Each year, Koh Tao, Thailand attracts thousands of visitors with its near year-round calm and crystal-clear waters and diverse wealth of marine life. In fact, this tiny island of just 21 square kilometres pumps out more scuba certifications annually than nearly anywhere else in the world, second only to Queensland, Australia – but at a much lower price point.
The island’s immense popularity has generated a niche industry driven by dozens of dive schools and resorts, each accommodating all kinds of preferences, languages, and requirements you could dream of. Whether you’re brand spanking new to the sport or have been blowing bubbles for years, how do you know which school is right for you?
Roctopus prioritizes small group size and high-quality instruction | © Roctopus Dive
This medium-sized shop runs like a well-oiled machine. Their experienced and fun staff is all smiles, all of the time, and divers leave feeling like a part of the family rather than just another passerby. The centre runs its training courses primarily through RAID, a state-of-the-art and globally accepted
training agency developed by leading experts in the field. Roctopus also offers a full range of SSI certifications, specialty training like advanced wreck penetration and intro-to-technical diving courses, as well as a fully operational professional arm for aspiring divemasters and instructors.
Best for: New divers after small group sizes for more personalized training, niche specialties taught by seasoned experts, those wanting a social atmosphere but without the huge numbers of larger resorts.
Ratios: Maximum 4 divers to 1 leader
Roctopus Dive offers some of the best value for money – efficient schedules and small group sizes make for an easy and personalized experience | © Roctopus Dive
Also check out these similar schools: Master Divers, Mojo Divers
Big Blue Diving Resort
Big Blue's family-like atmosphere is driven by some of the most established trainers on the island | © Big Blue Dive Resort
Big Blue is firmly among longest-running establishments on the island, and during its tenure has branded itself as one of the most reputable programs around. With regularly packed boats, divers are guaranteed introduction to a huge family of new friends with each new dive, under the guidance of some of the most experienced dive professionals on the island. Its dive master trainee program is among the largest, making it a great choice for those thinking about staying island-bound longer term. The centre offers both PADI and SSI training options. Big Blue also has active conservation
activities with plenty of options for visitors to learn more about marine biology and the centre’s eco efforts. Then there’s the freediving
centre, in case you’re keen to check out the underwater world without the tank, and technical dive training, to sink even deeper into your scuba training.
Ratios: Maximum 8 divers to 1 leader