Koh Tao, named the Turtle Island, is a diver’s paradise nestled amongst the vast islands of Thailand. Wanting to explore and protect the marine life I was there to see, I chose the most eco-friendly dive school I could find on the island.
| Our open water scuba diving experience with New Heaven Dive School |
Founded in 1995, by brothers-in-law Devrim (Dev) and Kampanat NaSongkhla (P’Kong), New Heaven Dive School was established back when Koh Tao was still an untouched turtle paradise. P’Kong was known to many as ‘Koh Tao Greenpeace’ for his endeavours in saving captured sea turtles, chasing illegal fishermen and initiating environmental projects around the island. Dev continues on Kong’s legacy and is a passionate ocean lover himself, who instils sustainability not only in the foundations of the business but in his students as well. To this day sustainability and marine conservation remain the ethos at New Heaven to protect Koh Tao’s vulnerable marine life and beautiful island.
Zero Waste Ethics
Seeing firsthand the effect that single use plastic has on the ocean Dev has made New Heaven Dive School a ‘plastic free zone’. Implementing Zero Waste methods to eliminate plastic from potentially entering the ocean and raising awareness of the harmful effects a simple piece of plastic can cause.
The New Heaven restaurant uses plastic free straws and divers are encouraged to use reusable containers for their diving meals on board. Additionally, to avoid the use of plastic water bottles, as Thailand has non portable water, free drinking water is available to refill all reusable water bottles.
Every month with the involvement from several dive schools around the island, clean ups are conducted on the beaches and under water, to rid Koh Tao of trash.
Open Water Scuba Diving
Koh Tao is one of the most beautiful places in the world to learn how to scuba dive and we didn’t miss out on this opportunity. We were lucky enough to have Stefan from 123 Bubbles as our diving instructor, an enthusiastic teacher with a passion for the ocean and a brilliant French accent. Specialising in small groups, we were lucky enough to have Stefan all to ourselves for the duration of our open water dive course.
Taking us straight onto the boat for our first dive, it was a bit daunting to say the least, as I had thought we would at least begin in the pool! We swam out to the shallows with Stefan checking our equipment and understanding at every step of the way. It was a much easier process than what I had experienced previously on a fun dive in Cairns, Australia, where I had felt claustrophobic as soon as my head was under water.
It was an intensive few days in terms of trying to absorb all the information from our lessons but when you hit the water any stress melts away and you try not to blink in fear of missing any of what the underwater paradise has to offer.
Completing the open water scuba dive exam was an ecstatic moment for me. It had been a lifelong dream to be able to dive all over the world and I finally had my certificate in order to do so. The icing on the cake was learning to dive in one of the most beautiful locations in the world and observe firsthand some of the marine conservation projects in place to preserve this unbelievable beauty.
Free Diving and Yoga
There are various dive schools offering free diving courses on Koh Tao, but none quite like the one at New Heaven Dive School. Dev himself offers these unique yoga integrated free diving courses, with the belief that free diving is a form of yoga and self-discovery. The course consists of daily Pranayama workshops and hatha yoga classes to help control your mind, breathing and meditation, allowing you to dive to depths you never thought before were possible.
New Heaven Reef Conservation Program
At the heart of New Heaven Dive school is its marine conservation program. Passionate ocean lovers with an advanced open scuba diving license can partake in conservation programs ranging from 1 day to 4 weeks. Many students with a keen interest in marine life take on 3 month internships as part their studies. There are an array of conservation programs which run at the New Heaven Dive School in collaboration with Non-Government Organisations and universities, including research and monitoring, land activities, coral restoration and working directly with turtles, starfish, giant clams, snails and seahorses.
Diving at numerous beautiful dive sites around Koh Tao there is evidence of the hard work conducted by the New Heaven Dive school marine conservation team. Concrete structures can be seen at many dive sites, with delicate baby corals attached to encourage new growth and eco systems.
At the dive school itself Dev has coordinated the construction of specific tanks used for sea turtle rehabilitation and we were lucky enough to see one of the last remaining rehabilitated turtles before its release back into the ocean.
Surrounded by passionate people working to conserve the vulnerable marine life at Koh Tao, I can’t to wait to join the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program on our return to Thailand. Watching the sunset on the Gulf of Thailand, I couldn’t think of a better way to live than to protect the ocean whilst enjoying the underwater paradise and island life of Koh Tao.