Ban’s Diving Resort: The Largest Dive School in the World

by Christy on

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

One of Bans' dive boats carrying students back from their afternoon dive.

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.

The Resort

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.

Darawan Restaurant on Koh Tao

Darawan Restaurant is Bans' fancier dining option.

Darawan Restaurant at Ban's Diving Resort

Darawan isn't just about gourmet cuisine, though; it also serves as a computer cafe (of sorts) with free wifi.

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 best thing about these rooms?

The view.

The worst thing about these rooms?

The walk up the mountain to get to the view.

View of Koh Tao

The view IS pretty great, though...

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.

Ban's Diving Resort on Koh Tao

One of the deluxe rooms at the top of the hill.

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.

PADI Green Star AwardOne of the things I really appreciate about Bans is that they’re quite mindful of this, and they make a lot of effort to reduce their waste and conserve island resources.

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.


Interested in getting your PADI open water certification at Ban’s Diving Resort? The 3.5 day course is 9,800 baht (or $319).

Ban's Diving Resort, Koh Tao

Dive students unload their equipment on the beach in front of Ban's Diving Resort.

Full Disclosure: We were complimentary guests of Ban’s Diving Resort on Koh Tao. However, all thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott - Quirky Travel Guytwitter: quirkytravelguy April 16, 2012 at

Wow, night diving sounds scary. I think as a beginner I would definitely stick to daytime dives!
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Christy April 17, 2012 at

LOL, I’m with you on that one. Night diving would be kind of cool and eerie, but then how would you see anything??

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Nat Rawson April 22, 2012 at

Night diving is similar to taking a walk in the forest at night, it is a chance to see different animals and behaviors we don’t see during the day. Every diver has a flashlight and we jump in the water at sunset so it is not completely dark, and even after the sun sets you would be surprised at how much light the is from the moon, boats, and other divers. Often the problem is that it is not dark enough! One of the best parts about night diving on Koh Tao is the large about of tiny phosphorescence in the water, so at least once during the dive we switch off our lights and then when you move your hands there is all green fairy dust that appears around you. It is really something special.

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Christy April 24, 2012 at

Ah, thanks for the clarification, Nat! I’m sure you explained all that coolness to Kali, but I was way faster at commenting. ;) The phosphorescence would be awesome to experience.

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Cathy Sweeneytwitter: TravelingWithS April 17, 2012 at

I admit that I’m not a diver, but I’d love to spend time at this resort and take a ride on the dive boats! The rooms and the views look great.

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Christy April 17, 2012 at

It was such a lovely place to stay, and I actually had quite a bit of fun tagging along on the dive boat one day. You can even bring snorkel equipment if you want, but there are snorkel-specific boat tours that go around the entire island and stop in various bays.

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InsideJourneystwitter: InsideJourneys April 17, 2012 at

Makes me want to learn to dive!
The views aren’t half bad either.
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Christy April 17, 2012 at

Not half bad at all! Aside from the climbing, it is cool to be that high up and look down over the island like that.

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Ruth April 17, 2012 at

Wow. This place looks great! Two lovely pools and quite the beach. Next time I’m in the area I’ll have to try this out, and get my scuba certificate.

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Christy April 19, 2012 at

The beach was great – not too crowded, plenty of places around to get food, soft sand, and shallow/warm water. There weren’t really waves to surf, but on the other hand it was great for snorkeling!

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Artitwitter: artisdiary April 18, 2012 at

As I told you I have never scuba dived and this post again makes me want to join and learn it.
The night time diving looks absolutely fantastic!
Thanks for sharing the post, have a nice day:)
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Christy April 19, 2012 at

Thanks, Arti! When you get to the point where you want to get certified, check out Thailand – it’s a great place to learn and it’s cheap!

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Christy April 18, 2012 at

This spot looks really cool! I love places that cater to all types of travelers. If I wanted to learn how to dive, I think Koh Tao would be the place.
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Christy April 19, 2012 at

I enjoy places with a lot of diversity as well; too many backpackers and it becomes an obnoxious all-day party, but sometimes resorts can be a bit… boring. :) Bans had a really great balance.

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Annie - FootTracker April 19, 2012 at

wow, the resort looks amazing. I love how in the last photo, a guy just sits there enjoying the view from the beach while other people are doing some hard work there XD
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Christy April 19, 2012 at

Ha, when you go to Koh Tao to learn how to dive you have to actually work, but the rest of us just get to lounge on the beach! :D

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures April 19, 2012 at

I’m so sad that I’ve been to Thailand twice and both times didn’t dive. That hotel room looks divine!!!
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A Montrealer Abroad April 20, 2012 at

Wow, amazing views from there!

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Christy April 24, 2012 at

Alright, the hike was worth it. ;)

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Cam @ Traveling Canuckstwitter: travelcanucks April 22, 2012 at

Looks like a fantastic place to learn to dive!
I got certified in the Cayman Islands, also an amazing place to dive.
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Christy April 24, 2012 at

I could see going to the Cayman’s to dive. ;)

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Laurence April 24, 2012 at

Sounds like a really great place to learn how to dive… whatever your budget :)
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Christy April 24, 2012 at

Definitely – you can’t get much cheaper than that!

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Mary @ Green Global Travel May 31, 2012 at

We’re hoping to get certified in the next couple of months. It’s great to read that Bans is making the effort to reduce their waste and that they’re involved in Project AWARE.
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Kurttwitter: wanderlustng June 14, 2012 at

It is good to see that they are doing their part to be as sustainable as possible. Beautiful and Eco-friendly.
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