Wander Women Wednesdays: Announcing Our First Beginner Dive Retreat in Thailand

Wander Women Wednesdays are back! This mid-week feature is all about highlighting an upcoming Wander Women Retreat, or a new aspect of our retreat business we’re excited about. 

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You read all about the 2020 version — now I’m going to gush about the upcoming edition of my signature Koh Tao dive and yoga retreat. But this time, with a twist.

Let’s start with the sad news, so we can end on a high note: we had to postpone this trip to 2023. Omicron, I sure didn’t see you coming. Thailand, which has been conservative about COVID since day one, was, in retrospect, a risky launch. But, my sentimentality got the better of me, and, eager to support the reopening and reemergence of tourism in the country I once called home, we threw ourselves into releasing this trip when Thailand officially reopened in November 2021.

Zoink! Things got complicated fast, and after watching and waiting for as long as possible, we came to the conclusion last week that there was too much uncertainty over whether we’d be able to give our guests the warm welcome we hoped for from the Land of Smiles. So, we finalized what we hope shall be our last postponement ever.

As usual, I searched for the bight side. In this case, the fact that once again, a retreat postponement actually gave me the opportunity to incorporate feedback we received after a launch and tweak a trip to make it better than ever!

In fact, this trip was born from the mouths of babes — AKA our retreat guests. Basically since the first moment I launched Wander Women Retreats, I’ve had requests for a learn to dive retreat, a trip where those with zero experience could arrive and leave certified alongside fabulous new future dive buddies. I was always resistant to the idea, for some reason.

All along, literally from my first retreat I’ve ever run, we’ve had guests getting PADI certified to come dive with us — what an honor! I’m not sure what it was exactly, but after talking to so many of them, I think it finally clicked for me — I’m ready to offer this experience myself. And what better place than Koh Tao, one of the dive training centers of the world?

We also, thanks to your feedback, have added the option for divers who are already certified but need to refresh their skills to do the PADI ReActivate course in place of their PADI Open Water. This is something else we’ve been asked for over and over again — and now you’ve it!

So, spend eight days with us on the island paradise of Koh Tao and not only will you leave the island a certified or reactivated diver, you’ll also be attending Songkran, known as the world’s largest water fight! Start the Buddhist and Thai New Year with the calming, healing benefits of both yoga and scuba diving – prepare to leave Thailand renewed and refreshed.

For this retreat, we’ve partnered with PADI, the world’s largest diving organization, to offer you the opportunity to become a certified Open Water Diver or to ReActivate in the incredible Gulf of Thailand. We’ll take in some of Koh Tao’s most famous sites with a highly-trained PADI Instructor who will teach you how to scuba dive in a relaxed, supportive, learning environment. By the end of the course, you’ll have the skills and knowledge to dive at home or abroad and become an ambassador for the underwater world. In classic Wander Women fashion, we’ll also learn about keeping our beautiful oceans sparkling with a conservation workshop, a beach cleanup, and a private documentary screening at a local cinema.

As for the yoga? You’ve never seen a more beautiful island on which to practice. We will explore creative vinyasa flows and try out yin yoga, SUP yoga, and more. There might even be a Sangria Sip + Salutations class on the itinerary (okay, there definitely is.) And all along the way, we’ll explore the connection between scuba diving and yoga, both of which hold conscious breathing at their core. This trip is for beginners — and that applies to diving as well as yoga! All are welcome.

And that’s not all – we’ve got hiking, temples, and viewpoints all on the itinerary too. We’ll share meals, talk daydreams and swap travel stories, and you’ll also meet the incredible Koh Tao tribe who have been making this magic happen since our first-ever Wander Women Retreat right on this island in 2018! (Third time’s a charm, and this is our third edition of this particular retreat that we love so much, we keep bringing back!)

Bonus — new profile picture practically guaranteed. You’ll end the retreat with professional photos, including underwater portraits by an experienced underwater photographer who will give you posing tips, too.

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The Details

The dates of this retreat are April 9-16, 2023. The cost, including just about everything, is just $2,800 per person for a shared room.

This is less than the cost of most yoga retreats alone, and includes a PADI certification, diving, professional photos, and insider hosts who have lived on this island for years.  Nab a spot now — spaces are limited.

What’s Included

• Seven nights shared accommodation in a private pool villa
• Seven breakfasts, six dinners, and four lunches 
• All scuba diving, gear rental + a PADI Open Water or PADI ReActivate certification
• Daily yoga
• A private island tour of our insider favorite spots• A welcome massage
• Professional photo sessions – on the yoga mat and under the sea!
• A free Wanderland Guide To Koh Tao e-book
• A custom welcome bag
• All on-island transportation
• An on-call dive medic who has consulted on our program
• 5% profit donation to local charities

What’s Not Included

• Alcohol – though a post-dive toast here or there may be be thrown in (and by maybe we mean definitely!)
• Transport to and from Koh Tao (We are happy to help with your travel arrangements, however! There are dozens of ways to get to and from Koh Tao and after many years of making the journey, we know all the best ones and have outlined them in the e-book included with booking)
• Dive instructor gratuities 
• Travel + dive insurance (see more information below!)

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Oh, The Places We’ll Go

Subject to change, and expect surprises, but here’s the general idea.

Ebook FaviconDay 1: Arrivals from around the globe, or from our Pre-Retreat Bangkok Extension! Enjoy slow flow yoga to iron out those travel kinks before an evening getting-to-know-you dinner at villa, followed by Thai massages to unwind before bed. 

Ebook FaviconDay 2: Start the day off with yoga before it’s back to school! The morning will consist of academic review, paperwork and introductions by the dive team. After a quick lunch break at one of our favorite local Thai restaurants it’s into the pool for your swim test + skills training. Shower up + head to the beach for a group dinner at a chic beachfront spot.

Ebook FaviconDay 3: Start the day with a hike to one of the islands incredible viewpoints where you’ll experience a yoga class in the clouds. After a healthy lunch you’ll be back in the pool to wrap up the rest of your training, then it’s almost time to dive amongst the fishies! After, we’ll join forces with our fellow Wander Women on our simultaneous Aerial + Adventure Retreat at a rooftop dinner and swap travel tales of your time so far in Thailand.

Ebook FaviconDay 4: It’s conservation day! Early morning yoga at the villa will leave you feeling fresh before we slip into our swimsuits for a beach cleanup. Once the island is sparkling, we’ll have lunch at a local vegan spot before jumping aboard the boat for your first two ocean dives! Back on land we’ll enjoy a rooftop conservation presentation at our villa (wine in hand!) before we head to another big group dinner with Alex and co., this time at the beach.

Ebook FaviconDay 5: You thought fireworks were cool? Just wait until you see how Thailand marks the start of the Buddhist New Year: with a nationwide water fight. This is real life. Before we get all wet and wild, we will rendezvous with both retreat groups for a sip + stretch yoga class (cocktails will be provided of course!) kicking off a day of non-stop fun. Don’t forget your best outfits because dress-up is strongly encouraged — think tropical prints, sequins and fun inflatables!

Ebook FaviconDay 6: The morning is yours but hydration sachets and a hearty breakfast will see you swerve any fuzzy feelings from yesterday’s festivities. Spend the morning sipping coconuts with your toes in the sand or head to the spa for a little bit of pampering. In the afternoon we’ll be back on the boat to finish your dive certification and then a sunset hangover yin yoga class will help to let it all sink in! Order some dinner and snuggle up on a comfy couch as we watch a movie in our own private cinema. 

Ebook FaviconDay 7: We’re spending a full day visiting hidden beaches, viewpoints, the local temple, and a lunchtime cooking demo at a local Thai cooking school. In the afternoon, SUP yoga and a beach party followed by a festive farewell dinner and cabaret show.

Ebook FaviconDay 8: Breakfast delivery at the villa followed by personal time + departure — or continue onto Koh Samui as part of the Post-Retreat Elephant Extension with Alex!

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Where We’ll Stay and What We’ll Eat

We’ll be staying in a spa-like private pool villa set in a lush coconut grove, within walking distance from the heart of Sairee Village. There are luxurious outdoor showers, beautiful examples of Southeast Asian art, and comfy Western-style beds. 

Double rooms have one king-sized bed to share. Of course, you can room with a friend but if you’re traveling solo, fear not, so are most of our Wander Women guests! We’ll do our best to pair you with someone we think you’ll click with based on your intake forms — and we’ll all be besties by the end anyway. If a good old fashioned sleepover is out of the question for you and you prefer not to share a bed, email us at [email protected]

We’ll be making full use of the villa by having dive briefings given poolside, and smoothie bowl breakfasts delivered to our dining room almost daily by our dear friends at various healthy island restaurants. That won’t be all — a private chef will drop by to whip up a healthy, delicious, Instagrammable meal on our first evening.

Outside lunches and dinners will be held at a curated selection of our favorite restaurants on the island, and offer a variety of local Thai specialties and special Western favorites. Koh Tao is a foodie’s paradise and we’re excited to show off the best of the best! Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and other diets can easily be accommodated.

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The Diving

Koh Tao is one of the world’s top destinations when it comes to number of annual dive certifications issued – in fact, it’s second only to Cairns, Australia. Travelers flock from across the world to take their first breaths underwater in the coral reefs fringing this little rock – Shannon + Alex included! – and it’s simple to see why: teaching standards are high, conditions are breezy, dive sites are abundant, and it’s a seriously blissful place to decompress after a day underwater.

We’ll hit some of the Gulf’s top dive sites and enjoy Koh Tao’s unique coral gardens, rocky swim throughs, and artificial reefs. 

We’re running this retreat and course exactly the way we believe it should be done — with experienced and patient instructors, with confined sessions in the calm setting of a pool, and with the bulk of the academics completed ahead of time, on your own schedule, so you can make the most of paradise.

This retreat includes access to PADI eLearning for either program (a $200 value), which will allow you to watch the course videos, absorb the academic readings, and complete the quizzes in the comfort of your own home, before you even touch down in Thailand. And fear not! Your instructors will do plenty of poolside knowledge reviews and go over anything you don’t feel completely confident on.

For certified divers who are using this retreat as an opportunity to refresh their rusty skills, you’ll be going through the PADI ReActivate certification program. PADI ReActivate is a fully personalized scuba refresher program that covers the areas where your skills and knowledge need refreshing. Move quickly through topics you know well, then dive deeper where your knowledge may have lapsed. You’re welcome to join every moment of classroom time and confined skill sessions, but if you finish your requirements and want to enjoy some extra free time for massages or beach naps, you’ll have that opportunity too! 

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Dive and Downward Dog With Us

On this trip you’ll be traveling with Wander Women Retreats coordinator and yoga instructor extraordinaire — and one of my literal best friends in the whole world — Shannon Stevens. Shannon began teaching yoga in 2017, and she has a vast amount of training and practice in several methods of yoga and healing including yin, restorative, flow, pranayama and meditation. Shan and I met on Koh Tao in 2015 and have been traveling the globe together ever since, as longtime readers well know.

Koh Tao is an island Shannon called home for the better part of four years. She first visited in 2014 as a primary stop on a trip around Asia but five months on the road led her straight back to where she started. Shannon taught yoga on the island for more than two years, completed all of her dive certifications there, and continues to make her way back whenever possible! 

Shannon first joined the Wander Women team in 2020 and has managed multiple retreats around the globe with us, as well as joined our behind-the-scenes team working to make magic all year-round.

But don’t worry — I won’t be far! I will lead both the pre and post-retreat extensions, and will be guiding a simultaneous aerial retreat that we’ll join forces with while we’re on Koh Tao for a few days — we’ll enjoy sunset cocktails, a few dinners, and a wild Songkran celebration together.

The Wander Women team on Koh Tao consists of one of the most experienced, energetic female dive teams on the island and an incredible community of female entrepreneurs we partner with. You’re just going to be blown away — we know we are!

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Extend Your Adventure

Can’t imagine visiting Thailand without seeing the Grand Palace, sipping a drink at a Bangkok rooftop bar, or hitting a market for a street food feast? Before heading to the tranquil islands of the south, join us for a two night Pre-Retreat Bangkok Extension hosted by me!

Not ready to head home soon soon after? Island hop with us for a three-day Post-Retreat Elephants Extension to Koh Tao’s neighboring island of Koh Samui — which I’m also thrilled to be hosting, alongside Shannon. We’ll hit the ultimate Thailand bucket list moment of meeting elephants, Thailand’s national animal, and slip into ultimate bliss for an afternoon at the trendiest Koh Samui beach club to toast to the trip of a lifetime.

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Join Us

Interest is high in this retreat! Sign up for The Wander Women Retreats newsletter to be the first to know when enrollment opens on future retreats, or check out our sales page for the FAQ’s. Or, if you’re ready to book — say no more, we’re ready for ya!

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As many of you know, my first retreat ever was the first edition of Wander Women Koh Tao, and so this one is very truly special to me. I can’t wait to watch my baby grow!

Are you ready to learn to dive? Ask away questions in the comments!

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