There are many different scuba diving agencies around the world, and whichever dive centre on Koh Tao you choose, they will be affiliated to a particular agency – or perhaps a combination of different agencies. All scuba diving agencies write their dive course programs to meet the requirements set out by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC). So although the precise logistics and specific inclusions may vary a bit, you’ll still receive the same training on the broader scale when it comes to diving theory, the skills you master, and the amount of time you spend underwater. To put it another way, comparing scuba diving agencies is a bit like comparing Pepsi and Coca-Cola. As we say here in Thailand…same same but different!
In our opinion, the scuba diving agency you learn through makes very little difference – it’s just a logo on your certification card once you complete your training. What matters is that you go with a reputable dive centre and that you get the best instruction possible. So it’s best not to consider the agency too much as a deciding factor, especially if you are a beginner. Agency affiliation doesn’t generally need to become a consideration until you get to professional level dive training and need to decide what courses you want to teach.
These are the main scuba diving agencies here on Koh Tao:
PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors)
PADI has been training divers since 1966 and is probably the best-known scuba diving agency in the world. In fact, it’s not uncommon for dive centres to get enquiries from students simply stating they want to ‘get their PADI’. PADI is active in advocating marine conservation through its Project AWARE charity foundation.
SSI (Scuba Schools International)
SSI was established in the 1970s and has a great reputation on Koh Tao and beyond. One of the biggest advantages of SSI is its ecological awareness, and of all the scuba diving agencies, SSI is most up with the times when it comes to digital materials and electronic diver certifications.
RAID (Rebreather Association of International Divers)
Historically a technical diving agency, RAID now teaches the same scope of entry-level courses as all of the other major players. RAID is currently the fastest growing scuba diving agency in the world and prides itself on the quality of its training system, and the well-trained divers and ambassadors that result from it.
BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club)
Despite its name, dive centres around the world partner with BSAC to conduct scuba diving courses, boat handling courses, and more. The focus of BSAC is to provide quality diver training with the advantage of a dive club feel, where divers are part of a social group and have access to member benefits as well as access to dive certification courses.
IDD (Instructor Dive Development)
IDD is a Dutch diving agency that prides itself on high-quality diver training at dedicated IDD training centres across the globe. It is one of the lesser-known dive agencies, but its limited membership does not stop IID training standards meeting all of the prerequisites on all WRSTC training programmes, so if you train through an IDD school, your certification will still be recognised globally.