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Learning to dive in Thailand

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There are plenty of hidden gems in Thailand and if you are an expat like me who has been doing a lot of domestic travel this year, chances are you’ve found a few of these gems yourself. I found my gem on a trip down to Koh Tao to get my SCUBA certification back in September, his name is Anthony Griffiths and he has been a dive instructor in Thailand for 25 years. Right in our backyard, we have the instructor who has PADI certified more people to scuba dive than anyone else in the world. I have been back down to dive a few more times since getting certified and asked Anthony to sit down with me and tell me his story and why everyone should give diving a try, especially now.


What did you do before you were a dive instructor?

I was a dancer with the Royal Ballet. I trained for 16 years and I danced with them for about 4 years; I toured the world. I was in Madonna’s show when she came to England, I performed on Top of the Pops, danced in countless contemporary companies – Twyla Tharp, Pina Bausch, Sadler’s Wells – I am going back 30 years though.  


When did you first come to Thailand?

1991. I came with a girlfriend on holiday because I wasn’t doing anything, I was just hanging around in London. My dance career had kind of wound down and I was about 28 years old. I had been travelling a lot before with my career but not really holidaying, and it just seemed like a good idea. So, she was coming to Thailand and I just came with her. And it was an absolutely brilliant decision.


When did you decide to make the move and why?

I didn’t have a set day where you could say like “I moved to Thailand on…”. It was a gradual transition. I was holidaying here for just 2 weeks and we changed our round the world tickets to make it 6 months. I did my PADI Open Water (Diving) Course, Advanced Course, Rescue Diving, Divemaster and fell completely in love with it. One thing led to another and the rest is history. Since 1991 I have pretty much been diving every day, besides my trips back home to the UK of course.


I have always used Koh Tao as a base though. I would go to Australia and Fiji, but I always want to come back to Koh Tao. It is a very special island with very special people. The local people are beautiful, and they have a lovely school and community. It has just been a great place for me to bring up a family.


What was it about diving that was such a magnet for you?

It is interesting, for me, diving was like a connection to dancing. I spent years trying to defy gravity and the weightlessness in diving was like a direct link for me. That’s why today I am still totally in love with moving in three dimensional space. It is a magical unbelievable experience where you connect technology with nature, and it meshes so many things together. And then, I did not know I was a teacher, but I have a naturally outgoing personality and I have always been able to connect with people. Combined with what I had done on stage, performing etc., moving into teaching was just really natural; teaching diving connected all the dots. When I look at my life now, it’s just a blessing how it all came together.


How long have you been an instructor? And how many people have you certified?

25 years. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but since you asked, I hold the most certifications of any PADI instructor in the world. It is roughly 18,000 people by now. The dive shop I work at, Ban’s Dive Shop, is the biggest dive shop in the world by the number of people we have certified – over a quarter of a million. We were going to have a big celebration this year for our 300,000th certification but because of Covid, we had to stop the plan. I have grown my career at Ban’s and even though I have been diving all over the world, this is the place I want to come back to.


Why should someone get certified to dive?

Diving is a way for people to reconnect back to the natural world that we all belong to. I believe people have become so disconnected because of technology (of course technology is a wonderful thing too) but when it gets to the point where it disconnects people from that natural way of being, it is concerning. How do you even put into words when a 6 metre fish with a mouth like a car front swims over your head, looks down and questions you. When you have that visceral feeling inside your stomach and your soul for one moment, everything disappears, and you have a brief moment of a connection back to nature. I am just happy that I can help people make a reconnection to the natural world.


What is going on with diving in Koh Tao right now? What is the good and the bad?

Well, the good is there are a lot of great instructors here that have held on. There’s a lot of beautiful positive energy surrounding those who have stayed, and we are supporting each other during these difficult times. There is a local market that’s booming, and the government has done some good stuff to help. So, it is great that more Thai people are exploring the underwater beauty of their homeland. The conditions are fantastic. The water is clearer, and we are seeing more abundant wildlife.


The bad, economically, it is a catastrophe, not only for diving. Needless to say, so many people have lost their jobs in tourism and it has been hard for everyone. In terms of foreigners, a lot of people who came from abroad to realise their dream cannot do it now.


But as one door closes in diving, another one opens. People have had to leave and go back to their countries so in the dive shops, things have changed, people are taking on new roles and getting promotions. We are learning new ways of thinking about diving, how to promote diving, how to keep diving going. I myself have had time and gotten back into the books, back into the study. I have just had a wonderful move within our own company where I am teaching dive masters and professionals right the way through from open water to the instructor development programs. Diving will never die, but it’s definitely on a low ebb.


Why is now a great time to come get certified or dive in general?

Because we have got groups of people now who are even more focused and devoted to giving excellence and quality, they know how precious every customer is. When there was a mass of customers, you could argue that we weren’t lax, but we would take it for granted that we had the next batch of people coming through the door. So, what tends to happen now, not saying that there was bad teaching before, but now clients just get an extra bit. People who are coming down from Bangkok, who are willing to come down here to give it a try are getting more bang for their buck. There are some great bargains and great deals to find now.


I’d say to everyone reading this article, please consider coming down to Koh Tao, get in touch with me directly, you can look me up at Ban’s Diving and we will have an absolutely amazing time. Now is a great time to clean out some stuff in your mind. Get away from the city a little bit, get away from the job, the day-to-day blues of Covid and come get in the water and express yourself. Feel weightless, learn something new and fresh, learn new ways to move and think. I have just had a student do a course with me and he was good on the course but there were a few little things that were not quite right. And he’s gone away and watched loads of YouTube videos and came back and now’s he is diving like I couldn’t believe. Fantastic! Diving obviously had a positive effect on him. He learned something, went away and learned more, came back and now wants to get really good at it. Diving can be a great way to lift yourself out of a bad spot.


Full Story: https://expatlifeinthailand.com/travel-and-leisure/learning-to-dive-in-thailand/



-- © Copyright Expat Life in Thailand 2021-04-19
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16 hours ago, snoop1130 said:

I always want to come back to Koh Tao. It is a very special island with very special people. The local people are beautiful,

🤣 is he taking the p***?

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Koh Tao is great for learning to dive in terms of money - dive courses are dirt cheap there.

However diving itself is qute mediocre there.

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So are they open during Covid?  I was thinking of doing this and emailed a couple of dive shops but never got any replies.

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