Share The LOVE

Get Scuba Certified in S.E.A

So you have your next holiday in your sights and have been longing for years to experience what it’s like breathing underwater, finally exploring the bodies of water that make up most of the planet. To get up close to fish and see what coral reefs really look like, no underwater camera does them justice, and to have an altogether excellent time.

Not only this, but it would be great if there were enough plant-based or vegan eating options around so you won’t fade away. Arriving back home as a tanned but grim-looking skeleton, braids in your hair, and some Chinese character for peace, love, and forever tattooed on your shrunken self.

Having been closely involved in dive education for almost twenty years in the roles of PADI Divemaster through to PADI Course Director, and situated mainly in Southeast Asia. I thought I would weigh in on the best places to get scuba-certified in the region, throw in some opinions about the eating, and warn against roadside tattoo parlors with dodgy flash books sitting on upturned beer crates in the gutter.

Before Choosing Your Course Destination and Dive School

Before you leg it down to some island you have heard is the next paradise. Your fingers crossed that the local dive shop has tanks that have been pressure tested and regulators serviced (you will learn what this means during your course), compressors that don’t have inlets in close proximity to diesel exhaust, and instructors that aren’t still coming down from the night before.

Crossed in the hope there aren’t barren wastelands for dive sites, and where the only thing to eat looks to be a species of marine animal, unlucky enough to get mesmerized by a light hanging in mid-ocean. Barbequed and served on a thick bed of chewy white rice with a piece of corn wrapped in tinfoil. Nothing against the corn, but it is generally as dry and wizened as you will be when you return from your dive vacation in paradise, with nothing decent plant-based to eat—time for some advice, young PADI-wans.

Some things to consider

  1. Choose a Reputable Dive School: Take your time to research and select a reputable one. Look for schools with experienced instructors, good reviews, and a focus on safety and environmental awareness. Some well-known professional dive school affiliations include PADI, SSI, and NAUI.
  2. Select the Right Course: As a beginner, you’ll likely start with an entry-level course like the Open Water Diver certification. This course teaches you the basics of scuba diving and allows you to dive up to 18 meters (60 feet) independently. If you’re short on time, consider the Scuba Diver certification, a subset of the Open Water Diver course.
  3. Complete the Theory: Most dive courses begin with theoretical lessons where you’ll learn about dive physics, physiology, equipment, safety procedures, and environmental conservation. You can often complete this part through e-learning before you leave on your dive holiday, giving you more time in the water when you are there.
  4. Pool or Confined Water Training: Before heading into the open water, you’ll undergo confined water training in a pool or shallow protected area. Here, you’ll practice essential scuba skills under the guidance of your instructor until you feel comfortable and confident. If you feel slightly unsure, you may want to be certain all your confined water sessions are taught in a swimming pool. Look into which dive shops have a swimming pool at their disposal.
  5. Open Water Dives: It’s time for the real deal after completing the theory and confined water training. You’ll typically do four open water dives over two days, applying the skills you learned in the pool and exploring dive sites in the area. Although on your first open water dives, I can guarantee it will be so incredible that a sea cucumber farting out a puff of sand will make the dive memorable. You may want to research how healthy the area’s marine life and corals are. Once you have some experience, you will want to see some fish.
  6. Certification: Upon successfully completing your course, you’ll be awarded the Open Water Diver certification, which allows you to dive anywhere in the world (within the limits of your training) with a certified buddy. It can pay to ask the dive school how they approach the certification procedure so that you get yours in a timely manner. What kind of temporary certification will they provide you with on the spot so that you can continue your underwater journey?
  7. Continuing Education: If you catch the scuba diving bug, you may want to further your skills. See what other course options are available to you in the area. Most will offer an Advanced Open Water course, but there may also be some specialty courses you would like to discover, such as underwater photography.


So you have decided on Thailand. This country is very close to my heart. Having lived there for five years and is not only the place where I began my scuba diving life but also where I became certified as a PADI dive professional. Thailand is a place of many amazing memories and narrowly missed tattoos.

My first whale and bull shark experience and a stiff, competition-level reaction to chilies. Absolutely beautiful people and a depth of culture that is peaceful and inclusive. You have made a wise choice. But now, where do you go to learn how to scuba dive?

Koh Tao

This little island in the Gulf of Thailand, about a two-hour fast ferry ride from Chumphon on the mainland, or the island of Koh Samui, is a mecca for learning how to scuba dive. It is also where I originally learned how to dive and saw my first sharks.

There are fantastic places to stay, and the variety of plant-based and vegan food available will have you salivating in your regulator. Here are some reasons to consider Koh Tao as your scuba diving certification destination in Thailand.

  1. Affordability: Koh Tao is quite cheap. Known for its relatively affordable dive courses compared to many other diving destinations worldwide. The island’s competitive dive industry keeps prices reasonable, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers.
  2. Excellent Dive Sites: The waters around the island boast numerous dive sites suitable for beginners, with calm waters, good visibility, and a diverse range of marine life. The island’s underwater world has some fair coral reefs, a number of species of tropical fish, and the ever-present chance of whale shark encounters, providing an unforgettable experience for novice divers.
  3. Experienced Instructors: The island is home to a wide selection of dive schools with experienced instructors, many of whom have trained countless students and are skilled at teaching beginners. Their expertise ensures you receive quality instruction and feel confident throughout your training.
  4. Large Dive Community: Koh Tao is a hub for scuba diving, attracting divers and dive professionals worldwide. This vibrant dive community creates a lively atmosphere and ample opportunities to share experiences and learn from others.
  5. Warm Water and Comfortable Climate: The waters around Koh Tao are warm year-round, usually ranging from 27°C to 30°C (80°F to 86°F). The pleasant water temperature allows for comfortable diving in swimmers and a rash guard or a 3mm shortie. The island’s tropical climate also ensures favorable conditions for diving throughout many months of the year.
  6. Easy Accessibility: Koh Tao is well-connected to other islands and the mainland.
  7. Varied Dive Courses: Koh Tao offers many dive education opportunities beyond the basic Open Water Diver course. Once you obtain your Open Water certification, you can continue your diving education with advanced courses, specialty courses, and even professional-level training if you wish to start a career in the scuba diving industry.

Koh Tao’s is a charming tropical island, which adds to the appeal of learning to scuba dive there. When you’re not underwater, you can enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches, stunning viewpoints, vibrant nightlife, and a wide variety of other activities.

Which Dive Schools Should You Consider on Koh Tao?

Koh Tao is generally divided into a few locations. The south, around the Chalok Ban Khao area; central, around Mae Haad and the south end of Sairee Beach. And the north, around the north of Sairee Beach (it’s a very long beach).

Each area has a fair cluster of dive resorts and dive schools for you to choose from, and most will provide for the requirements listed above. That said, there are some stand-out dive schools in each area for you to consider. They have been operating for a long time, have a great depth of knowledge, excellent service and facilities, and highly professional dive instructors.

Ocean Sound Dive & Yoga | Confined Open Water | Infinite Blue Dive Travel

New Heaven Dive School, situated south of Koh Tao, is a long-established operator with a strong environmental ethic. They run several conservation efforts and assist with the scientific study of the marine environment in Koh Tao. Well worth checking out if you are heading to Chalo Ban Khao.

Big Blue Diving in Sairee Beach is one of the pioneers in Koh Tao diving. Superb facilities and an excellent, experienced pool of instructors. If you are considering spending time around the south of Sairee, look into Big Blue.

Bans Diving is an absolute monolith in the north of Sairee Beach, and one of the the biggest scuba certifiers worldwide year-on-year. Although I am not a fan of bustle and crowds when trying to relax, some people are, and if that is you, then Bans would be the place to head to. They offer some of the best professional facilities on the island, and they even have three swimming pools to choose from for your confined water sessions.

Ocean Sound Dive & Yoga | Koh Tao dive school | Infinite Blue Dive TravelOcean Sound Dive and Yoga. Our personal favourite. For an overall fantastic dive school with a tremendous inclusive environment, years of experience, and a yoga shala to boot, you cannot look past Ocean Sound Dive and Yoga. They are located in Chalok Ban Khao, towards the island’s south, and are very handy to many great restaurants and beaches. Here, you will discover an attentive but relaxed atmosphere, safe in the knowledge you are in good hands, as you begin your scuba journey. They start a new Open Water course here daily, so you will not have trouble scheduling in amazing beaches and plant-based cuisine. The dive shop caters to divers from all nationalities, and a Danish speaker is even around sometimes.

Vegan and plant-based on Koh Tao

Koh Tao is blessed with a remarkable selection of restaurants, creative cafes and eateries, many of which cater to vegans and those on adapted diets. The selection available ranges from absolutely mouth-watering Thai food to an array of international cuisines and Western fusion. Smoothie bowls, cold-pressed juices and vegan snacks are available all over the island. Although the vegan food guide for Koh Tao will probably stretch to another post, I do have to throw in a plug here for Babaloo restaurant. They are situated a little out of the way en route to Chalok Ban Khao, but once you have found it, you will keep going back. The kitchen provides amazing vegan versions of pretty much most Thai cuisine you have on your must-try list. Here is a link to their menu. 

To Wrap Up Part One

Thailand is an admirable choice as a destination to learn how to scuba dive. The Gulf of Thailand provides a safe yet exciting environment for dive courses, and the island of Koh Tao has plenty of fantastic, highly professional dive centres. For loads of extra information on Koh Tao check out this guide here. As a vegan or plant-based traveller, you will not be left wanting and will return home a pleasantly plump brown. And lastly, about the tattoo, please find somewhere professional; the team at Thai Art Tattoo is awesome!


Written By: