To this day I look back on learning to dive in 2001 as one of the best and most enjoyable experiences of my life. What made it really special was that I was lucky enough to do it with Koh Phangan as my base. I knew I would be on the island for a couple of months and had planned to make learning to dive one of the first things I did when I got there.
I’d done a bit of research on diving schools beforehand by zipping round the island on a motorbike and checking out the different places I could learn at. I remember stopping at loads of great beaches and speaking to lots of helpful instructors who filled me in on the details of what the course would entail. In the end I opted to learn with Chanchot and his team at ‘Lotus Diving‘ in Chaloklam. I really liked the set up there and it also gave me an excuse to ride my favourite roads on the island twice a day from my base at the time, Moonlight Bungalows which was located just outside Thong Sala on the road to Ban Tai.
It was brilliant to wake up early on each morning of the course and head out on the motorbike for the ride up the western side of the island towards Chaloklam.
I particularly loved the part of the journey that took me past the beautiful west coast beaches and then over the top of the north-west hills before the steep drop down into Chaloklam.. the views of the sea were cracking at certain stages and the feeling of freedom I had has not been matched to this day! Once I arrived it was down to business with learning all about the technical aspects of diving in the classroom sessions.
After the swotting it was time to head to Mae Haad for the daily lesson in the waters just off the shore of the beach and around Koh Ma.. what an amazing location to be learning to dive!
My instructor Dave taught me the basics at first and then we moved on to fin pivots which I struggled with from memory! When we needed a rest we joined the other member of the Lotus team who had been keeping a watchful eye on us and making sure we were safe. Lunch was had whilst gently swinging in a hammock on the beach before resuming for some more lessons in early afternoon.
I got my PADI open water certification at the end of the week and was thrilled to then go on more dives and be lucky enough to see the following creatures in the waters and dive sites around Koh Phangan over the next few weeks –
- Lion fish
- Angel fish
- Bat fish
- Puffer fish
- Porcupine fish
- Reef sharks
- Giant clams
- Goat fish
- Rock cod
- Tusk fish
At the end of each day I would ride my bike back to Moonlight Bungalows and hang out in the restaurant there to catch up with friends over delicious green curries and a few Changs. A few of my friends were also learning to dive so we caught up on what we’d seen and learnt that day. This was the icing on the cake of wonderful days and unforgettable experiences.
Here are some links to other popular diving schools on Koh Phangan to choose from..