Top 8 Coolest Creatures To See Diving From Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta, on the west coast of Thailand, has perhaps the best land-based diving in all of Thailand. It boasts easy access to some great dive sites, including Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, Koh Ha, and the dive sites of Koh Phi Phi are also only a short trip away. During your dives on these great dive sites, you are sure to bump into some amazing creatures along the reef. Starting with the smallest, here are my favourite eight reef denizens to spot on your dives…

  1. Harlequin Shrimp

Koh Lanta, Thailand, Harlequin Shrimp, IDC, Divemaster

The colourful harlequin shrimp is perhaps the funkiest and coolest of all shrimp. They are commonly encountered hiding in the reefs around Koh Lanta, often munching on a sea star. Harlequin shrimp don’t stray too far once they have found a nice spot with plentiful supply of food, and when your dive guide knows where they are hiding out, they can be found quite easily…

2. Ornate Ghost Pipefish

Koh Lanta, Thailand, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Divemaster, IDC

The ornate ghost pipefish is another cool visitor to the reefs surrounding Koh Lanta. They come in a variety of colours, and can be seen in pairs or as solitary individuals. Ornate ghost pipefish can change their colour to suit their chosen home among the branches of gorgonians, in floating weeds, or feather stars. They can be tricky to spot, but again, once found, they often stay in one location for a while…

3. Seahorse

Seahorse, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Seahorses are another common spot amongst the reefs of Lanta. They can even be spotted very close to shore on Lanta’s beaches, but are also common on dive sites such as Koh Ha. the tiger tail seahorse is the most commonly encountered seahorse on Koh Lanta’s dive sites, and are spotted year round…

4. Frogfish

Frogfish, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Perhaps a less frequently spotted critter in the area is the frogfish. These cryptic creatures are a master of disguise and can be difficult to spot. The are still seen quite often on the dive sites around Koh Ha and Hin Daeng, as well as on the wrecks around Koh Phi Phi…

5. Turtle

Turtle, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

Hawksbill turtles are a regular sight on all the dive sites around Koh Lanta. They are often encountered munching on bubble coral, or just cruising by in the blue close to the reefs. Green turtles are also occasionally spotted in the area…

6. Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark, Zebra Shark, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

The leopard shark, also known as the zebra shark, is a commonly encountered shark in the waters around Koh Lanta. They like to rest on the sand, and are often seen at dive sites like Hin Bida, Bida Nok, and Bida Nai. When they are resting on the bottom, you can get close enough for a good photograph if you approach them very slowly. They are also a great photo subject when they are swimming, with their distinctive long tails scything through the water…

7. Manta Ray

Manta Ray, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

If you want to dive with the majestic manta ray, then you need to book yourself on a trip to Hin Daeng & Hin Muang – two sea mounts in the open ocean. These two stunning dive sites are home to many cleaner fish, and the mantas come to get preened. You just hang back and watch the spectacular show as the mantas circle the cleaning stations. Mantas are my favourite animal to just hover and watch…

8. Whale Shark

Whale Shark, Koh Lanta, Thailand, Divemaster, PADI IDC

And last, but definitely not least, we have the giant whale shark – the biggest fish in the ocean. Whale sharks are very common, but you still need a little luck to be in the right place at the right time. They are commonly encountered at Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, and at Koh Ha. They are also sometimes seen at Bida Nok, close to Koh Phi Phi. Diving along and then seeing the unmistakable shape of a whale shark emerging from the blue is a truly unforgettable experience…

If you haven’t dived from Koh Lanta yet, maybe it’s time to add it to your bucket-list and come see the amazing creatures of the Andaman Sea. Lanta boasts a nice mixture of dive sites for both beginners and experienced divers alike. It is also a beautiful island to spend your non-diving days relaxing on the beach enjoying delicious Thai food or even a sunset cocktail…

If you would like to dive Koh Lanta, email Lanta Diver – a five-star PADI IDC centre offering day trips to all the sites mentioned above. Lanta Diver also run all recreational courses, as well as professional-level courses such as Divemaster & IDC programmes. And if you are looking for a great hotel on the island, look no further than Mook Lanta Eco Resort. What are you waiting for ?

Photos by Narcosis Nick and Richard Reardon

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PADI IDC Thailand, Digital Underwater Photography, DUP, Specialty Instructor Training Course

Teaching Tips: PADI DUP Specialty…

PADI IDC Thailand, Digital Underwater Photography, DUP, Specialty Instructor Training Course

One of my favourite PADI Specialties to teach is the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty.  It can be great fun, but also usually you get to see a big improvement in your students’ photography skills.

The course requires two open water dives, the first of which can be conducted in confined water.  Completing this first dive, and the first knowledge review, would also allow you to certify your students to DUP Level 1.  I prefer to teach the full Specialty – two knowledge reviews and two open water dives – and certify my students as DUP Level 2 Divers. I also conduct a confined water dive. I aim to schedule this course over two full days:

Day 1: Classroom session in the morning and confined water session in the afternoon

Day 2: Two open water dives

PADI DUP, Underwater Photography Specialty, IDC, Dive Instructor Course

On the first day, I spend the morning in the classroom.  We review the students’ knowledge reviews, and get to know the camera they will be using on land first – both in and out of the housing.  During the knowledge development session I make sure my students understand all the main concepts – shutter speed, aperture, white balance, depth of field, ISO, scene modes – and make sure they know how to make these adjustments on their camera both in and out of the housing.

PADI DUP, IDC, Underwater Photography, Specialty Instructor

In the afternoon of the first day we hit the pool and put everything we learned in the classroom into practise in this relaxed setting, where we can take our time and practise changing our camera settings, and getting good shots.  I take a few objects into the pool so the students can practise focus, white balance, and depth of field.  I try to find some everyday objects with a few different colours – including red – too to help practise adjusting white balance, and to see how the different scene modes show the different colours.  Whilst in the pool, I also emphasise, and practise, taking photos with good buoyancy control, and without touching the bottom.

PADI Specialty Instructor Course, Underwater Photography, Thailand

On the second day of the course, we head to open water to put everything in to practise with some cool marine life too.  I also take the coloured objects to the ocean to practise white balance adjustments at different depths  during the first dive too.

PADI IDC, DUP Specialty Instructor, Photography

We also spend time finding some cool creatures that are conducive to practising photography.  I focus on creatures that don’t move very far, or very quickly, like nudibranchs, morays, lionfish, clownfish etc., so the students can practise the PADI S.E.A. method…

PADI Instructor Course, Specialty, Photography, Nudibranch

After two days, my students have normally improved a great deal in their photography abilities, and are happy with the pace and content of the course.  If you would like to know more about becoming a PADI Digital Underwater Photography Specialty Instructor, please send me and email and ask…

 

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The PADI Delayed SMB Specialty

Using a delayed SMB is a skill many dive professionals take for granted – as they have used them so often.  Many forget that first attempt at using one, which often doesn’t go as planned. Ask an instructor who teaches the Divemaster course regularly – they often see the struggles of that first try.  There are also many options for using one.  The chances are that if you ask ten dive professionals about their preferences for using/stowing a delayed SMB, you will get ten differing answers…

PADI IDC, Delayed SMB Specialty Instructor, Platinum Course Director, Divemaster, IDC

Firstly, let’s clear up the difference between an ‘SMB’ and a ‘dSMB’.  ‘SMB’ stands for surface marker buoy, also commonly known as ‘the safety sausage’.  The difference between the two is, basically, where they are inflated – an ‘SMB’ is inflated at the surface, or permanently inflated, whereas a ‘dSMB’ (delayed surface marker buoy) is inflated underwater towards the end of a dive.  An SMB can either be towed for the whole dive, or just used at the surface to signalling the boat if you are a little further away than you thought.

Personally, I much prefer to use a dSMB at the end of every dive.  I like to have a marker on the surface to keep boat traffic away as I ascend with my students, and am not fond of towing an SMB for the whole dive (I don’t dive in areas where this is required by law).

The PADI Delayed SMB Diver Distinctive Specialty is designed for instructors to teach their students how to safely master this skill.  The aim is for us to talk through the different options and try a few different techniques, and the student can decide which they prefer.  We can show them the different methods of inflation – alternate air source, oral, exhaled bubbles, LPI – and also the difference between a reel and a spool (and the different designs of both). We can also discuss and show the option for deploying a dSMB without a reel or line too, and the advantages of an orange line over a white one. I like to mark distances on my lines too so students can see their depth when reeling in and show them how that works. This is also useful in when teaching wreck or navigation dives/Specialties.

PADI IDC, Navigation Dive, Reel Spool, dSMB, Specialty Instructor

The students then get to practise this skill under controlled conditions with instructor supervision.  We talk them through the different options during the knowledge development first, and could even do a confined water dive to practise first too.  During the open water dives the students get to first try the skill in a stationary position, and then from mid-water on dive two.  The more different options they can try, the better.  Once deployed, the students then have to swim with the dSMB and make a controlled ascent, reeling the line in. After a safety stop, a final ascent to the surface is made, and the dSMB is stowed for the next dive once back on the boat.

PADI IDC, Delayed SMB, Specialty Instructor, Platinum Course Director Richard Reardon

The correct and safe use of a dSMB is an extremely valuable skill for every diver.  It’s a great course to teach, and students get great satisfaction when they master the skill. As a dSMB Specialty Instructor you can also offer dive one of the Specialty as an Adventure Dive during your Advanced Open Water Courses – another reason for obtaining this Specialty Instructor rating. I would recommend adding it on to your PADI IDC course, or including it in your MSDT Prep programme…

If you’d like more information about this, or any other, PADI Specialty, feel free to send me an email and ask for further details…

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Neutrally Buoyant PADI IDC

At Go Pro In Paradise we are trying to push more and more towards neutrally buoyant skills during our PADI IDC programmes.  We are trying to stay off the knees, and teaching more on fin-tips or in mid-water. The dive environment is becoming ever more fragile, and we need to train the future generation of divers to be even more environmentally aware, and with even better buoyancy skills than in the past.  There is no need to spend any time on the knees during diver training – we should promote proper weighting and positioning in the water right from the first moment new divers get their heads under the water.

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

It starts with Confined Water Dive #1 of the Open Water Course.  During our IDCs the cfirst time we take our IDC Candidates in the pool, we conduct a CW Dive #1 workshop, and teach our candidates the importance of not over-weighting their future students, and how to get them neutrally buoyant before proceeding with the rest of the skills in CW Dive #1.  We achieve this by teaching the ‘Breathing Underwater’ skill as an introduction to the fin pivot (as described in a previous post).  All other skills in confined water can then be performed on fin-tips.

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

We also then conduct a neutrally buoyant skill circuit, with all skills demonstrated on fin-tips – staying off the knees.

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

After this skill circuit, we then conduct a Confined Water Dive #5 workshop, where we teach our IDC candidates how to help their Open Water students to make the transition from performing skills on their fin-tips to now performing them mid-water whilst swimming around the pool neutrally buoyant.  We also highlight the importance of correct weighting and the value of practising swimming in shallow water without touching the bottom or breaking the surface – demonstrating good trim and horizontal body position.

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

For the rest of the IDC, we then expect our candidates to perform all their teaching presentations in this manner.  Hopefully we can do our bit to inspire the next generation of PADI dive instructors to teach better buoyancy, trim, and environmental awareness in their future Open Water Courses…

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutrally Buoyant, Platinum Course Director

If you would like to know more about our PADI IDC programmes, please feel free to visit our website, or to send us an email

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The PADI Fish ID Specialty

The PADI Fish ID Specialty is for me one of the most misunderstood of all PADI Specialties.  Often (wrongly) sneered at by Instructors, and much maligned by dive professionals. The point to remember is that this Specialty is not for dive professionals, but for new or novice divers.  And when taught properly, this target audience will gain much from taking this course.

PADI Specialty Instructor Training, Thailand, Phuket, Platinum Course Diretcor

Every Divemaster and Instructor should be able to identify the majority of the common fish/marine life in their local area.  But remember the point is for them to pass that information on to new divers.

It’s also not just a case of taking a fish slate underwater and pointing to a fish then showing the new diver a picture of it on the slate with the name.  The idea is that we teach the new diver how they can learn to identify fish for themselves.  Perhaps they will be diving in the future without a dive professional.

When I teach this Specialty, I teach people to focus on family groups first, and then, when back on the boat, to get the books out and find the exact species.  With this approach, divers don’t need to start at page one, and flick through every page of the book until they find the picture they are looking at.  Rather, they know straight away to start with the angelfish section, for example, then can look for the nuances in colouration to find the exact species, perhaps with the aid of the picture/notes they made on their slate during the dive.  This is how the Specialty should be taught.  And a new diver will enjoy this and gain a lot of knowledge and enjoyment from this, and more importantly, will want to keep diving to discover new species and creatures.

The Specialty has no manual from PADI, so I like to use the excellent ‘Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific’ by Gerald Allen, Roger Steene, Paul Humann, and Ned Deloach.

PADI Fish ID, Specialty Instructor Courses, Platinum Course Director

The contents page of this book includes outlines of the shapes of major fish families and is perfect to use during your dive briefings.  Then after the dive, your students can look here first, and then know which section of the book to head to next to try to identify the species they saw and drew during the dive.

PADI Fish ID Specialty, Go Pro In Paradise, IDC

During the dives, I like to focus on the common reef fish in my area.  I am not looking to identify the ornate ghost pipefish, or the frogfish, but am paying more attention to different types of butterflyfish, angelfish, and anemonefish.  I let, and encourage, my students to draw whichever fish they like, but I will also point out a few that I want them to pay close attention to – some that are difficult to identify for a beginner.  I usually get them to draw longfin bannerfish and moorish idols, and a couple of different types of anemonefish, to see if they can spot the slight differences.

PADI Fish ID Specialty Instructor training, PADI IDC, Platinum Course Director

I think this is a great Specialty for Instructors to be able to teach and offer their students, especially after the Open Water Course.  If you would like to know more about teaching this Specialty, feel free to send me an email, and see when I am next running a Specialty Instructor Training Course.  Or if you are a PADI Divemaster, join us for an IDC and add this rating on at the end of the programme.

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PADI IDC Staff Open Water, Thailand, Phuket, Richard Reardon Platinum Course Director

PADI IDC Staff Instructor Course

PADI IDC Staff Instructor Course. Phuket, Thailand, Platinum Course Director

If you have been teaching a while, you might be considering your next steps, and maybe even planning on attending a PADI CDTC and becoming a Course Director in the future yourself.  The PADI IDC Staff Course is the first step on the instructor development ladder.

As a certified PADI IDC Staff Instructor you will be able to assist Course Directors with IDC programmes and share your wisdom and experience with new PADI leaders. The IDC Staff Instructor course provides you with extensive knowledge of the PADI IDC process and prepares you to positively shape the next generation of PADI Professionals. It’s also a great career move, and opens up more opportunities…

PADI IDC Staff Open Water, Thailand, Phuket, Richard Reardon Platinum Course Director

So, what do you gain from the training ? After certification you will be able to:

Independently teach PADI Assistant Instructor courses

Assist on PADI Instructor Development Courses

Get closer to applying for the PADI Master Instructor rating

Improve your own teaching – especially of Divemaster courses

There are two options for the IDC Staff Instructor course.  The most popular is to sit in on a full IDC programme.  You start a couple of days before the IDC itself, learning about the psychology of evaluation and how to evaluate the candidates IDC teaching presentations.  Also during these days you will need to pass the PADI Dive Theory and Standards Exams again – with a higher passing score of 80% this time.  You will also need to deliver one Confined Water and one Knowledge Development Teaching Presentation again.  Also with higher passing scores than on an IDC programme.  Then it’s time for the IDC candidates to arrive, and you sit back and relive the IDC experience from a different, more relaxed, perspective…

PADI IDC Staff Course, Thailand, Platinum Course Director Richard Reardon

As a PADI Instructor with teaching experience already, you will be able to take in more information now you are on the other side of the fence, and more relaxed.  You will absorb even more of the valuable information stored in the heads of our experienced Platinum PADI Course Director, and help pass this on to the IDC candidates.  You will also help deliver the extra workshops and seminars added to Go Pro In Paradise IDC programmes to help the IDC candidates hit the ground running after the IE, and see how we try to focus on teaching our IDCs neutrally buoyant.

PADI IDC Staff Course, Thailand, Phuket, Platinum Course Director

The longer option outlined above is perhaps the better option.  You will get more practice getting to grips with the evaluation process for Confined Water, Open Water and Knowledge Development presentations.  However, for those short in time, there is a shorter four-day option.  During this option you will still learn the basics of becoming an IDC Staff instructor, but you will not then see everything put into action in a real world IDC setting.  Following this shorter option though, you can always come back when you have more time and gain that experience staffing an IDC at a later date.

PADI IDC Staff, Phuket, Thailand, Staffing Credit, Master instructor, CDTC

If you are interested in improving your teaching skills and knowledge, and becoming a member of the PADI Instructor Development team with our highly experienced Platinum PADI Course Director, then please drop us an email for further details.  If you are already a PADI IDC Staff instructor, we also offer programmes to help you get more staffing experience, as well as Master Instructor and CDTC Prep programmes…

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Teaching Tips: Hovering…

During PADI IDC training, it’s not uncommon for people to struggle with the hovering skill. This is a basic buoyancy skill, and should be mastered during the Open Water course, but all too often it is not – it is taught, but not to a mastery level. There is one simple trick I learned which made it much easier for me to get my Open Water students to mater this skill – and it comes down to understanding the situations in which we would hover whilst diving…

Another factor in helping your students master this skill is how you have taught the preceding skills up to this point in their training – they should already have a basic understanding and feeling of neutral buoyancy at this point.

In Confined Water Dive #1 we teach the ‘breathing underwater‘ skill. This should be the first skill to teach, and if you haven’t lazily over-weighted your students, they should already have a good understanding of how breathing effects buoyancy. When we reach Confined Water Dive #2, we have our students master the neutral buoyancy skill – usually by the ‘fin pivot’ method. Now the students really get to grips with how changing lung volume changes depth too as they ‘rise and fall in a controlled manner, during inhalation and exhalation’.

PADI IDC Thailand, Neutral Buoyancy, Platinum Course Director, Best CD

Making the transition to the hover in Confined Water Dive #3 should now be relatively easy, but you can make it even easier for them still. During the briefing for the ‘fin pivot’, I explain to students that this slow deep breathing is a good pattern for when they are swimming around a dive site – slow, relaxed, deep inhalations and exhalations. When it’s time to brief the hover, I remind them of this, but add that if you want to stop to look at something, it’s best to change that breathing pattern to slightly shorter breaths. If the lung volume is changing less, the change to the diver’s depth will be less, and they can have a good look at that nudibanch on the wall…

The next thing I do, to make it easier for them, is to give the student a visual reference. I stand next to them with my hand in front of them, and brief that the idea is to use their lungs to keep their eyes level with my hand. If their eyes go above my hand, they should exhale a little, and if their eyes go below my hand, they need to inhale a little. Once they have the level right, the shorter breaths will help them hold that position.

PADI IDC Phuket, Thailand, Platinum Course Director

This visual reference makes the skill much easier to master for the student. In Confined Water Dive #4, when hovering is repeated with oral inflation, I start the skill the same way, but then remove the visual reference once they have their level, and now they should be able to hover perfectly without a visual reference, as they may have to do during a safety stop on a real dive…

If you would like more tips on teaching PADI courses, come join us for your PADI IDC or PADI IDC Staff Instructor courses at Go Pro In Paradise

Email for further details – info@go-pro-in-paradise.com

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