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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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.
Ashley Fleckenstein