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After a couple of days in Bangkok, our trip led us to the island of Koh Phangan in Southern Thailand. I knew that eventually, I wanted to learn how to dive, but I wasn’t sure where. Central America seemed like the best option, as it was one of the few destinations on my itinerary that had pretty beaches and accessible coral reefs.
It wasn’t until I changed my travel plans and ended up in Southeast Asia instead of Nepal that I suddenly found an opportunity to become a certified diver.
Daniel suggested Koh Phangan, and he couldn’t have chosen a better place. Yes, the island is mostly known for its full-moon parties. But it has so much more to offer! If you’re interested in diving, we can highly recommend coming here.
To help you feel the excitement and choose this beautiful island to get certified, here are five reasons why you should learn to dive on Koh Phangan.
#1 Huge selection of dive shops
Koh Phangan is famous for its magnificent diving spots. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that you can find dive shops all over the island.
Most of these shops and diving schools are located in the north and the west of the island, close to the dive sites. If you are staying elsewhere, many offer a pick-up service.
We went with Haad Yao Divers, located close to Haad Yao Beach. They were friendly, helpful and got us excited about getting into the water. We had such an excellent experience that we highly recommend them.
#2 Amazing dive sites
While I had gone snorkelling a couple of times before, my only diving experience before coming to Koh Phangan was in a German indoor pool. It is nothing compared to swimming in the open sea, surrounded by fish.
On my first two dives, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of underwater animals around, from fish to crabs and other funny-looking creatures. But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks later, when I went diving in French Polynesia and on Easter Island, that I realised just how many colourful fish I had seen on Koh Phangan. You will have a hard time finding dive sites as beautiful as the ones around Koh Phangan. We went diving in Sail Rock, and we can highly recommend you come here as well.
Sure, for the first dives, it is more important to figure out what you’re doing underwater. But isn’t it much better to learn to do so in a beautiful environment than in some cold and murky waters?
#3 Great instructors
Seeing as there are so many dive shops and so many people wanting to get their PADI certification, you will encounter many diving instructors from all over the world. Our teacher was Cass from South Africa, who was very helpful, reassuring and patient with us – and at the same time so excited about diving that it was contagious.
Learning to dive on Koh Phangan comes with an additional benefit, especially if you’re not a native English speaker.
With all those dive instructors around, chances are high that you will find someone speaking your mother tongue. We met two guys who were taking classes in German, and I also heard someone talk in French to their student. If language is a problem, ask around. We are sure that someone can help you.
#4 Amazing beaches
Learning to dive is hard work. You will have to study a lot of theory and your first dives, whether you are training in a pool or the open water, are going to be exhausting. Fortunately, Koh Phangan has fantastic beaches where you can relax afterwards.
Watch the fisher boats out on the open sea while revising your diving materials. Or just lie down on the beach, close your eyes and take a short nap.
If you are staying on the west coast, like we did at Haad Yao, you can spend the evening on the beach and watch amazing sunsets. Then, go to bed early, so you are refreshed for your next day of diving.
#5 Great prices
If you want to learn to dive, Koh Phangan is one of the cheapest places in the world. I paid less than 400$ for my PADI Open Water course.
At the same time, even though diving is cheap on Koh Phangan, you get proper quality lessons and equipment. Haad Yao Divers is five-star certified from PADI, a sign that they passed all quality standards.
If, after having finished your course, you want to go diving again, it won’t break your budget either. Diving on Koh Phangan is terrific, with high quality for a low price.
And who knows, maybe you’re even as lucky as some of my friends who saw a whale shark here?
Getting there and away
Since Koh Phangan is an island, you have to take a ferry to get here.
If you’re planning on taking a plane, catch a flight to Koh Samui and take the ferry from there.
If you’re coming from the mainland, you will have to catch your ferry at Surat Thani. You can easily get here by overnight bus or train from Bangkok. We took the overnight train, which was very comfortable as we had our own bed, but also more expensive than the bus.
Surat Thani also has an airport and is an excellent alternative if you find the flights to Koh Samui too expensive.
The easiest way to get around Koh Phangan is by renting a motorbike. This option is especially useful if you take a day off from diving and want to explore the island.
While you’re getting your scuba certification, you’ll be so busy with lessons that you most likely won’t need a motorbike. At least we didn’t. We used Songthaews for getting around. Those are trucks with benches in the back that will take you around the island. Make sure to negotiate your price before getting on.
Or you can take one of the traditional longtail boats, which serve as ferries in between the most popular beaches.
When to go
We went to Koh Phangan in mid-September and loved it. Visibility was terrific, much better than anywhere else we’ve been since then.
When booking your trip, watch out for monsoon season. It typically lasts from October to December and is characterised by heavy rainfall. During this season, you can encounter lousy visibility. Plus, do you really want to go diving in bad weather? You won’t even get to enjoy the beaches!
September, when we went, is shoulder season. We still had great weather, but we saw fewer tourists than during main season—the best of both worlds.
We hope you are now as excited as we are about getting scuba certified on Koh Phangan. The island is beautiful both above and below the water, and we promise you won’t regret coming here.