For years, friends of mine have been encouraging me to try scuba diving. I have always been hesitant – my first love is whitewater kayaking and that sport dominates most of my spare time (and money!). With over a month remaining until our kayaks arrive in Thailand by sea freight, I finally gave scuba diving a try. After several emails back and forth with owner David Wright, I scheduled my course with Pattaya Dive Centre. Pattaya is a popular beach city two hours south of Bangkok that is close enough for quick diving trips. I choose to take the PADI Open Water Certification and eLearning Premium course (17,800 THB / 582 USD). Sara has her certification, so this level of certification will allow us to independently dive up to 18 meters deep as dive buddies.
For visitors that do not have the time to commit to a full certification course, the Try Dive and Snorkeling Day Trip is a great bargain at 2900 THB / 95 USD. On the scuba diving portion of the trip, the dive is a maximum depth of 6 meters. A qualified instructor accompanies you and operates the equipment. There was a large group of people participating in a Try Dive on my first day, and they all loved it.
I do not have a camera suitable for underwater diving photography, so I do not have any photos below the surface. Pattaya Dive Centre Facebook page has spectacular photos from their trips that they update frequently. The best photos and video that I saw from other divers were taken on iPhones in a waterproof case and GoPro cameras.
I stayed right next door to Pattaya Dive Centre at Nautical Inn (2000 THB/ 65 USD per night). It is situated on Beach Road between Center Pattaya and South Pattaya. I stayed in a Sea View room in the main building and was very happy with the room. The included breakfast served each morning was delicious. I highly recommend the cooked-to-order spicy Thai basil stir-fried chicken with egg.
Parking is very convenient in a gated lot off the beachfront street. Everything was in easy walking distance, and I did not need to drive during my stay.
The PADI Open Water Diver course consists of three main phases:
- Knowledge development (I completed this online through PADI eLearning site before arriving)
- Confined water dives to learn basic scuba skills
- Open water dives to use skills and explore
All three days of the course began at Pattaya Dive Centre’s shop at 8:20 AM. The day ended between 5 PM and 6 PM.
Dive Instructor – Peter
Sara and I owned a whitewater kayak school and rafting company in Boise, Idaho. The most important component contributing to the success of our kayak classes was our instructors. It is easy to find an expert kayaker that loves the sport when you live near world class whitewater. It is very difficult to find an expert that is also a superb teacher. It takes supreme patience, tremendous confidence in your skill set, great communication skills, calmness and decisiveness in dynamic situations, and the enthusiasm to share the sport that you love. Peter was my instructor for all three days, and he possesses all the traits that I looked for in our instructors!
Peter is excellent at his job, and he made learning scuba diving very easy. He displayed very good trip awareness with a strong focus on safety as he guided me through the new skills in a way that made the experience very pleasant and fun. I give him my highest recommendations!
The following is the itinerary of my three days of diving. Factors such as weather, number of customers, instructors available, fitness level, etc. may influence your class itinerary.
Day one’s group consisted of experienced divers of various certification levels, try-divers, and me as the only student. We loaded into 2 songthaews and headed the short distance to Bali Hai Pier (also known as Pattaya Pier) to board our large dive boat.
We departed Pattaya and began our trip toward Koh Sak, a popular spot for beginners. On the way, we stopped so that divers with their Advanced Open Water Certification could explore the Khood shipwreck.
After the divers were back on board, we continued on our journey to Koh Sak. There I did two dives. My first dive counted as a confined water dive in which I practiced skills introduced in the eLearning course. We had a nice on-board lunch and then prepared to dive again. My second dive was an open water dive, and it was fun!
Day two was spent in a swimming pool practicing skills. While it is nice to be in the ocean with all of the marine life, in the pool there are no distractions. This made it easy to focus on and refine individual skills. I really enjoyed the pool day to help solidify the skills I had learned and to practice new ones.
Day three’s small group of six consisted of two experienced divers, three try-divers (one that loved it so much that he went straight into and completed the Open Water Course), and me as the student. We loaded into a passenger van for our 45 minute drive to Samae San Boat Pier.
We boarded a small dive boat and quickly left Samae San Boat Pier behind as we headed toward Koh Rong Nang and Koh Rong Khon. As on day one, we stopped on the way for the experienced divers to dive a shipwreck. Divers with their Advanced Open Water Certification explored a ship sunk by British Royal Air Force bombing in World War 2 – the famous Hardeep Wreck.
Once everyone was back onboard, we headed to Koh Rong Nang where I did two open water dives. We then ate another terrific on-board lunch as we prepared for our final dive at Koh Rong Khon. This was a drift dive and my favorite dive of the trip. It felt like we were in a fast moving river as the current swept us the length of the island.
All too soon we were back at Samae San Boat Pier, and my PADI Open Water Certification class had came to an end.
I had one last dinner at Nautical Inn’s restaurant while I waited to let the rush hour traffic thin out before heading back to Bangkok. I really enjoyed the restaurant’s food and waterfront view.
Everyone was right – I love scuba diving! One of my favorite things was meeting and getting to know other adventurous travelers. I met and made friends with people from Taiwan, Belgium, England, Thailand, and the United States.
I look forward to diving with Sara and progressing through the advanced levels of certification. There is so much to learn and explore. It is an entirely new frontier for me.
- Time of Year: August 2019
- Length of Stay: 4 Days, 3 Nights
- Total Trip Cost – 1 Person: 28,400 THB / 928 USD*
- Cost Per Day / Per Person: 7100 THB / 232 USD*
- Visa Information: Thai Embassy, U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport and in possession of an onward or return airline ticket do not require a visa to enter Thailand. The passport must have at least six months validity remaining to be allowed entry.
*Excluded from the cost analysis:
- International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location. Internal flights are included.
- Transportation Costs – Only tolls and fuel are included in total.
- Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have an international policy. Make sure that your policy covers scuba diving!
Alternative Transportation Options:
If you choose a convenient hotel, you really do not need a car unless you plan on exploring more of the region. I was too tired each day to even think about going anywhere.
Several people I talked with had flown into Suvarnabhumi International Airport and taken a taxi. I would recommend this airport if it is an option. It can take two hours longer if you hit traffic wrong coming from Don Mueang International Airport. The taxi fare from Suvarnabhumi International Airport ranges from 1000-1500 THB / 33-49 USD. The return trip fare ranges from 800-1000 THB / 26-33 USD.
If you want to rent a motorcycle to explore Pattaya, make sure that you have an international drivers permit with a motorcycle endorsement. It is strictly enforced. A diver from the United States was stopped at a checkpoint and had to pay a 500 THB / 16 USD fine. While that may not seem like a lot, if you are in an accident, your travel health insurance will be invalidated because you were not properly licensed. There are way too many GoFundMe pages devoted to tourists severely injured and their insurance not paying because of this preventable situation.
- Don Mueang International Airport @ 13.920257,100.601909
- Suvarnabhumi International Airport @ 13.693281,100.750802
- Nautical Inn, Pattaya @ 12.932322,100.880896
- Pattaya Dive Centre Thailand @ 12.933138,100.880727
- Bali Hai Pier Pattaya @ 12.926018,100.867754
- Koh Sak @ 12.943635,100.791896
- Samae San Boat Pier @ 12.598322,100.956721
- Koh Rong Nang @ 12.534683,100.958685
- Koh Rong Khon @ 12.531667,100.96
You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.