Go Koh? or No Koh?
07.05.2010 - 07.05.2010 35 °C
The main reason Koh Tao certifies more divers than any place in the world, is accessibility. There are plenty of lovely warm tropical, cheap, current free places around, but this one is a nice cheap air hop from The US, Europe, Aus, pretty much everywhere.
If you're looking for an asian dive holiday that's cheap, and you're lucky enough to live in Australia, my first recommendation would be Bali. We dived at Talumben where it's also warm and calm. There are far less people, there are great dives right off the beach so no worry about boats running you over, you are allocated your own private dive guide who is ready and waiting any time you decide you want to dive. You also get to watch the superwomen carry two tanks on their heads.
The corals under the water are in far better condition and the area did not seem to have suffered so much from overfishing. It also meant staying in a small village rather than a backpacker party town.
On the other hand; if you live a long way from Bali, or if you have done the Bali thing and are keen to do the Thailand thing, or if you're really keen to do the backpacker party town thing, Koh Tao might be the place for you. It is a fun place to be with massages, shopping, great food etc. The dives are still really nice. We went in the off season and as I said, half the sites were not accessible so maybe the boat crowding is not such an issue at other times of year.
Of course at other times of year, there a loads of other dive possibilities on the west side of the Thai coast, I hear these are fantastic. We would love to come back and do a liveaboard to the Similan Islands we've heard so much about.
As we were only diving for 3 days, we chose to hire all of our gear. Not something we would normally do because there's nothing nicer than having nice integrated weights, comfy fins and a well sealed mask. (Not to mention the pee in wetsuit issue..). The gear we had was very well used and worn out, but safe and fine. If I were a beginner diver perhaps this would be more of an issue. Things like BC shoulder straps slipping undone are not a problem if you're familiar where everything is. I swapped reg to my 2nd stage on one dive, the thing was making a nasty noise but it worked so nothing serious. I ended up with dents in my head from a mask on one day. I'd advise bringing socks if you have narrow feet as the fins are the foot style and if they don't fit properley you can bulk them up.
But really, we were happy with the gear we had, for the price we paid. We went with Seashells divers and we found them to be well organised with good staff. Our dive master Rachael was fantastic.
As we were leaving we chatted to some new divers who had dived with another company. Their gear was in a terrible state. So, if you're hiring, I'd advise doing your research via web blogs. Pay a bit more for better gear if you need to.