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Jan 17th, 2013, 08:42 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Jan 2013
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Dive Thailand

Which school/island would you all recommend for a first time diver?

Four friends and I will be in the South of Thailand mid to late February. It sounds as though I'm the only one interested in taking the courses. Which schools would be best for a beginner? Which Islands would have the most diverse attractions at a reasonable rate? Would the Andaman Sea or Gulf of Thailand have better diving this time of year? I'm pushing for Ko Tao, but wouldn't mind spending portions of the trip on either side. What's the best way to get from Phuket area to Ko Samui? Worth going overland or best to fly? Others primary interest seem to be...

Beaches - There's a lot of interest in Ko Phi Phi Don to see the island where The Beach was filmed. Though, I'm hesitant to commit as I've read it has been overrun by the likes of us and is quite pricey (600THB for a day trip or 800THB for a shack? I suppose that gives you an idea of our budget) and would commit us to at least a portion of the trip on the Andaman Sea side of the peninsula.

Bars - Sounds like a lot of the dive schools get going pretty early in the morning, but we're all interested in a place to belly up at the end of the day. Preferably, these would be of the dive variety with equal parts local and foreigner as opposed to the tourist trap mai tai type.

Temples/Historical sites - We're coming from sub zero temperatures and need to thaw out on the beach more than anything else, but would like to soak up some culture as well.

I'm open to any other suggestions that would help sell the best dive Islands to my friends. Zip lines, cliff diving, jungle trekking/cycling and bungee jumping would garner the most support.

I've already decided to cut Chiangmai and Northern Thailand from the trip as I want to limit time in transit. The interest we had in Go Go bars and riding elephants has been tempered by a number of bloggers pointing out they contribute to human trafficking and animal abuse. We won't be able to make the full moon festival. Thus we're down to Island Hopping. A rough life to be sure. So what little gems can you suggest? If you were to go again would you focus on the Gulf of Thailand or Andaman Sea? Both? Any good overland adventures between the two or best to fly? Never one for brevity and grateful for your help in advance, JM
lostinshenyang is offline  
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Jan 17th, 2013, 05:14 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
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First of all, keep in mind that there's a lot of studying and class work involved in learning to dive. You don't just show up and get in the water. There are (at least) a couple days of coursework and familiarization in a pool before you get in the ocean. A minimum of four dives is required to get your open water license.

That said, the gulf is not ideal in February. I've been diving around Koh Tao in February and it can be rather gray and miserable. I would suggest that the Andaman is the better options, especially if some of your friends aren't diving. There are a lot of dive operators on Phi Phi, but I would agree with your assessment of how over-run it is. Also, the diving immediately around the island is not that great.

Koh Lanta or Khao Lak are probably your best options. Lanta is a little quieter, but February is the middle of high season so you'll have a good selection of places to stay. There are a couple of good dive operators there. Khao Lak has more options for dive operators as well as a wider variety of places to stay.
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