Learning how to dive in the Similan Islands is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever experience. Thailand attracts new diving students regularly due to the low costs in the region. Not only do Khao Lak hotels offer great deals, particularly in the low season, but the dive shops are able to keep costs low as well. All of the dive shops should be PADI certified to give instruction for new to advanced divers. The best thing to do is to visit one of the several shops located along the main road and ask about when and how much the package you are looking for will cost.
If you have never been diving before you will need to start with the Open Water Diver Course. There are several items included in your course fees such as the official PADI guidebook as well as all of your equipment during your dives. Once you have booked your course, you will first meet with your instructor at the local swimming pool. While some might prefer to be out on the sea for the most amount of time possible, it is actually a good idea to learn your first skills in the swimming pool. Learning to release complete control over to a breathing apparatus can be a bit disorienting when you do it for the first time. Practicing in the pool first at least gives you the option of taking a break form the underwater elements and the opportunity to speak with your instructor and ask questions without the panicking currents or risk of running into unexpected sea life.
The Open Water Diver consists of demonstrating a number of water skills as well as passing a lengthy written test full of underwater safety theory. As part of skill demonstration, you will need to do some basic skills such as removing your regulator from your mouth and place it in again and doing an emergency descent. There are also some skills you will need to demonstrate at particular depths as well as underwater and above water navigation skills. All of the skills that you are tested on are designed to make sure that you can function underwater safely on your own. The skill tests are set up to simulate an accident or emergency occurring that you may encounter such as having your regulator accidentally knocked from your mouth. Most of the fatal accidents that occur when diving are from not following safety depth guidelines and panicking when something alarming does occur. You will run through a number of scenarios such as what should happen if you lose your mark or somehow run out of air.
One of the tougher things that you will need to learn is how to calculate your maximum depth and time for each dive. The maximum dive allowance for an open water diver is 18 meters. The maximum depth for an advanced open water diver is 30 meters. These depth guidelines should be taken into strict consideration as some extremely terrible things can occur when not followed. Part of the written test includes equations on how to use the depth and time chart for divers going on multiple dives within a 24-hour period. You will also want to plan your dive course within a safe distance from any kind of air travel. The amount of time needed for your body to recover before flying depends on the time and depth of your last dive. A good dive center should ask you this information before they let you sign up and pay for the course.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Khao Lak Hotels content.