In the last twenty years Koh Tao has flourished as a popular diving destination, and now the small Thai island boasts more than fifty dive centers of all sizes. Ban’s Diving Resort is one of the oldest, and has since become the largest dive school in the world.
PADI Diving Certification
Bans offers over 96 different PADI dive courses. When we were in Koh Tao Kali took the popular PADI open water course with the super awesome instructor Nathaniel Rawson (and wrote about everything a beginner needs to know to get started scuba diving), but after this introductory course you can continue on to get your advanced open water certification, take specialty classes like deep diving, wreck diving, and night diving, or even learn to become a dive instructor yourself.
The ocean floor is your limit!
Koh Tao is a great place to train as a Divemaster, and Bans’ instructor courses are quite popular. You’d be surprised how many travelers arrive planning to just take the introductory courses, then fall in love with diving and never want to leave.
If it happens to you, you can stay on Koh Tao to get your Divemaster certification and then land a job with one of the many dive centers on the island.
Ban’s Diving Resort does have high volume; on a busy day they’ll have around 60-80 students across their classes. But they also have the instructors and facilities in place to make that work, and when we were there the place ran like a well-oiled machine.
Some of the open water courses have a higher student to instructor ratio in peak season, but as an example Kali’s course in late February had five students and two instructors.
Bans isn’t just a diving school; it’s a diving resort.
In addition to the diving facilities their complex also includes two large (and popular) restaurants, multiple classrooms, two pools, a dive shop, a small market, and three tiers of accommodations – budget, mid-level, and luxury.
The budget rooms are seriously budget – you get a fan, a bed, and a private bathroom. BUT these rooms are included in the price of a dive course, so they’re are a great option if you’re a budget backpacker looking to save money while learning to scuba dive.
On the other end of the scale you’ll find the luxury rooms.
The walk up the mountain to get to the view.
Because Koh Tao is such a small island, there’s only so much beach space available for the dive shops and sunbathers and beach-front restaurants to occupy.
Surprisingly enough, however, the island doesn’t feel like there are people crawling all over each other, and one of the reasons for this is that many of the resorts (Bans included) expanded by building up the mountain instead of along the beach.
It’s a brilliant approach and opens up a lot more space, but the hike from the beach to your room – in muggy 90+ degree heat – isn’t exactly a pleasant experience.
I think it’s pretty cool that Bans caters to all types of scuba enthusiasts. If you’re a budget backpacker looking to dive on the cheap, then you’ll be in good company.
But if you’re hoping to fit in open water certification during your family’s vacation to a nice beach resort, you’ll be good to go here as well.
REDUCING THEIR FOOTPRINT
Most of the Thai islands struggle when it comes to sanitation, and with the quick rise in scuba diving tourists it’s become increasingly difficult to preserve the natural ecosystem.
They’re also very involved in Project AWARE, an environmental diving community started by PADI in 1989.
Project AWARE’s current focus is on species decline and ocean debris, and Bans regularly organizes divers for comprehensive data collection and to help clean rubbish from the ocean (among other environmentally-oriented tasks).
As a result of their dedication to environmental protection, Ban’s Diving Resort was recently awarded the PADI Green Star Award.