Scuba diving is something I had never experienced before but was a definite bucket list item so when the opportunity arose not only to go Scuba Diving but to become a PADI qualified Scuba Diver on Koh Phi Phi Island in Thailand, I jumped at the chance!
However I’m not going to lie, I was a tad scared about submerging my whole body metres underwater; what if I couldn’t get back to the top? What if my air runs out? And most importantly what if I get eaten by a SHARK!? Luckily none of those nightmare scenarios came to fruition and it was 100% worth overcoming those fears. So if you have the same ones niggling at you, please do try to overcome them as it was totally worth it to experience what feels like another world underwater.
Arriving on Phi Phi islands, we had no accommodation booked and only anticipated to stay for a day or two. Fast forward a week later, we stayed for 6 nights and completed our PADI Scuba Diving Certification which was completely unplanned but I’m soooo happy we did it!
Walking through the streets of Phi Phi there are a fair few scuba schools offering the 3 or 4 day PADI course for around 13,800BHT (Aprox £320), on a travellers budget this is a big expense especially if you hadn’t factored in the cost (like us oops). However after discussion George and I decided it would be worth the investment and so amazing to do especially as we plan do the Great Barrier Reef when we get to Australia.
So anyway, which Diving school to choose? We walked up to one called Blue View Diving very near our hotel and it was set on top of a little hill with an amazing view and it looked pretty legit from the outside. We had a discussion with Caroline who was lovely, explained the process clearly and said we could start the next morning so we left feeling confident that we wanted to book it with Blue View.
Let’s talk money, it cost 13,800BHT per person which should of been around £320 however because we were trying not to carry too much cash on us, we had to withdraw this out so it ended up costing us around £360 with the added fees *sob*. So if you plan to do a PADI course, definitely take out the cash to make sure you get the best exchange rate and don’t get stung by the bank charges. After a little google we realised this is still very reasonable for the PADI open water qualification and cheaper than in the UK and elsewhere around the world so I’m pretty happy with that! Either way still totally worth the money in my opinion.
What is PADI?
From what I can gather there are a few different courses and levels depending on experience. The one that we did was a PADI open water course meaning we can dive without an instructor up to 18m deep in open water.
To get the qualification you need adequate swimming skills to qualify but other than that, you need no other diving experience – as I said I had never done any scuba diving before.
Theory (knowledge development)
Arriving for our scuba session on Day 1, our group was small with only 4 of us including myself and George. The others were two friends from America who were first time divers too. Our instructor was Paolo and he was amazing! The training started with a day of theory and a 50 question multiple choice exam where you cannot get anymore than 12 wrong (75%).
The theory was done on the TV with quizzes that need filling out for each section, there were books handy and an instructor around if we needed something explaining in more detail. This took us all day from 8am-5pm to complete the theory with a multiple choice exam so it was a pretty hardcore day when you’re in holiday mode but this can be split over 2 days if wanted.
I was almost certain that I would fail the exam and George would pass as the questions are rather technical for a first time diver with nada experience however but we both passed and got exactly the same (phew so he didn’t have any bragging rights!) 46/50.
Confined Water Dives (Pool Sessions)
After the theory on day 3 we were introduced to the equipment and put our theory into practice. This is essentially 2 sessions where you learn 20 new skills in a swimming pool. This is where we first learned first hand how to set up the scuba kit, how to breathe properly under water and do basics skills like removing masks, how to clear our masks, equalize the pressure in our ears, how to adjust the air in the vest for buoyancy, hand signals and when to use them, how to clear water and fog in masks underwater, and essentially, how to interact with all the sea life causing as little disruption as possible to their underwater world.
Open Water Dives
Once the first pool session had taken place and after we had passed our theory, we then set off into the ocean to put what we had learned into practice. We did 4 sea dives spread over 2 days, the first task setting up and putting on your equipment in a moving boat which was an interesting experience! The equipment is very heavy and it takes a lot of concentration to set everything up properly whilst being thrown around on a tiny tailboat – on that note Blue Water Diving is the only centre that does their dives from a Tailboat which we thought added to the whole experience.
Once set up, I very clumsily made it to the right position on the boat to flip into the water where we had to complete buddy checks to ensure we were ready to go. A quick flippety flop into the water and we learned how to descend properly ensuring we stopped every few meters to equalise our ears – this basically feels like when you’re on an Aeroplane and your ears start to pop.
We then completed numerous tasks underwater such as emergency ascents, what to do if you’re low on air, helping your buddy out, sharing air etc. For more specific information you can go to the PADI official website here.
Where did we dive?
Each dive site has its own name and we were given a log book so we can remember where we did each dive, what we saw, the conditions of the day, how deep we went etc. Our 4 dive sites around Phi Phi were:
- Malong Shelf
- Mushroom rock
- Bida Nok
- Bida Nai
What animals did we see?
The exciting part and my main motivation for going diving in the first place, was of course to see the animals and sea life! It was so exciting to get so close to them and no we didn’t see any huge sharks that could of eaten us and the likelihood in Thailand was extremely low. In addition to all the colourful corals we saw:
- Black tip reef sharks
- Blue spotted stingray
- Giant Clam
- Clown fish (Nemos & Doris)
- Sealface Pufferfish
- Masked Porcupine Fish
- Parrot Fish
- Star Fish
- Cardinal Fish
- Trigger Fish
- Damsel Fish
- Yellow snappers
- Longfin Banner Fish
- Great Baracuda
- Box Fish
- Lion Fish
During the 4 sea dives we needed to complete numerous skills underwater, if these weren’t done correctly then essentially you would fail and couldn’t be PADI qualified but luckily for us we passed which means we can dive unsupervised in open water up to 18m deep.
If I do any form of exercise I’m always super keen to know how many calories were burned so I put 75 mins of Scuba Diving into my Fitness Pal and it said that burns around 600 Kcals! Totallyyyy earned the Thai crepes and coconut ice cream for dessert every night!
For anyone that is tempted to try out Scuba diving but you feel too scared, I urge you to overcome your fears and go for it! Under the right instructor with a good school like Blue View in Phi Phi, you’ll be taught all the safety you need and gain so much reward! It honestly does feel like another world and is amazing to get so close to these amazing animals in their own natural habitat.
Next stop, The Great Barrier Reef!