Koh Tao diving

We chose Koh Tao to do our PADI advance course because of information/pictures we’d found online while planning our Thailand trip, and we chose to dive with Crystal dive as they had good reviews on trip advisor and one of the best Koh Tao diving package.

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Crystal Dive turtle

We got the Ferry from koh Samui to Koh Tao. It all went smoothly with finding the pier and getting our tickets/having our bags weighed etc. However it took at least an hour longer than advertised to get to Koh Tao, and while it’s a pretty ferry journey past many beautiful small islands, because we had booked our course for that morning it was a little stressful!

We needn’t have worried, Crystal dive had no problem with us being late, in fact it seemed like this was the norm! They checked us into our Bungalow on site (this was included in the price of the course for two nights) then introduced us to Tobias our instructor. On first impressions the centre was buzzing with life, Lots of divers, lots of instructors, dive masters,  and a very friendly atmosphere, we could finally relax! We started the course, and on our lunch break Tobias took us over to a local restaurant called ‘Pranee’ for a takeaway lunch. This was our first Thai meal and it was gorgeous!! I had green curry and Pato had red curry both with sticky rice and a drink each (Just 200 Baht!) and it was very tasty; At that moment sitting on Crystal dives terrace, looking at the diving theory books with the heat of the sun on our skin and the sound of the calm ocean ahead of us, eating that lovely curry- BLISS!

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Pranee Restaurant

That afternoon after filling our hungry tummies we worked through some of the theory, went to try on and be allocated a set of diving gear (All in very good condition packed up in a bag for you however Pato’s would recommend you take your own mask and snorkel) and off we went for our first Thai dives!

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We went out on Crystal 3;  A very busy boat full of people doing lots of different courses and fun dives. Although it was a little overwhelming at first it was well organised and everything ran smoothly. There were never more than 4 people to 1 instructor/ Dive master (DM) In our group were 5 people, we had Tobias our instructor and a DM.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADIVE 1- Bouyancy dive

Dive Site- Japanese gardens

Depth- 10m

Visibility- Poor < 5M

Water Temp- 29

On this dive we had to complete four exercises; We found these fun but also helpful, as neither of us felt confident in our buoyancy skills. There was quite a lot of waiting around while different members of the group did the exercises but we did some swimming through hoops while waiting which was quite fun!

Pato’s word-  Visibility was disappointing, having come to Thailand primarily for the diving.

Pata says-   I needed this it really helped me gain confidence with my buoyancy. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADIVE 2- Navigation dive

Dive Site- Japanese gardens

Depth- 15m

Visibility- Poor < 5M

Water temp- 29

The second dive meant putting into practice what we’d learnt in the compass theory session on land. For this dive we had to complete four navigational exercises. This was good fun, but again the visibility let us down. There was a lot more to the navigation than we’d expected. Somehow Pata’s underwater navigational skills far exceeded her land navigational ability!!

Pato’s word- These exercises were more complicated than expected!

Pata says- Don’t think too much about what you are doing, just do it!

Because of arriving late we had to spend the evening doing theory work for the course. We went back to Pranee for dinner and ate at the restaurant (very cute place) We explored a bit and found the local supermarket ‘Seven eleven’ to buy in some breakfast bits and water. Be real careful with the water in Thailand- use bottled water even for cleaning teeth! 

The Crystal dive Bungalow-

You get what you pay for- It was free! The Ant-infestation was an added bonus….

No air-conditioning – but a fan – that was adequate at night.

No hot water- Although the cold water was welcome after a hot day diving.

No toilet roll and no flushing toilet roll (Most toilets were like this)

LOTS of mosquito’s – Herbal repellent did not cut the mustard!!

However even with all of the above, we did enjoy our stay in our little dilapidated bungalow!!

The bar area of crystal dive is a nice, friendly place for a beer and wind down after a busy day!

DAY 3:

We had an early start, meeting at the bar at 6:45am for the second half of the course. With 3 dives to get through.

Today we went out on Crystal 1 a smaller boat with far less people, There were a bunch of people doing the rescue diver course- looked like a lot of fun!!

It all went smoothly from start to finish.

Take water and snacks on the boat (The water provided was in a big container with a couple of communal cups- be prepared for a gross toilet too!) 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive 3- Deep dive

Dive sites- ‘No name’ & ‘Two twins’

Depth- 27m

Visibility– 7 > 15M

Water temp– 29

The only exercise on the dive was to see the effect depth has on colours; using a torch and colour card then diving at depth. It was an enjoyable dive, however again the visibility was poor.

Pato’s word- Finally Pata conquered her fear of deep diving and saw it wasn’t a problem.

Pata says- I felt ecstatic, I was so worried about doing a deep dive, The fear was over nothing, in fact I came out of the water wishing we’d dived deeper!!

We had a 1 HOUR surface interval then went on to do dive 4;

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HTMS Sattakut wreck

Dive 4- Wreck dive

Dive sites- HTMS Sattakut

Depth- 26m

Visibility– 5M

Water temp– 29

This dive involved two exercises and seeing our very first ship wreck! It was busy at this site, and again the visibility was disappointing. BUT Coming up from the dive we knew without saying to each other that we wanted to do the wreck diving course!

Pato’s word-  Again I was very disappointed with the visibility.

Pata says-  Pato stop moaning!!

We went back to land to do more theory… oh and we spent all of 5 minutes deciding to sign up for the wreck diving course with Tobias.

We are creatures of habit and found ourselves back at Pranee for lunch (SO TASTY!)

We had a long afternoon of theory finishing the advance course theory, and making a start on the wreck diving theory too! We got it all finished before our final advance course dive- the night dive….!

Quick snack and shower and back on crystal 1 out to sea we went! Pata was very excited about the night dive, surprisingly Pato was very anxious! (FINALLY a weakness!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive 5- Night dive

Dive sites- White rock

Depth- 19m

Visibility– 10M

Water temp– 29

We saw Puffer fish, and blue spotted rays in fact the whole ocean came alive by torch light- it was AMAZING. So much more colour, variety and finally better visibility! Very enjoyable dive.

Pato’s word- My next toy will be a BIG TORCH! I didn’t want the dive to ever end. 

Pata says- Half the dive was spent blinded by Pato’s torch in my eyes!! The other half was awesome.

We got back to land, filled out our log books and had a beer at the crystal bar.

Tonight we ventured LEFT at the beach (for the first time) To explore Saree beach, and find food.

It was nice to see a busier part of the island but food ends early on Koh Tao- we arrived at a restaurant at 21:30 and they served us but not without having a go at us first! Food was ok but nothing compared to Pranee food!

There were some busy bars with lots of fire breathers and dancers but that wasn’t what we wanted on our trip, nice to see but didn’t stay.

Night 2 in our Bungalow: 

Ants- WORSE

Mosquitos- WORSE- (Covered everything in repellent- made no difference!) BUY DEET!

Pata says-  I met a pretty red caterpillar as it crawled up across my foot in the bathroom, then had a cricket in bed with us, I spent the night guarding Pato from bugs as he slept like a baby!

Day 4- 

OK so our little bungalow at crystal dive was fun for two nights but today we changed hotels and god its good to change it up!!

Regal resort is a 2 minute walk along the beach from the dive centre and they give 10% discount to crystal customers. WHAT AN UPGRADE! Air conditioning, clean fresh lovely room. We highly recommend the beach bungalows.

Day 4 was PADI Wreck Spec day, 4 dives in total (Although our deep wreck dive as part of the advance course counted as 1 dive towards this course so we had 3 left!)

We had a 9:00am start at crystal where we watched a 40minute PADI video, followed by working through the theory book, and doing some practice on land. (Practice reeling- I nearly took out a local on his moped as I set up an intricate line between two trees that he failed to notice!!) Found the reeling easy…on land!

Oh how original… we had lunch at Pranee again, picked up some snacks at 7/11 and headed out for a whole afternoon on the boat with three consecutive dives to get through all located at HTMS SATTAKUT.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive 1- Mapping/Planning the wreck 

Depth- 27.2m

Visibility– 3-10M

Water temp– 30

AIR dive

Exercises involved:  Using slate to map the wreck, measuring the kick cycles of the wreck, and its size/position/lay out/entrances/hazards/points of interest/depth.

There was a huge trigger fish lurking!

Dive 2- Reeling/Following

Depth- 25m

Visibility– 3-10M

Water temp– 30

NITROX dive

Exercises involved: Taking it in turns to reel outside the wreck and follow the line. Blooming heck its a lot harder in the water than on land!! Trying to work out where to go, not cutting off your dive buddy, how to tie the line while trying to keep neutrally buoyant AND avoiding sharp edges/rust/keeping an eye on surroundings/fish!!

Dive 3- Penetration dive!

Depth- 25m

Visibility– 3-10M

Water temp– 30

NITROX dive

Very awkward but AWESOME dive! Facing some of the biggest groupers we’ve ever seen and in such tight spaces (inside the wreck!) it was spectacular! Really opens your eyes to how dangerous it can be. Its very hard to judge distances/not hit your tank on the ceiling or your knees on the floor. The whole course came together in this dive, and luckily we were the only divers down there at the time. Tobi was great and after doing the exercises we had enough time/Nitrox left in our tanks for Tobi to take us deep inside the wreck (he showed off his reeling skills and air consumption!)

We really enjoyed the course, Made us both realise what skills wreck diving takes!

Pato’s word- Really amazed by the course and looking forward to the next wreck!

Pata says- Amazing! But harder than you think! Hard not to reach out and touch/steady yourself when reeling. Can’t wait to work on these skills.

After the dives we finished up with beer and log books and of course we couldn’t resist booking onto some fun dives for the next day..! We then had dinner at a tiny little cafe called Sawasdee run by a lovely Thai lady, really lovely food!

Day 5- 

Another early start 6:45am at the bar to get our kit and head to the boat (crystal 3) There were 35 people and the boat didn’t feel crowded. It was a two hour calm sail to get to sail rock, There were lots of dive boats already anchored around the rock and lots of divers!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive 1- Sail Rock

Depth- 29.2m

Visibility– 8m

Water temp– 30

There was Thermocline at 20m which made visibility crap, but what a dive site, We swam up the chimney- it was breathtaking! Saw some really big fish.

Pato’s word- Disappointed with visibility

Pata says- One of the divers in our little group was particularly snap happy and he lost us! Came within seconds of an emergency ascent. I spotted him at the last second luckily…! Visibility was disappointing but the chimney was amazing.

Surface interval of 1 hour with a nice hot lunch provided.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive 2- Sail Rock

Depth- 22m

Visibility– 10m

Water temp– 29

This was the same location but the other side of the pinnacle. Visibility was a bit better. Saw barracuda and some massive groupers. Amongst lots of other sea life! Would be a truly beautiful dive site in better visibility. Very busy down there with lots and lots of divers.

Pato’s word- Nice lunch, sorry for the diver that dropped their gopro! Watched it sink into the deep.

Pata says- Coral and visibility out and above the chimney at around 6m was gorgeous.

After getting back we had lovely showers in our beach bungalow and headed to the bar at the hotel. It was a little more expensive to have a drink but there was more choice and a nice relaxing seating area near the pool/facing the beach to sit at. We then decided to have a snorkel. We really enjoyed it and saw lots of very inquisitive fish.

We tried not to give in to the temptation of booking more dives as we’d already overspent on diving, however it took us less than 5minutes to give in to that temptation and book dives for the next day. (BEST decision of the trip and it was discounted a lot as we’d done so many dives!)

We had dinner at Pranee (AGAIN) SO much choice there- too much to try. 😉

DAY 5- 

Yet another early start 6:45am and only 15minutes on the boat (Crystal 3 again) to the dive sites.

Very shallow dive sites for today which was a good thing as Pata’s ears were starting to suffer a little!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive 1- Twins 

Depth- 12.6m

Visibility– 10-12m

Water temp– 30

Best visibility of the whole trip! THIS was what we chose Koh Tao for.

Stunning coral, thousands of fish, really beautiful. Especially loved the moray eels.

Everywhere we looked there were beautiful things to see. Josh the dive master guiding us was lovely and made the dive relaxing and easy going.

Pato’s word- First dive I truly enjoyed for the visibility. It meant I could relax with my camera and go with the flow without worrying about losing the group. Everyone enjoying the life at the same pace.

Pata says- Gorgeous dive and I am so happy with the progress with my buoyancy, Pato and I had fun coming up with our own hand signals for in the water 🙂

Surface interval of 1 hour (DO pack your own snacks/drinks for the boat)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive 2- White rock 

Depth- 15m

Visibility– 8-10m

Water temp– 30

Another great dive very close to twins. Similar but the variety of fish and coral was so huge that it looked totally different. Saw a really big trigger fish and a row of squid out in the blue- don’t forget to look out to the blue!!

Pato’s word- Finally Koh Tao paid off!!

Pata says- What a way to bring the dives to an end. Although we realised over these days we’ve done the holiday the wrong way around…

On a side note; We strongly recommend heading to shark bay and snorkelling there. We saw so many beautiful fish, a gorgeous big turtle and we even swam around with sharks!

Overall we had a very enjoyable experience from start to finish with Crystal dive. The bungalows on site are very basic, and we would recommend heading 2 minutes down the beach to ‘Regal resort’ if you want something more comfortable. (They offer 10% off for crystal customers- we strongly recommend the beach bungalows they have) Two nights in a basic bungalow was enough for us! Speaking to some other divers at crystal some of them felt that it was very much a conveyor belt of divers and dive masters. But we thoroughly enjoyed our dives, and would go back.

12 dives, many delicious thai meals, snorkelling with sharks, the turtle… beautiful beaches, very hard to leave it all behind.

Head over here to read about our whole Thailand experience.


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