I’ve wanted to get my PADI since the first time I went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I also did a wreck dive in Bali and was diving with an instructor who made me hold his BCD (buoyancy control device) the whole time, while the boys got to go off by themselves. This was unacceptable.
I’d heard so much about how great the diving is in Koh Tao, but I knew I wouldn’t be heading down there for awhile, so after a bit of research I decided to do my PADI in Cambodia.
I booked through Eco Sea Dive in Sihanoukville, who were the first Cambodian dive center to offer both PADI and SSI. While I decided to go with PADI (mainly because I had never heard of SSI before), it’s worth knowing that SSI is cheaper, and the skills and requirements are almost the same so the certifications are interchangeable.
One thing I noticed is that SSI seems a bit more flexible. The theory can also be done online for free prior to the course-unlike PADI which was going to charge me around $70 when I took a look.
After booking my PADI I met Dom, who would be my instructor over the next few days. His enthusiasm and love of diving was evident, and I found myself even more excited to get in the water.
Day one rolled around, I was supposed to be at the center by 7.15am. I woke up at 7.10am. Stupid alarm. Luckily they agreed to wait for me, and I raced down to meet the transfer to the boat.
It took around two and a half hours to reach Koh Rong Samloem, the small island where we’d be diving. On the way I chatted to Erik who was doing his SSI and would be my dive buddy, and his girlfriend Anna-Maria who was already certified. The island was quiet, peaceful and beautiful, with hammocks along the beach and wooden bungalows with views of the sea. I spent the afternoon watching PADI dvds and learning about nitrogen, and the next day I was ready to dive.
First we did our skills off the beach. This included dropping our regulators, taking off our masks and clearing them underwater, and removing and replacing our BCD’s. After grabbing lunch we went out for our second dive.
Unfortunately the current was really bad. I consider myself a pretty decent swimmer but at one stage I was swimming flat-out and not making any progress at all, while the guys swam off into the distance. The visibility was awful, and I was wearing myself out fighting against the current. Luckily Dom realized I was in trouble and came back for me and we ended the dive after around twenty minutes.
We had two more dives after that, and both of them were better. On the last day we enjoyed decent visibility on the east side of the bay, and I got to test out my navigation skills with the compass. For someone with no sense of direction I passed the skill first time and actually really enjoyed it. After lunch we went out again and this time we drifted along with the current, hardly swimming at all, and were picked up after around thirty minutes of lazily floating along the ocean floor.
On the last night I took my final exam and passed. I’m now officially a certified diver!
Before I got my PADI I was a nervous diver. I knew that if something went wrong underwater I wouldn’t know how to fix it. Now I feel like I can look after myself and I know what to do in an emergency.
I found Eco Sea Dive brilliant. They’ve recently come under new management, and their professionalism and passion for diving is awesome. I paid $320 for my PADI, three nights of accommodation, and breakfast and lunch every day. I’d dive with these guys again in a heartbeat, and I look forward to seeing them when I do my advanced open water, although I’d like to stay for an extra day or two to relax and work on my tan.