balance.

A very happy Diver

See things other’s won’t!

You will see things you’ve only ever dreamed of, amazing colours, historic wrecks, man made reefs, beautiful islands, bizarre marine life you didn’t even know existed…plus those that you did; the list goes on!

Whale ahark and cleaner fish, Koh Tao, Thailand

Dive anywhere in the world!

The World is over 70% water, which means there are more places in the world where diving is possible than those where it isn’t.  So no matter where you live, or where you travel for holiday, once you get your PADI Open Water certification, you won’t be too far from diving – even lakes and quarries offer fabulous diving…we would, however, suggest scuba diving on a tropical island called Koh Tao though!

Nang yauan island koh tao, Thailand

So what are you waiting for? Come dive with us?

Underwater Photography and Bad Buoyancy: Don’t be THAT guy!

“What kind of camera and equipment are you using?”

 

This is a question I get asked EVERY SINGLE DAY. Without fail. And while I am absolutely happy to answer and give the specifics of every single bit of equipment I have,  I am always a little wary about who’s asking – particularly if the question comes from a novice diver or a student who is just about to complete their open water course. Sometimes, they are asking me simply out of curiosity, but most of the time they are asking because they are genuinely interested in underwater photography. And who wouldn’t be?

Videographer
A videographer displays superb buoyancy while hovering over a delicate reef of anemones.

In this day and age, it is widely accessible and relatively cheap to own a camera that can be used underwater, so naturally most people want to take one along with them on their dives. However, several things happen when an inexperienced diver does this, whether they are taking a simple go pro, a compact camera or a whole DSLR rig (go big or go home, right?):

 

1. They start paying less attention to their instruments, particularly their dive computer and air pressure gauge.

2. They get distracted by fish they want to photograph and forget to check their depth and NDLs as they are chasing certain animals for their shots, sometimes ending up over 10 metres or more below or above their dive guide and group.

And the biggest problem I see:

3. Buoyancy gets thrown out the window and the safety of coral reef and marine life gets compromised.

 

Having a camera with you on your dives can be incredibly distracting because your attention shifts from concentrating on your diving skills/equipment/environment to complete focus on the camera and photo opportunities. Too many times I’ve seen divers with big camera rigs taking a photo of something while resting their fins on some nearby coral for stability… or even laying down entirely on a coral patch (yes, I have actually seen this). DON’T BE THAT GUY.

Underwater Photgrapher
This photographer is in good trim with fins up and hovering calmly away from the sensitive reef below him. A good example of a responsible diver!

 

Corals take years/decades/centuries to grow! They are fragile animals that require our undivided attention and respect while diving. Also, erratic swimming tends to scare the fish off making them unapproachable to you and other divers… practicing good buoyancy is key to being a responsible and safe underwater photographer.

 

So… fresh out of your Open Water course? Really excited to start bringing your camera with you on your future dives? Then I will tell you what I tell every novice that asks about my camera gear: take a course on buoyancy and/or get a few fun dives under your belt where practicing your buoyancy is your primary focus during the dive. I promise it will go a long way and you will be much better prepared to handle a camera under water.

 

Because no one wants to be THAT guy… I promise you.

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This diver is currently being “THAT GUY” … fins on the bottom (there is probably sensitive marine life there) and in a vertical position. Always try to stay horizontal while diving!

 

Just me – or any of the dive centre staff – for more information on buoyancy dives and courses, or for more details on underwater photography. We teach both PADI specialties, and tailor made courses to suit your needs 🙂