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“A great place to dive for the first time”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of Ban's Diving

Ban's Diving
Ranked #28 of 90 Tours in Koh Tao
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: Deutsch-sprachige Tauchkurse auf Koh Tao
Melbourne, Australia
1 review
“A great place to dive for the first time”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 27, 2013

On completing a Open Water and Advanced Open Water certificate at Ban's I would recommend them to anyone.

The whole experience was exceptionally good due to my group having a great, experienced Dive Instructor Rich. He put us all at ease and guided us through both courses. Great fun, cant wait to get back into the water!

Visited October 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
59 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“Outstanding Dive Center”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 4, 2013

In December 2012 I completed my PADI Open Water course at Coconut Tree Divers on Roatan Honduras and came to Koh Tao hoping to complete my Advanced Open Water course and maybe get a couple fun dives in before I moved on. Plans changed when I started diving with Ban's and I wound up staying 19-days after the course ended. I completed 3 PADI Specialties and my Rescue Diver certifications plus almost 10-days of fun-dives. I thoroughly enjoyed each dive and diving course and would highly recommend that you consider diving with Ban's if you've never dived before or if you're looking to progress through more advanced diving certifications.

I'm a high school teacher, so I'm admittedly a little judgmental or even critical of instruction when it's not provided by me. I was blown away by the quality of instruction here. Friends of mine from home arrived the day before me and signed up for their Open Water course. One of them was terrified of diving and figured she'd bug out during the confined dive sessions (in the pool). Needless to say by the time they left the island both were entirely competent in the water, had completed both OW and AOW and were chomping at the bit to get fun dives in before they had to leave. We went to Sail Rock to celebrate their successes. Their 3-day stay turned into 7, the maximum they could stay without missing their flights home. Both friends are elementary teachers and found their instructor Ant(hony) to truly be one of the best instructors or teachers they'd ever encountered. 2-months later they're still talking about him and have said they think they're better teachers as a result of their experiences.

A lot of groups start out in Open Water courses and progress through Advanced Open Water, which adds 2-3 days to the program. Most groups I talked to had no plans to complete both levels, but enjoyed their instructors and the course so much, they kept diving. I highly recommend you consider this. Open Water allows you to dive up to 18m. Advanced Open Water allows you to dive up the 30m. There are sites on Koh Tao which will be inaccessible to you with only your Open Water cert.

I feel it's pretty important to address what I feel is the elephant in the room at Ban's. This dive center is a new diver factory of epic proportions. It seems like there are dozens, but it's probably less, of Open Water courses starting every day in almost every language. I never felt that corners were ever cut, and all of the instructors I had and my friends had found PADI standards to be the MINIMUM they would teach to. Most went above and beyond what were minimal requirements and I'm confident that the course quality is comparable if not superior to what you'll find at your local dive center or anywhere else whose focus is diver development. Even though the dive center is massive, I always felt that instruction and customer service at the dive shop was entirely personable and I never felt 'lost in the crowd.'

The hugeness of the operation is extremely convenient IMO as it allowed myself and others to drop into courses and out of courses as MY schedule provided. I was sick one day, dived with a different operation another and toured the island another and I was always able to join a group to complete my courses in the shortest amount of time. This would only be possible in a dive center as large as Ban's. Instructors bent over backwards to accommodate my preferences and schedule - not the other way around.

Since I didn't start with my Open Water, which seems like the most common course taken at Ban's, my group was very small and changed depending on who needed which dive towards their Advanced Open Water cert. I started with 2, and we were a group of 3 on the final day. My instruction was excellent and they included my first deep dive, wreck dive, night dive and the first time I took photos under water (you can rent a camera from Ban's dive shop).

After finishing this certification I went on some fun-dives which were a ton of fun. I always had great dive masters who really knew their sites. On my first set of fun dives my dive buddy and I asked 'what next' for diver development (as we both had our AOW), and the answer to that question kept me on the island for the rest of the month. He suggested that a Deep specialty, a Wreck specialty and a Enriched Air (Nitrox) specialty would give us access to almost any recreational dive site either of us might encounter on a live aboard, something my buddy had been on a lot over the past few years and something I am very interested in trying.

My buddy could only stay for a few days, and our instructor really did a phenomenal job ensuring we both got through our courses without sacrificing on the quality of the course or mastery of the new skills. We did Nitrox and Deep specialities together, which basically allow you to dive with nitrox (surprise) and extends your maximum depth from 30m to 40m. There were a couple sites on KT where I noticed my maximum depth dip past 30m, but I think you’d need a shovel to get to 40m. For our maximum depth dive we went off the stern of the Sattakut and found visibility to go from 3m. to almost 0m when we hit 33m. Glad we tied off.

After my buddy left I started my Wreck Speciality and my instructor convinced me to start my Rescue Diver course. The wreck speciality was a ton of fun and opened my eyes to a whole new skill-set. We (safely) went well beyond minimum PADI standards in the wreck course, and I was totally at-ease in my first penetration. The Rescue Course was probably the most beneficial out of any course I’ve ever taken, and I thoroughly enjoyed both the theory and in-water portions of the course. It elevated my confidence and competence in the water to a point where I now feel confident and competent enough to get through almost any emergency I could encounter in the water. I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to become a better buddy. It significantly changed the way I dive.

In-general, the staff at the dive shop, Som especially are outstanding. I bought a Suunto D4i computer after I completed my AOW and realized when I got home I paid a little less for it at their shop than I would have paid at home. They are really organized in the shop and took care of all of my requests, which were a lot, by the time I finished diving with Ban’s.

Their boats seem like they’re the largest on the island and are very comfortable. If I recall there were 30 or so people on the boat and you transfer to them either at the pier in Mae Haad (mornings especially, which includes a transfer from Ban’s along the main road), by long tail or by speed boat. IMO getting on and off the boats would be difficult for someone with substantial mobility issues, but it’s possible Ban’s has a way to provide access for people like this. The boats never feel crowded, especially since all 3-boats have a sun deck that really spreads out divers after you’ve finished setting up your kit. They have instant coffee, hot water, tea, and biscuits on board. They serve watermelon or pineapple after dives and (except for night dives) you get two dives in the morning or afternoon without having to return to shore (compressors are onboard). The size of the boats are great for minimizing sea sickness, as it does get a little rough. I’m glad I was on a large boat. They have 3-boats, all with a dry table in the middle for your personal items. Most divers carried their gear in one of Ban’s bags (almost all divers are renters) and carry a separate pack (or back pack, or dry bag) for personal items. My personal items never got wet despite a few really wet downpours. If you’re on a long tail or the speedboat, they beached close enough to land that you’d probably only have a wet pack if you fell in the water – I don’t recall it after being deeper than waist-high. I observed a lot of dive masters and instructors using drybag backpacks (waterproof – most used FeelFree, which are available at Ban’s shop) and I’d probably invest in one as well. I was caught in a bunch of quick but very wet showers, and a good drybag would have been useful. Without exception I found the boat masters to be excellent, stressing safety every step of the way.

Fun dives with Ban’s were great, but if this is all you are doing on Koh Tao (as in, you’re not taking any courses), it’s possible that you’ll be more comfortable or catered to elsewhere. I did at-least 10 (probably more like 20) fun dives with Ban’s and loved every one of them, especially my dive at Chumpon where I swam with a whale shark. Truth be told, Ban’s is a diver development center, and divers in courses outnumber fun divers by at-least 2-to-1 on almost every dive I took (that’s a very conservative estimate – I don’t recall ever seeing more than 10 fun divers on a boat). As such, dive site selection is almost always based on what the divers in courses need as opposed to what a fun diver wants to see. I learned this the hard way one day when I did shallow dives in the morning and had to stay at 18m on a trip to Chumpon in the afternoon or risk diving a reverse profile. My NDL’s were OK (according to my computer), but it’s Ban’s policy to keep you shallow in the afternoon if you dive anything in the morning. Had I known that we’d be going to Chumpon in the afternoon OR that we’d be diving only shallow sites in the morning, I probably would have skipped the AM in order to go deep in the PM. Equipment as a whole is very well-maintained and I wouldn’t hesitate to use their gear in the future. I had my first free-flowing regulator (octo) on a fun dive and was well-looked after by a dive master. Another day there was a problem with my BC where it had trouble inflating with the inflator hose. These incidents were extremely isolated and I chalk it up to bad luck and it becoming statistically likely to happen considering the number of dives I did over my 3-weeks at Ban’s. Each incident was taken very seriously by the dive masters and boat masters. In truth, I convinced myself by the end of my trip to invest in my own set of regulators before my next dive vacation, and I’ll probably buy a BC as well. This wasn’t because I didn’t like Ban’s equipment or I felt it was in anyway unsafe, I just want to start diving with my own gear.

The water here was about 29-30 C every day. I never needed a wetsuit and primarily dived with a rash guard and board shorts. I had my own (prescription) mask, fins, dive boots and computer. I brought my snorkel but was never forced to wear it (this is my preference). I kept my gear (fins, boots and BCD) in my own mesh bag. Weights, belts and regulators are located on the boat. Instructors and dive masters had knives, compasses, SMB’s, computers and folding snorkels. One buddy complained that Ban’s didn’t provide her with a dive computer. I tried to explain that she had the option to rent them if they were available at the shop (sometimes availability is limited because of the needs of divers in dive courses). She was pretty upset though. Strangely she was just as upset the next day when it all happened again. I’m not sure why she assumed she’d have a computer, but I did confirm with the shop that they are available to rent. The dive sites we visited (by my recollection) were White Rock, Green Rock, Red Rock, Sattakut, Japanese Garden, Chumpon and Lighthouse. I think I spent more dives at White Rock than anywhere else. I’m sure there were others. I was kind of sad I never got to South West as it was scrapped the day I signed up for it.

Ban’s has you covered for gear if you don’t have any or don’t want to carry any. But personally, if you’ve got it and have the room to pack it, I’d recommend you bring it. Once again, this isn’t because Ban’s gear isn’t great, in fact it’s excellent gear that shows minimal use in most cases, but I always think it’s better to dive with equipment you know. Your own mask is pretty important, especially for those of you who wear glasses. After that I’d probably suggest fins, mostly so that you could go snorkeling without having to borrow gear, and after that dive gear gets a little expensive. I liked having my own gear bag, but I recommend you getting a bag that doesn’t look like Ban’s bags which are blue with black mesh. A computer would be my next purchase, personally I loved having a watch-sized computer as it doubles as my watch while on vacation, and then I’d recommend regulators. I think the last item I’d travel with is a BCD, especially if I was doing a lot of travelling, but I know I’ll be carrying one soon.

All-in-all, Ban’s is an outstanding outfit, in-particular as a diver development center. I was well looked after as a fun diver, but might shop around a little if all I was doing was fun dives. If it makes a difference 3 of my dive buddies only did fun dives with Ban’s and all loved it and would recommend it to friends.

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
Thank Glass_Top_Cohiba
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Great Diving Course”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 25, 2013

I finished my PADI Open Water yesterday and loved every minute of it. My diving instructor was Josh Sparkes and he was great. He was very passionate about what he does and is not only a good instructor but an all round top guy. The resort is really nice. All rooms are large ensuite with fans, WIFI and cable TV. The restaurant serves excellent food and will even bring it your classroom if you wish, whilst you do theory on the first day. The resort is in an ideal location, right on the beach just a few minutes walk from the town centre. But I rarely needed venture too far from the resort as everything I needed was here.

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
Thank Alex S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Malmo, Sweden
Level Contributor
15 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Well worth”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 22, 2013

Even though we didnt plan to get the open water certificate, we ended up doing it a Ban's, and we dont regret it at all. We had a great time diving! The price is probably the best you can get. we payed 9000 baht per person for 5 days, 4 open water dives. Our teacher was good and the equipment as well. If you're going to take the course; do it at Ban's!

Visited August 2013
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Thank Terese H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Excellent Diving Institution”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 19, 2013

Ask for dive instructor Rich Mclean, he has 10+ years of teaching experience on the island and is extremely passionate about what he does. He is not only very knowledgeable about scuba diving but makes the class very fun and entertaining. I went into scuba diving not being so sure about what I was going to get out of it but Ban's Diving along with Rich's instructions was quite an inspiration for me to possibly pursue a career related to diving. Some people may say Ban's diving is a "dive factory that doesn't care about its students" but the restaurant, lifestyle, school, and instructor that I had indicated otherwise. The front desk staff at Ban's Diving Resort also speak great English and are not rude, something rare to find in Thailand.

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Chana S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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