How a Scaredy-Cat Learned to Dive on Koh Tao

Let me start this by confessing something- I’m a giant scaredy-cat. I think my parents are honestly just surprised that I’ve survived this long traveling the world because I’m scared of… well, everything. My greatest childhood fear was sharks (which I was convinced were lurking in the country club pool), but deep water, rats and the dark all rank pretty high on my terror scale.

So why would I want to dive? You may ask. Despite a lifelong love for the water and a curiosity for marine life, I also just really wanted to test myself. I wanted to see if I could finally face my fears and become a diver.

So after much deliberation, I decided to go with Roctopus Dive on Koh Tao as I had read favorable reviews about it on Trip Advisor as well as from other bloggers.

open water certification koh tao

The Cost

For the dive course as well as three nights accommodation* I paid 9800 Thai baht, or $313. This included everything: all learning materials, dive equipment, taxi pick-up and refreshments on the boat. In general diving in Koh Tao is quite cheap compared to rates around the world as you’ll rarely pay more than $300 USD with any given dive school.

* I loved the accommodation that Roctopus provided. The bungalows at Prik Thai are seriously the best budget bungalows on Koh Tao! If you don’t want accommodation through Roctopus you’ll pay a bit less- just 8,500 Thai baht for the course without accommodation.

The Course Schedule

The course was three and a half days long and involved a surprisingly large amount of homework, about an hour or two each night.

Day 1: Orientation and Paperwork (5 pm-8pm)

We watched three short movies and were assigned homework.

Day 2: Academic session in the morning, then our first day of diving in the afternoon with lots of safety drills.

Day 3: Academic session in the morning and exam and then second day of diving in the afternoon.

Day 4: Two dives in the morning and then finished!


Roctopus uses SSI to instruct new divers instead of PADI. While PADI is much more well-known than SSI, SSI is a well-reputed scuba certification organization. Obviously I’ve never dived with PADI but I can say that the SSI approach worked just fine for me. A lot of dive instructors have mentioned that they much preferred teaching SSI as it’s more flexible. The only thing I worry about is if some dive boats won’t accept an SSI certification, but hopefully that won’t be the case.

What does it mean to be an open-water diver? 

As an Open Water diver, you can dive to a maximum depth of 18m, or about 60 feet. But as an Open Water diver there are still limitations- I want to become an Advanced Open Water diver so I can do wreck dives!

Thoughts on Diving:

It turns out that really enjoy diving: the beauty of the fish and coral, the serene sensation of weightlessness, the feeling you’ve descended into another world. Rather than thrilling, I found it very relaxing. I felt like I was high the first time I was up close to the coral- it was such a departure from anything I had ever seen before. I also soon realized that I wasn’t afraid of the water, I was just afraid of the unknown.

Though I must admit I didn’t enjoy diving from the get-go. The first time I breathed into my regulator I felt like Darth Vader breathing and wondered to myself, “How will I ever enjoy this?” But now I’m itching to dive again and am already researching dive schools in my next destination. I’m even thinking of getting my Advanced Open Water in Indonesia!

Thoughts on Roctopus: 

I loved my experience with Roctopus. From the super cool instructor (Sanne!) to the small class size (four students max) and personalized instruction, I’m so glad I chose Roctopus. I also appreciated their focus on safety.

open water certification koh tao
open water certification koh tao

           All smiles right after getting Open-water certified!

open water certification koh tao

 Identifying the different marine life we saw in order to record it in our dive logs. 

So the moral of the story is that if I can learn to dive, so can you. Seriously.

Roctopus in no way paid or paid for this post. I just had a great experience with them and wanted to share it with anyone looking to dive on Koh Tao!

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

25 thoughts on “How a Scaredy-Cat Learned to Dive on Koh Tao”

  1. I did my open water and advanced diving certificate at the exact same place. Such wonderful memories! Congratulations to your achievement and enjoy diving! :)


  2. First of all, can we talk about how AWESOME of a name Roctopus is? I love it! So cool to hear about your diving adventure. The whole aura surrounding it sounds super awesome too! The only thing that makes me nervous about diving is if something goes wrong. But that’s no way to live. :)

  3. I have been waiting for this post!! So glad you did it :) I’m a PADI instructor but I’ve heard from my instructor friends that crossed over to SSI in Koh Tao that it is easier to teach. Don’t worry about what agency you’re certified by…as long as you’re certified you can fun dive anywhere!

  4. Yay for you! Diving is SUCH an amazing experience. I felt completely the same way when I first stuck in the regulator. In fact, I was really excited to dive before that but the actual pool practice freaked me out! Glad you’re considering the Advanced course too – it’s worth it!

  5. I’ve never even thought much about wanting to dive because I really hate salt water and the things in it and find it much more serene to look at rather than be in, but you may have sold me since you seem to have many of the same apprehensions!

  6. That looks like a good time! And I’d be scared too. Scared the regulator would come out and I’d drown or something. Not sure I’m getting certified in this lifetime but love reading about your experience! ;-)

  7. I want to get an Open Water Certification when I’m in South East Asia next year as well! And for many of the same reasons as you. There’s a part of me that is scared of doing this, scared of the sea and the unknown, but there’s also a part of me that thinks that this could be an amazing experience – even if it’s just to show myself that I can do this and that I can be stronger than my fears! I hope you’ll do lots of fun dives in the future! :)

  8. I can relate to everything here! I am such a scaredy cat – particularly about deep water. I’m currently in Dahab (one of the most famous diving spots in the world) so I know I don’t have an excuse not to do it. This post seriously just gave me the inspiration to take the plunge (literally). Thank you!

  9. Good post! I also got certified with Roctopus and it was a great experience! Diving is definitely a weird experience, but one that’s worth overcoming fears for. I was thinking of advancing further as well, have you done your advanced course yet?

  10. Really want to try this im in koh tao tomoro but the only thing is Im not a good swimmer I have to know that I can stand in the water if I need too

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