Out of any possible travel destinations, I chose Koh Tao to do a work-a-thon, redesigning and migrating my blog and catching up on a backlog of blog posts from Laos. All the while Richard was completing his open water and advanced PADI diving certifications. But I wasn’t. I was sat on the balcony of our hotel room staring at a computer screen. I had chosen to do that. The crazy things you end up doing on long term travels.
I’d figured out diving wasn’t for me anyway. Yes, Richard and I both love animals and marine life and really like to snorkel. We’ve done some amazing snorkelling between the two of us in the Caribbean, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Molokini Crater and Hanauma Bay in Hawaii. But diving? It never called out, despite all the diving evangelists out there. Wallowing around with a ton of equipment on your back, boring people to death with talk of pressure gauges and safety stops, the bends… It just never appealed, to either of us as a matter of fact. Plus it crossed my mind that I might feel claustrophobic 20 meters under the sea.
But slowly, surely, with tall tales of strange deepwater encounters, the evangelists wore Richard down. And with a visit to Koh Tao – the beginner diver’s paradise, and cheapest place in the world to get certified – on the cards, plus the chance to visit some of the greatest dive sites in the world in the coming months – it seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. I, on the other hand, was going to need a little more convincing.
So it was decided that Richard would go ahead with his diving course and I was to work on my blog, an arrangement I was most happy with to start, but that I came to regret more and more every night when Richard came back with a better diving tale than the last, and even an encounter with a whale shark the following week in Koh Phangan.
We picked Ocean Sound Dive + Yoga with free accommodation at Tropicana Resort for our week in Koh Tao. Diving schools’ prices on the island are pretty much fixed (they might vary a bit based on the included – if any – accommodation) so make your choice based on how well you think the school fits with you. Ocean Sound is based in Chalok Bay (the quieter, but still civilized town on the south of the island), promises small and personal classes, and offers a discount in their onsite yoga studio. But so much for how it sounds on paper – in practice, the team are friendly, professional, and simply great fun. Their facilities and equipment are all top notch, and Phil (Richard’s instructor) was not only a top bloke but, frankly, an oracle of all things diving.
One other shout out for Ocean Sound was the great digs on Koh Tao that were included in the cost of the course. Our room at Tropicana was simple but thoughtfully furnished, spacious, and spotlessly clean, the perfect little home office for me. The grounds of the resort are beautiful and well maintained, and the beach at Chalok is quite nice – plus there are some amazing beaches and snorkelling spots a stone’s throw away. Aow Leuk was the highlight for us.
Koh Tao’s main town, Sairee, was nice enough, but a day trip was sufficient for us to conclude that Chalok’s laid back vibe was a lot more up our alley. I’m glad that we took a few extra days after Richard’s diving to explore the island on a scooter in the end, otherwise I would have felt sorry for secluding myself at the resort for most of our stay. Koh Tao is stunningly beautiful, and you shouldn’t dismiss it based on the grounds that you are not diving.