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If you follow me on Instagram, like my Facebook page, or just hang out with me on an occasional basis, you may know that I became obsessed with diving on my trip to the Maldives last year. I got my Scuba Diving certification there, and decided there and then that I would continue on my diving journey and get my Open Water Certification as soon as I could. Just a little over a month later I found myself in Thailand, ready to dive in again!
Getting PADI Open Water Certified in Thailand
Just like with my course in the Maldives, I was lucky enough to be the only person taking the PADI Open Water course with my instructor. This was mainly due to the fact that I was a ‘referral’, who had already completed the Scuba Diving Section of the course. This was very lucky for me, as I didn’t have to share the attention of my dive instructor with anyone. My instructor also seemed to be happy with this, as I’m sure it’s easier to have only 1 student than 4.
I booked my course with Dive & Relax, a dive company based in Koh Lanta that focuses on small groups rather than jam-packed boats. This made a huge difference, as it was my first time diving from a boat (in the Maldives we simply swam to the reef from the docks). Dive & Relax have speed boats instead of larger, slower diving boats, which meant we arrived at every dive site before everyone else! Considering that there are so many divers on each dive site in Thailand, this was a godsend, as it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the reefs in peace before the other dive companies joined us.
The first day of the training my (awesome) instructor, Pan, and I headed to a pool nearby in order to brush up on my diving skills, and make sure that I could complete the new skills required by the course. I had completed many of the Open Water Skills in the Maldives, so our time in the pool didn’t take as long as expected. This meant I had time to finish the theoretical part of the course AND take my exam on day 1. The only thing left then were the actual Open Water dives!
The Open Water Dives
When you have already completed the Scuba Diver section of the course, you have two Open Water Dives to complete in order to become certified. These are usually conducted in the same day. I was picked up at our hotel, and taken to the Dive & Relax headquarters. Here I was given my first proper dive briefing by my instructor, while the other dive masters and instructors were briefing the rest of the groups.
I’ll admit I was a little nervous to go out on the boat and was worried that I’d be the least experienced diver there and have no one to talk to. I imagined myself latching onto Pan and not talking to anyone else for the entire day!
It turned out, there were divers of all levels onboard the boat. Two others were also completing their PADI Open Water Certification, there was a family taking the ‘refresher’ diving course, someone on board had completed over 100 dives, and a Swedish woman shared her stories of diving all over the world! We all quickly got to talking, and I’ll admit it ended up being much more of a social trip than I had expected!
The dives themselves went really well. The dive site for my Open Water dives was Koh Haa, where we saw all kinds of marine life, and I really got to perfect my buoyancy (what makes you weightless in the water). Naturally, I had my GoPro with me, and on the way to Thailand, I also invested in a retractable selfie stick, allowing me to take better diving photos of myself. Yayy!
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As you can see this photo is a little greener and less clear than what I was hoping for, which is one of the reasons why the GoPro isn’t the best for underwater photos. My dive buddy on my first dive as a certified diver (because I booked my next dive with Dive & Relax as soon as I got back ashore after my Open Water Dives) had an Olympus Tough, and she got some of the best underwater photos I’ve seen!
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PADI Open Water Diver Course Overview
The PADI Open Water Diver course is the main and most popular course offered by the Professional Association of Dive Instructors. Once completed, the course allows you to dive on your own (all though it is always advised to dive with a buddy) for depths up to 18 meters. In order to pass the course, you must complete 5 sections of theoretical study, with a final exam including questions from all sections. At the end of each section, there is a set of ‘Confined water skills’ which must be completed with your instructor.
Note that confined water does not necessarily mean a pool. In the Maldives, I did my confined water skills just off the beach, in water reaching my neck. In Thailand, I did my skills in a pool, which was way easier (think no currents and no waves). However, I’m glad I got to do some training in the ocean, as it prepared me better for my Open Water dives. I absolutely loved diving in both Thailand and the Maldives, and definitely think they were amongst the best places to learn to scuba dive!
There are 4 Open Water dives to be completed as well, and you will have to repeat some of the confined water skills then. The confined water skills include taking off your mask and swimming under water, having your instructor turn off your air supply underwater (not as scary as it sounds, I promise), and letting go off your regulator (mouthpiece) underwater in order to find it again. These are all skills you need to be able to complete as they prepare you for possible issues that could happen during a dive. Note that it is very rare to run out of air underwater, as you always keep an eye on your pressure gauge (the air supply ‘reader’).
The course is usually completed over the span of 4 days and is performance-based. This means that you do not move on to the next part/section of the course until you have completed and passed the skills and tests required in the current section. Some people could, in theory, do the course in only 2 days, while others may need more time. In total between the Maldives and Thailand, it took me 3 days to complete the course (2 half days spent on theory, and 2 whole days spent diving).
If you, like me, do not have the time to complete the course all at once, it is possible to start with the Scuba Diver Certification. This allows you to dive with an instructor for depths up to 12 meters. The Scuba Diver course is simply put, the first 3 theory sessions and the first 2 confined water sessions of the Open Water course, finished off with the first 2 Open Water Dives. You are then free to take the rest of the course when you have the time!
I am so happy with my diving experience so far, and can’t wait to continue the journey. Next on my list is the Advanced Open Water Diver Course!
Want more diving info?
You can read this post on my experience with the PADI Scuba Diver Course in the Maldives!
This post by The Blonde Abroad gives you 10 reasons to dive on your next trip!
In need of a new Dive Computer? Check out this list here.
Want to read more about the Dive Company I used? Check out Dive & Relax on TripAdvisor here!
This post by Alex from Alex in Wanderland (a PADI AmbassaDiver) is for all of you who let your fears keep you from diving.
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