Dive Guide Thailand

What to Bring to the Islands in Thailand

A majority of the best diving in Thailand is found on the islands in the Andaman Sea and in the Gulf of Thailand. While islands like Phuket and Koh Samui are highly developed others like Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao are not.

This means that certain things that you can usually find on the mainland at a decent prize are expensive, and or difficult to find while on these smaller islands. There’s also the issue of shortages due to increased seasonal demand and weather that can affect shipments from the mainland. So the question is, what to bring to the islands in Thailand?

Paradise, if you’re prepared

Paradise, if you're prepared

Here is a list of things that I found I needed while doing my divemaster internship on Koh Tao and that were hard to find, and or much more expensive than they would’ve been on the mainland:

1. Sunscreen – Stores on the islands know that they have you in a tight spot when you need sunscreen. Without it your afternoon on the dive boat is going to result in a hilarious wetsuit tan at best, or a crippling sunburn at worst. This results in the price of sunscreen being greater than at stores back on the mainland, with a bottle costing anywhere from 300-900 baht ($10-$30). This also applies to toiletries and bug spray where you can expect a 200-500% markup from the mainland prices.

2. LED Flashlight – Power outages are not uncommon on the smaller islands where one small facility will provide electricity to the island. These facilities are not always of the highest quality and frequently have to be repaired. There are also long stretches of road with no light, making it useful to have a flashlight on you when you are stumbling home after a late night at the bars… I recommend the MagLite LED Flashlight.

3. Backup Cash – There was on week on Koh Tao while I was there where majority of the ATM’s on the island, specifically around the tourist area of Sairee ran out of cash. Back home you could just use your credit card, but there are very few places on these islands other than the dive shops, dive stores and high-end resorts/restaurants that accept them. Even if they do, you can count on there being a processing fee of 3-6% tacked onto the purchase price. When you’re living on a backpacker’s budget eating at small local restaurants and street carts and you don’t have cash, you’re not eating. This is why it’s important that you keep a stash of cash at your place that is enough to buy food with for a few days.

With a little preparation and forethought your stay on the smaller islands can be a great and cheap time. Just remember your sunscreen, a flashlight and your backup cash.

Scuba Instructor Salary

When it comes to doing a job that you really love, it seems like you never work as hard as you feel like you do if you are doing something that you absolutely hate on a daily basis. That is one reason why some people choose to make money as a scuba instructor. This is a unique profession and people that are involved in it are typically very passionate about the job.

It gives them an opportunity to teach other people how to enjoy the same thing while they themselves are in the realm of the ocean, which is something that many people consider to be nothing short of breathtaking. For these reasons, many individuals ultimately make the choice to become a scuba instructor. They then must set out to find out where they can live so that they can earn enough money to live comfortably and do what they love to do.

What can you make?

What can you makeScuba instructors in Thailand can expect to make just enough money to live off of as long as they are careful about their spending habits and they work diligently to maximize what they earn. Typically speaking, a scuba instructor that is living and working in Thailand can expect to make approximately $800 to $900 in U.S. funds based on their salary, with some additional funds that can be made through bonuses and commissions. Typically, the total amount is approximately $1000 in U.S. funds. By the same token, these individuals can usually expect to spend approximately $700 to $800 in U.S. funds on basic living expenditures. These include things such as housing, transportation, clothing and food.

You cant beat the lifestyle

You cant beat the lifestyle

Living in Thailand offers a unique experience and as a result, it is easy to understand why so many people make the decision to become scuba instructors in the area. This is not something that a person will get rich from by any means, but it offers a unique lifestyle that presents an opportunity to go out and do something that is truly interesting on a daily basis.

You cant beat the lifestyle hereWhile a person will not make a ton of money doing it, there is typically enough money to be made to live off of and meet basic needs. Sometimes there is even a little bit of money left that can be saved or spent on something extra.

Individuals that choose this lifestyle typically do so because they have the opportunity to work virtually any time that they choose and they get the chance to do something that truly love and get paid for it. Even though they are not getting paid a lot, the fact that they are able to make money doing something that they are truly passionate about is usually reason enough to make people want to choose this type of lifestyle.

For this reason, many individuals that are scuba instructors make the choice to live in Thailand so that they can carry out their dreams of having a near perfect profession. This is something that many people pay a lot of money to experience; so getting paid in virtually any capacity sweetens the pot for people that love the ocean.

Scuba Diving in Thailand

Scuba diving in Thailand takes place both off the east coast in the Gulf of Thailand and off the west coast in the Andaman Sea. While the Andaman Sea is considered the best diving in the country, it is generally more expensive than the east cost and in our opinion is a better place to dive recreationally, or to work after you’ve become a professional. For your divemaster internship and IDC I recommend the east coast, specifically Koh Tao.

Diving in Thailand is split into two seasons, one for each coast. October to April is the best time for diving in the Andaman Sea on the west coast, the water is at it’s clearest and the average surface temperature is 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit). Plus between March and April giant manta rays come to the Similan Islands, making it a prime dive spot. During May to September the west coast experiences heavy rainfall and one is better off diving in the Gulf of Thailand, with the best diving being around Koh Tao.

Two of my favourite spots to dive in the Gulf of Thailand are Chumpon Pinnacle, located 11km off of Koh Tao and Sail Rock, which is situated between Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan.

Whale Shark at Chumpon Pinnacle

Chumpon Pinnacle is one of Koh Tao’s best dive sites and is suited for advanced open water divers and up with the depth of site ranging from 14 – 35m. It consists of a large main pinnacle that is surrounded by several smaller ones. These pinnacles have multiple plateaus that are blanketed with branch corals, barrel whips and sea sponges, they are also frequented by schools of chevron barracuda. Chumpon Pinnacle is also the best dive site to spot whale sharks in the Gulf of Thailand (with the best months being March, April, May, September and October).

Sail Rock from the dive boat

Sail Rock is at first unassuming, but once you enter the water you’re quickly surrounded by chevron barracuda, schools of trevally, jacks and mackerel. There’s also the possibility of encountering whale sharks depending on the season and manta rays. One of Sail Rock’s most famous features is its natural chimney that you can enter at 6m and drop down through it to exit at 18m!

Divemaster Opportunities

Divemaster Opportunities

After you complete your PADI Divemaster Internship there are many opportunities for what you can do next. The first option for many new PADI Divemasters is to work at the place you trained at, or another shop/resort in the region, this work includes:

  • Leading underwater tours of certified divers
  • Conducting PADI Scuba Reviews
  • Assist PADI Instructors during the training sections for any PADI Diver course.

You can also pursue further training to specialize as a:

  • PADI Discover Scuba Diving Leader
  • PADI Digital Underwater Photography Instructor

On top of these opportunities you also have the possibility of becoming a certified PADI Open Water Instructor, so that you can teach courses of your own. This requires that you have had your PADI Open Water certification for at least 6 months and that you’ve finished the PADI Divemaster Course. With so many opportunities out their for Divemasters and Scuba Diving Professionals now is the time to find your Scuba Internship in Thailand and begin the training to become a pro!

The Experience

The Experience

PADI professional ladderThe first rung of the  is the PADI Divemaster. This course is done through a divemaster internship at a certified PADI dive shop or resort. To enroll in the divemaster program you must already have your PADI Rescue Diver and have logged at least 40 dives. If you do not meet these requirements, don’t worry, as many shops offer packages that will include the necessary pre-requisites courses, along with unlimited diving so that you can get the required 40 dives. You should have your own scuba gear to use (many packages include basic gear), however many shops will let you use their rental equipment when it’s available. We recommend either buying a package before hand such as Cressi Start Scuba Diving, Dive Gear Package, or buying a divemaster package that includes gear with it.

The divemaster internship itself is a ton of fun and will be an experience that you wont forget; we know we haven’t forgotten ours! Not only will you be doing something you love everyday, you will also be learning new skills that you can then practice during your free time when you get to go diving with the other divemasters in training (DMT’s). This group of DMT’s will consist of guys and girls from all over the world who share your love of diving; not only will they be your colleagues during your internship, they will also become some of your closest friends.

While you have the option to dive on both morning and afternoon boats (plus the odd night boat), you generally will only do one boat a day and/or a training exercise with your PADI Instructor. This is great because it keeps you busy during the day but leaves you the evening and night to enjoy the Thailand Scuba Lifestyle.

What the Divemaster Internship Includes

On average the course itself will cost 32,000 – 35,000 Thai Baht, which works out to roughly $1000-1070 US. This should include:

  • PADI Divemaster manual
  • Divemaster slates
  • PADI Instructor Manual
  • The Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving
  • Scuba Tune-up Guidebook (used to conduct refresher courses)
  • Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) Cue Cards
  • PADI Professional Log Book
  • PADI Divemaster Application package

Plus the training itself from a certified PADI Instructor, along with perks such as:

  •  Flexible durations
  • Discounted equipment packages
  • Assistance finding accommodation (or generally accommodation can be provided for an extra fee and is included in some packages).
  • Pickup upon arrival (i.e when arriving to the pier on Koh Tao or Koh Phi Phi).

Make sure that your package includes all necessary material as listed in the first group. We also highly recommend choosing a shop that has extra perks, such as the ones listed secondly. This makes your experience better and shows that the shop/resort takes the training of its’ divemasters seriously and wants to provide you with the tools that will make you a successful PADI Divemaster.

PADI IDC

PADI IDC

The PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) consists of three sequential parts: the PADI Assistant Instructor Course (AIC), the PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Course (OWSI) and the Instructor Examination (IE). The AIC portion is done at a PADI Five Star Dive Shop/Resort, or at a Five Star PADI Instructor Development Center. The difference between the two being that the subsequent OWSI and IE can only be conducted at a Five Star PADI Instructor Development Center. The AIC can be taught by a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, however only a PADI Course Director (the highest professional certification from PADI) can conduct the OWSI and the IE portions of the IDC.

The cost of the IDC is broken into 3 parts:

  1. The PADI IDC Course 40,000 baht
  2. PADI IDC Materials 18,000 baht
  3. PADI Instructor Fees 30,000 baht

This results in a total cost of 88,000 baht (roughly $2710 US). Also please be aware that the PADI Instructor Fee is an annual fee that you must pay to maintain your status as a certified PADI Instructor.

Choosing a Shop

Choosing a Shop

In our experience choosing a smaller dive shop that has an IDC Staff Instructor for your AIC can be beneficial, because you will be in a smaller group of students and receive more specialized attention from your instructor, thereby making you better prepared for the following parts of the IDC. Your dive shop should also handle all the arrangements for you to take the OWSI and IE sections of the course at a nearby instructor development center. It’s also worth noting that if you are interested in working at a specific shop after you complete your IDC, then it would be beneficial to do as much of your IDC through them as you can. This will let you establish a relationship with the instructors and management of the dive shop, thereby getting your foot in the door for future employment opportunities.

An important thing to look at when deciding when and where to do your IDC is when the IE will be offered in that location. In some places in Thailand such as Khao Lak or Koh Chang the IE is only conduced twice a year, whereas on Phuket and Koh Tao it’s conducted once a month. For up to date information on when IE’s will be held in Thailand please check the PADI IE Schedule.

Reducing your costs

Reducing your costs

In reality if you were alone and willing to live in a place that was either farther from Sairee (where the dive shop, restaurant and bars were), didn’t have A/C, or wasn’t as new then you could easily find something in the 6,000-9,000 baht a month range. In fact for 9,000 a month you could get a nice house with a kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom, balcony and Wi-Fi that was a 5-10 minute ride from Sairee on a scooter. 6,000 baht a month would get you a little hut within walking distance of Sairee with a bedroom and bathroom along with a small front porch.

You could also reduce your overall expenses by partying less than I did and forgoing the western meals here and there. There’s also the option that if you will be in a location for a while and you have the money that you buy a used scooter at the start for 7,000 – 12,00 baht. This can save you in the long run because A. it’s your own scooter, therefore if you crash it you dont have to pay an outrageous amount to the owner to get it fixed, rather you can take it to a local mechanic who will be 1/10th of the price. B. when youre finished with the scooter you can resell it for roughly the purchase price, thereby recouping your initial cost.

For an item by item cost break down I recommend using Numbeo Thailand, it allows you to pick specific cities and islands so that you can get an idea of what your monthly cost of living in Thailand will be.

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