So, you want to go scuba diving. Who doesn’t? There is nothing like floating seamlessly through clear blue waters, taking in the vibrant colors of living coral and watching fish and other sea creatures swim back and forth across your mask in their daily lives.
In order to experience this yourself, you need to get scuba certified. The main certifying organizations are PADI, SSI and NAUI, and you can probably find a dive school in most metropolitan areas even if you’re nowhere near an ocean!
But who wants to learn scuba diving in Colorado? When I began thinking about scuba diving, the place that naturally entered my head was Mexico because it has a ton of dive destinations: Cozumel, Baja California and Riviera Maya, just to name a few.
Mexico is a very affordable destination for most of us in the U.S., but what if I told you there was a cheaper, more exotic location to get certified?
Say hello to Thailand.
Thailand’s southern islands and beaches are known for their alien-like structures jutting out of the ocean. They’re also a world-class climbing destination, and their prices cannot be beaten for anything.
Want to spend some time in a 4-star resort? It’s only $40 per night. Do you love fresh seafood? A seafood platter consisting of fish, mussels, clams, crabs and prawns is a measly $15.
It goes without saying, the diving schools follow suit.
Once you get to Thailand, the premiere place to dive and get certified is a small island named Ko Tao, located in the Gulf of Thailand. Here, 5-star PADI dive schools are as numerous as street food vendors. Every resort has its own dive school, and they’re all competing for your business. That’s good news for you!
At one resort in particular, Coral Grand Divers, you can enroll in a 4-day Open Water PADI course that includes classroom work, two pool sessions, four open-water dives and all the scuba gear you need for just $272.
Compare that to a dive school located in Colorado that charges $600 for the same services. Plus, you’re not even diving in the ocean.
There are also concierge services that have partnered with dive shops, which in turn sweetens the pot even more and further drives the price down. Go Beyond Asia has a package for the exact same open water certification but also includes lodging for just $235.
Not only are the prices ridiculously low and professionalism outrageously high at every dive shop, but there’s no lack of underwater scenery either. The Gulf of Thailand and Ko Tao is a world destination to view Whale Sharks (the lumbering giants that regularly grow more than 30 feet long and have a mouth that’s 5 feet wide).
I went to Thailand with the expectation of climbing until my heart’s content, which I did, but after learning about the world-class diving and affordable prices, I left with an Advanced Open Water Diver certification.
You’d be silly to go anywhere else but Thailand (and you can go year-round). Though, the best time to catch a Whale Shark is from February to April.
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