In 2004 I finished sixth form college and decided to have a GAP year before starting University. I approached an organization and signed up to become a volunteer English teacher, requesting that they send me anywhere that was ‘completely different’. They told me that I would be posted in West Africa or East Malaysia!
A year of Adventure
Both sounded very exciting and after working my tail off as a waitress to save up, I boarded a plane for Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia in January 2005. Teaching English for three months was challenging, rewarding and a fantastic experience.
I realized that I was living near a marine park off Kota Kinabalu called the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.
I started diving on the weekends and made friends with several local divemasters and instructors.
The diving around the five islands is beautiful and fairly sheltered so you don’t get any strong currents or drifts. It was quite usual to see turtles, stingrays, all kinds of tropical fish, and I even spotted some seahorses on a night dive!
When my three month teaching placement came to an end I still had six months before starting University in the UK. I decided to stay in KK, so I moved in with some Divemaster friends that I had made, and become a Divemaster!
Some people say that you can complete the DM course in a few weeks. I spent five months doing an internship – working for two dive shops whilst also studying my DM course, and I whole-heartedly think this is the best way to become a Divemaster.
The experiences you get are so valuable this way, and really equip you with ways of handling different situations. After all, as a Divemaster you’re responsible for your divers’ wellbeing.
The Divemaster Course
The DM course consists of a few different elements. The theory part includes reading the manual and completing the quizzes. You also get the Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving, and can also complete the Diving Knowledge Workbook. There is a final exam as well.
Practical skills include going with an Instructor and practicing the twenty Open Water skills (mask clearing, regulator recovery, out of air, etc). Until you can demonstrate the skills perfectly to students who might be struggling.
You also need to pass swim tests, rescue assessments, complete a mapping exercise, assist Instructors when teaching courses, and much more.
If you were to cram all of this into a few weeks you would learn a huge amount in no time and maybe forget a lot.
I train Divemasters slowly, balancing a bit of theory with a bit of practical work, and get them fully involved in the dive center. Whether it’s learning to fill tanks, help customers with their dive gear, assisting Instructors on courses and generally diving as much as possible. This allows them to see a variety of diver types underwater, and learn how to deal with problems.
Whether it’s photographers who want things pointing out to them while diving really slowly, or it’s novices who need help deciding how much weight to carry; or if its fixing broken fin straps and coming up with quick solutions, there’s nothing like the experience you get from actually working in a dive shop.
Are you already a Divemaster? How was your Divemaster course? Leave a comment below!