Learn all about the PADI Open Water Diving course

The PADI Open Water course is the most popular entry-level scuba diving certification in the world.

Every year thousands of people take their first steps (or breaths) in the world of scuba diving by signing up for the PADI Open Water course.

With more than 70% of the earth’s surface covered with water, it is not difficult to understand why.

Open Water Course Koh Tao - Descending down a line
Open Water Course Koh Tao – descending down a line

Certification to 18 Metres

As a PADI Open Water Diver, you will be certified to dive independently with another certified diver or buddy to 18 meters / 60 feet, all around the world.

During the PADI course, you will learn everything you need to know to safely explore the underwater world using scuba equipment.

In this article, we will highlight everything you need to know about the course and what you can expect from your training with us.

Enrol on the Koh Tao PADI Open Water Diver course

It may come as a surprise, but the minimum age to start PADI Open Water Diver training is only 10 years of age.

Children aged 10 or 11 will be limited to dive to 12 meters and once they reach 12 years of age, the certificate will automatically allow them to dive up to 18m.

Children aged 10-15 are awarded the Junior Open Water Diver certification.

Over the last couple of years, scuba diving has become an increasingly popular family activity and if you are not certified divers yet, it is a great holiday activity to get certified as a family.

Minimum Age of 10 years

To sign up for the course, you will need to have basic swimming abilities. As part of the certification requirements, you will need to complete a waterskills assessment that consists of a 2-part swim test.

Firstly, you will have to complete a 200m swim or 300m snorkel swim using fins, mask and snorkel. There is no time limit for the exercise, but it has to be a continuous swim.

For the snorkel swim, you will only be using your legs to propel yourself through the water and for the normal 200m swim, you can use any stroke you prefer.

Secondly, you will have to demonstrate that you can comfortably maintain yourself in deep water by completing a 10-minute swim or float without using any swim aids.

Learning to Swim Koh Tao
Learning to Swim Koh Tao

Basic Swim Tests

You can lay on the water surface on your back by controlling your breathing, tread water or you can swim around in circles.

The key is to keep your face out of the water for 10 minutes in water too deep in which to stand. The waterskills assessment can be completed in a swimming pool or in the ocean.

Another prerequisite for enrolment on the course is that you need to be medically fit for scuba diving.

When you contact our team to book a course, they will send you a diving medical questionnaire to have a read through.

Medical Questionnaire

This is to check that there are no pre-existing medical conditions that would prevent you from scuba diving.

The main part of the medical consists of 10 yes or no questions and if all the answers are ‘NO’ that means you are fit to dive.

If you answer ‘YES’ to any of the questions on page one, you will be asked to answer some additional questions on page 2 and based on that, the approval of a physician may be required before starting the course.

You can find the medical questionnaire here on our website and if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Diving instructor confined water training koh tao
Diving Instructor – Koh Tao Confined Water training

Structure of the PADI Open Water Course

There are three main parts in the PADI Open Water course: knowledge development, confined water training and Open Water dives.

The theory or knowledge development covers the principles and concepts that you need to know to dive safely and enjoyably.

During the confined water session, you will learn and practice the key scuba diving skills and you will keep practicing until you feel comfortable with them.

We mostly conduct our confined water training in a swimming pool and to complete your course you will take four Open Water dives at some of the dive sites around Koh Tao.

During these dives, you will put everything you have learned into practice.

Knowledge development

The theory part of the PADI Open Water course consists of five sections and every section builds upon what you have learned in the previous section.

This is aimed at improving your understanding of diver safety, use of equipment and the amazing marine environment.

You will receive your own online copy of the PADI Open Water manual as an e-book and after every chapter there is a knowledge review consisting of 15-25 questions.

You will complete the knowledge review during dive instructor led presentations in a classroom or by taking the PADI Open Water eLearning prior to your arrival on Koh Tao.

Information on Covid-19 for Scuba Diving - E-Learning
PADI E-Learning Diving Courses

PADI Open Water Course E-Learning

After each section is completed, there is a 10-question quiz to test your knowledge of what you have learned in that section and the quiz is completed before moving on to the next chapter.

After all the five sections are completed, there is a 50-question final exam to complete and the quizzes and exam consist of multiple-choice answers with the pass rate set at 75%.

The exam can be done at any point prior to certification and does not necessarily need to be done before confined water training or your Open Water dives.

Multi Choice Answers & Quizzes

That way you can let the information sink in and put it into practice, meaning you can pass the exam with flying colors.

For every section there is a corresponding PADI video that you will watch either via eLearning or in the classroom.

In the video all the information will be thoroughly explained and presented and you will even get an example of what your confined water training will look like and the skills you will be practicing.

Confined Water Dives

The confined water dives can be done in a swimming pool or a body of water offering swimming pool like conditions, such as a shallow, sheltered bay.

We opt to do our confined water training in a swimming pool, which provides more comfort to the students in a calm, clear and controlled environment before going into the ocean.

When you complete confined water training in the sea you cannot control the elements and weather, which can have an effect on the conditions in the water.

For the course, you will do five confined water dives and initially you will start in shallow water where you can easily stand up.

Start in Shallow Water

You will start by getting used to breathing underwater and at first all those bubbles might feel strange, but you will soon get used to it and discover that it is actually quite relaxing.

Your instructor will let you practice clearing methods for regulator and mask, before moving on to a stationary out-of-air skill.

Then it is time to go for your first swim in deeper water, where you will get to practice use of hand signals for communication and equalization techniques.

In the deep end of the swimming pool, you will work on buoyancy control by hovering, swimming while in trim and descent & ascents without bottom contact.

PADI Peak Performance Specialty course Koh Tao
PADI Peak Performance Specialty course Koh Tao

Buoyancy Control & Skill Development

On top of this, you will do deep-water entries, a short swim without a mask and you will even remove & replace your scuba kit underwater.

To finish off your confined water training, you will plan and execute a mini dive and you will use the PADI Dive Planning & Skill Practice slate.

The mini dive is a short, simulated version of a real dive including preparation of equipment, doing your buddy check, entering the water, descent and swimming around while overcoming problems and ascending.

Mini Dive Practice

The mini dive will give you a taste of what you can expect on your Open Water dives and you will be able to put everything you have learned throughout the day into practice.

During the mini dive, you will notice you have already progressed a lot as a diver and it will only get better.

Open Water Dives – Explore the Ocean

We have saved the best for last, which is your 4 Open Water dives in the ocean that you will complete at amazing dive sites around Koh Tao.

Typically, you will visit 3 to 4 different dive sites around the island and one of the benefits of diving around Koh Tao is that travel time to dive sites is relatively short.

Depending on the dive, there are a few skills you need to repeat and most of the skills on the dive have been practiced the previous day in the swimming pool.

Maximum Depth 12 Metres on Dives 1 & 2

Dives 1 & 2 are the dives that are mostly focused on training. Apart from skills practice, you will spend time working on swimming, trim and maintaining proper buoyancy control.

Nevertheless, rest assured you will see lots of beautiful marine life during those dives.

On your final 2 dives you go a step further and make descents in Open Water without holding a reference line.

Usually, you will have completed all skills by the end of dive 3, so your last dive is all about fun and exploring the dive site.

Whaleshark on Koh Tao
Whaleshark on Koh Tao

Explore the Dive Site

This is your certification dive that you and your buddies get to plan and execute together.

Your Dive Instructor will be with you during the dive, but the key is to show that you can be a competent diver and are in control of your dive limits, buoyancy and can safely execute a dive within recreational limits.

Often this dive will be referred to as the fun dive; no skills practice, just pure fun and excitement.

Aquatic Life & Marine Diversity

Koh Tao has lots to offer when it comes to marine life and you can expect to see many different species of fish and Coral during your Open Water dives.

As mentioned before, there is skill practice on the dives, but this will not take up more than half the dive time, leaving the other half to explore the beautiful reefs of Koh Tao that are teeming with marine life.

You can expect to see many different types of colorful coral fish, such as Butterflyfish, Angelfish, Bannerfish, Wrasse and Parrot fish.

There is a good chance you will encounter a Titan Triggerfish and maybe you will be able to find Nemo or its little cousin, the Pink Anemone fish.

Abundance of Marine Life on Koh Tao

There are different types of Stingray and Moray Eels that like to hide in crevices or under overhanging rocks.

A favorite among many divers is the Porcupine fish with their big eyes and smiley face, they will make your heart melt.

Junkyard Reef dive site has its own resident Black-Spotted Porcupine fish who we call Steve and here you can also find the Yellow Boxfish, which is another crowd favorite.

Green Sea Turtle Koh Tao
Green Sea Turtle Koh Tao

Sea Turtles Koh Tao

At many of the dive sites, there is a chance to see Sea Turtles, either the Green Turtle or Hawksbill Turtle and it is a surreal experience when you get to slowly glide next to these wonderful marine reptiles.

On many occasions in the past, students have been lucky enough to even see a Whaleshark during their Open Water training dives.

They are the biggest fish in the ocean and you have a better chance to see them at the deeper dive sites that we often visit, although Whalesharks do visit our shallower dive sites occasionally.

We visit the deeper dive sites with our students to complete courses such as the deep adventure dive for Advanced Open Water training,

Get your PADI on Koh Tao

After the final dive and debriefing it is a big congratulations and your instructor will process and submit the paperwork to PADI, who issue the certificate directly to you.

Being awarded your PADI Open Water certificate is a great achievement and there is a high chance you will want to do the Advanced course, as completing this course leaves you wanting more.

Your Open Water course training will be to the highest standards with a huge emphasis on buoyancy control and you will have lots of fun in the process.

Highest Training Standards & Safety

Proper buoyancy control is a very important skill to learn, to help you become a better overall diver and to protect the sensitive marine environment by diving in an environmentally aware manner.

During your Open Water dives, you will see many different types of tropical fish, hard and soft Coral and lots of other marine animals.

Getting your PADI is one of the best things you will ever do in your life and it will create a long-lasting memory.

Once you have taken your first breath underwater, it will leave you wanting more, so do not hesitate and sign up now for the Koh Tao PADI Open Water course.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you sign up for the PADI Open Water course on Koh Tao?

You can complete E-Learning in advance of your arrival so you can spend more time in the water having fun.

Email or message us direct for instructions on how to sign up for E-learning and we will provide you with accurate information.

Alternatively, you can complete the Theory portion of your course in our AC classroom before completing the Confined and Open Water sessions needed to be certified.

Can I complete the Koh Tao PADI Open Water course in less than 4 days?

Yes you can by completing the Theory online before your arrival at our Dive Centre, which will save you a day.

If your course group is less than 4 students and you learn to master the skills required in the water safely and properly, you can expect to complete the course in 3 days.

PADI courses are performance based and not time based, which means students are required to demonstrate mastery of the skills to be certified.

Where are the best Dive Centres on Koh Tao?

There are many excellent PADI Diving Centres on Koh Tao to choose from and the Black Turtle Dive team have 50 years of training expertise and over 20 years successfully teaching on Koh Tao.

When considering who to choose, it is important to consider the quality of training and safety standards above course price.

Never base your choice entirely on cost and the cheapest course, to ensure you receive value, the best training and excellent customer service.

What Marine Life will I see when diving on Koh Tao?

Koh Tao offers scuba divers over 8 kilometres of Coral reef and is the only island in the Gulf of Thailand with this amount of marine diversity.

There are at least 26 dive sites to choose from, each with its own unique underwater topography and offering diving opportunities to every level of diver.

Koh Tao has extensive Marine Conservation initiatives operational at any given time and scuba divers can also explore one of many artificial dive sites created by the local community over many years.

Can I start the PADI Open Water Course on Koh Tao at any time?

Yes, we can start the PADI Open Water course daily and schedule any arrivals that have completed online learning to fit onto the regular boat schedule.

You can start learning the theory before arrival or at any time of day once here and completion of the theory sections will allow you to start the Confined water sessions.

Once we know what your travel itinerary is, we can plan the PADI Open Water course according to your personal needs.

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