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Freediving in Koh Tao: What Certification to Dive With?

Freediving in Koh Tao: What Certification to Dive With?

Freediving in Koh Tao is the best way to experience the colourful and vibrant underwater world this tropical paradise is famous for.

All over the internet and the island, you can find tons of information about scuba diving — but what about those who aren’t interested in exploring the underwater world with a mask and tank, I know I’m not the only one!

Embarking on this underwater adventure requires proper training and the right certification, with so many different options to choose from in Koh Tao it is so important that you make a fully informed decision about who you choose to dive with.

Throughout this guide, I will help you understand who you can get certified with on Koh Tao, the main differences between them, their teaching methods and global recognition so you can make a confident decision about your course.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and purchase something I have recommended I will earn a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay but helps me to keep Travels by Izzy going.

Learning to Freedive in Koh Tao

What Certifications Are Available in Koh Tao?

Freediving is growing in popularity and as you descend on this adventure and choose a certification and school to learn with it is good to know the main difference between them, their teaching methodologies and global recognition.

Apnea Total

Apnea Total is another well-known name, their headquarters is in Koh Tao opposite Sairee Beach and they have been the longest-standing freediving school on the island opening in 2004. Apnea Total offers a unique approach to freediving, providing courses for beginners, advanced, master divers and instructors they have a more relaxed feeling throughout the training.

At Apnea Total they believe that freediving is a completely personal sport, they feel that when students are aware they have to ‘tick all the boxes’ the training then becomes a pressurised environment, which can lead people to not perform at their highest due to stress. They believe if you think you are a freediver, then they will help you become a freediver.

The Apnea Total Beginners Freediver course is classroom-based to learn the techniques, here you will practise slowing your breathing, equalisation, safety, dive technique, what happens internally when we dive and the history of the sport. Then it is straight out into the ocean to give it a go!

Apnea Total are not the biggest name in freediving but they are thought of highly and are true to their ethos about having a more relaxed and calm learning environment, they are recognised worldwide and have dive schools in all of the top locations.


AIDA (Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée) is a highly recognised freediving certification throughout the world. Founded in 1992 AIDA is known for its comprehensive training, they offer the biggest range of courses from beginner to advanced programmes such as safety, instructors and refs.

All courses with AIDA focus on the safety of freediving, breath-holding techniques, equalisation, dive techniques, our internal reactions to diving and education of the sport.

During their beginner training, you are exposed to both confined water sessions (pool sessions) and ocean diving, during your initial training in the confined pool environment you must complete a static breath hold to pass, practise dive techniques and get used to the concept of freediving before you enter the open ocean to try diving. There is also a test that must be completed about the theory before you can complete the training.

AIDA is an excellent and well-respected choice offering a globally recognised certification for those wanting to enter the world of freediving.


Well-known throughout the world as the biggest name in scuba diving, PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) has also moved into the freediving space.

PADI offers beginner, advanced and master freediving courses that are very informative and education based. They complete their training in three parts, knowledge development, a confined water sessions and open water sessions.

During the knowledge development, you learn about how our body reacts to diving and pressure, safety information, equipment and the buddy procedure. In the confined water (pool session) you learn breathing techniques and practise your static breath holds before moving onto dynamic breath holds while swimming, you will also learn basic rescue.

Once you have completed these then it’s time to hit the ocean for your open water sessions, here you practise diving whilst breath holding and each dive technique, free immersion or constant weight. PADI works with you to build your confidence as you dive deeper, you also practise safety again in the open water.

PADI’s strength lies in its name and global presence, they have a huge variety of affiliated programmes across the world meaning it is very easily accessible to learn through them in almost every dive location.

Where Can You Learn Each of These in Koh Tao?

As more and more schools are opening up in Koh Tao and it is good to know who each school is certified with to help you make the best decision when choosing who to dive with.

Below are the main schools on the island and links to their website so you can check their schedules.

Blue Chitta

  • Certification – Apnea Total
  • Check their site out here

Freedive Koh Tao

  • Certification – AIDA
  • Check their site out here

Apnea Total

  • Certification – Apnea Total
  • Check their site out here


  • Certification – PADI
  • Check their site out here

Go Freediving Koh Tao

  • Certification – AIDA
  • Check their site out here

Apex Freediving

  • Certification – AIDA
  • Check their site out here
Freediving in Koh Tao about to board the boat

Best Time to Visit Koh Tao

Koh Tao is mostly hot but it does have 4 main seasons, these are cooler and dry, hot and dry, hot and wet then monsoon season.

The best time to visit Koh Tao and generally the most popular time when all the prices are high and the island is at its busiest is in the hot and dry season, January to May.

Because Koh Tao is such a small island it often can feel very busy during these months and accommodation can get booked up, make sure you have secured your accommodation in advance!

However, if your main interest during your time in Koh Tao is diving you can visit most of the year.

Wetsuits hanging

Where to Stay in Koh Tao

Luxury: Sensi Paradise Beach Resort

Overlooking Mae Haad Beach, Sensi Paradise Beach Resort is close enough to everything you need while still feeling as if you are in a secret oasis. Sensi Paradise offers bungalows that all feature private balconies with garden, pool or sea views. All the bungalows are equipped with fridges, tea and coffee-making facilities, mosquito nets, shower facilities, bathrobes, slippers and ensuite bathrooms. The hotel can book private fishing and snorkelling tours for you as well as assist with booking diving and transportation. The beachfront restaurant offers a complimentary buffet breakfast as well as Western and Thai-style lunch and dinner. Check out my full guide to discover more about Sensi Paradise Beach Resort.

💡 If you are unsure of the best area to stay in Koh Tao then check out my full guide outlining all the different areas, what each one has to offer and accommodation options to suit every budget!

Mid-range: The Ozo

This 3* hotel offers everything you need to feel like you are getting a little bit of luxury while not breaking the bank. There are 5 different room options to suit each budget, each one has a balcony with views over the pool and jungle-covered mountain behind. Room service is available from neighbouring restaurants and each room has air conditioning, a TV, a safety deposit box, a private bathroom, a fridge and toiletries. This hotel is a little further out from everything so it is best to stay if you have a scooter or are happy to walk but it also gives you a wonderful feeling of privacy and peace away from the business of some other locations in Koh Tao.

Budget: Blue Chitta

Located above the Blue Chitta Yoga Studio and the newly opened Prana Cafe, Blue Chitta Hostel has 18 beds made up of 2 rooms, a 10-bedroom dorm and an 8-bedroom dorm. These dorms are finished beautifully to ensure you have a relaxing and enjoyable stay, there are no bunks and it has privacy curtains, shelves to keep your belongings, lockers and air conditioning. It is also perfectly located to catch the sunset and you have access to Mae Head beach through a neighbouring resort. Due to its location and its encouragement for you to join the meditation and yoga classes and workshops, this is a very relaxed and chilled-out hostel. Please note that they do not tolerate drinking, smoking and loud behaviour so please ensure you only book if you want to relax and enjoy the well-being vibe here!

🙋🏻‍♀️ This is also one of the free diving schools and they offer retreats giving you accommodation, meditation classes, yoga classes, food and the course all wrapped up in one package!

Inside dorm and view-min

Final Thoughts

Freediving is an incredible sport but it is a very personal decision to make when you decide who to dive with, you know your abilities and your body better than anyone else so you must choose a school and certification that suits you.

I hope my round-up of the different options available to you in Koh Tao is helpful and can allow you to make a fully informed decision to dive with a school and certification you are comfortable with.

I would love to hear how you got on! Please feel free to leave me any updates about your freediving journey or any questions in the comments below.

Freediving in Koh Tao

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