After 3 years of travelling around the World and 120 dives, during my trip to Turkey in October 2012, I felt it was time to go to the next step in scuba diving. I thought I would do it in Mexico then in Indonesia, but each time the call for exploration was stronger. We were sailing around Kekova Island in South Turkey when I looked at my best friend and told her: “I’m ready, next spring I’m going back to Koh Tao to do my Divemaster!”
Emails later with the friend I met there in 2009 and a Paris-Kuala Lumpur-Koh Samui flight ticket in hand, here I am for one month between April and May 2013 on the beautiful island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.
Why doing a Divemaster?
Since my first bubbles at 14 years old for a discovery scuba diving in French West Indies, I knew scuba diving was something special to me. I had to wait to be 25 years old to have some money finally and especially time to travel as I made the choice of doing long studies.
Even with an extended travel experience behind me, my first real exploration trip on my very own was then Thailand and Cambodia in October/November 2009. Koh Tao wasn’t so famous at that time, barely few lines in some travel guides, but my wish to learn to be a scuba diver was so strong that I quickly discovered it was the place in South East Asia to get certified for a very affordable price.
I thought I would be happy with just an Open water certification to keep travelling and scuba diving when possible: Wrong!!! It was even better than during my discovery scuba diving. I got to know instructors and divemasters who did inspire me. Then I knew it was the beginning of something bigger.
During my 100 first dives in Europe, Egypt, and Mexico, I was focused on becoming a better diver, better organized, higher buoyancy skills and getting a better judgment of situations. Soon it was clear I wanted to share my passion and help the others getting incredible and inspirational experiences underwater. Through the beginnings of World Adventure Divers, I was only a Rescue diver at that time, with the story telling and the even organization part of it, it was time to take my knowledge and know-how to a higher level and certify it.
Today as a Divemaster I can lead certified divers on any exploration dive… I can tell you when I officially lead my first diver, it was one of the moments I was the proudest of myself!
Why going to Koh Tao?
Koh Tao, or Turtle Island in Thai, is the smallest of the three islands of Samui Archipelago, on the South East shore of Thailand. Samui is a kind of trendy chic resort place while Koh Phangan is World famous for its Full Moon Party. Koh Tao remained the wilder and the most Thai even if the tourism related to scuba diving has increased a lot in 4 years. With only 21km² and one main road on the West side, I think most people only stay on 25% of the Island. Mae Haad is the main pier of the Island, Sairee concentrates mostly full moon party animals, and Chalok Ban Kao is the Chill out one, then you can hide everywhere else on the Island if you feel like being on your own looking at amazing seaside landscapes from the hills.
I already went to Koh Tao in 2009 for my Open Water, and I loved Koh Tao lifestyle! The kindness of Thai people, the Buddhist culture, the delicious, spicy and cheap food, life is good on this tiny Thai island. If I needed to be “stuck” for a month in one place for a month without the ability to travel around, there’s no other place I wanted to be.
My Bungalow for a month cost me a 7500 Bahts (190€), my scooter 3000 BHT (75€) with 300 BHT of oil, I was eating lunch or dinner for an average 80 BHT (2€)… you just need to pay attention to your bar bills and then you can live on the cheap.
From a scuba diving point of view, Koh Tao is not the #1 spot in Thailand. The Similan Islands have this title. However, Koh Tao is a scuba diving school island: this is one of the best places in the World to learn. 90% of dive spots of Samui archipelago are around Koh Tao, and they are beautiful enough to have fun underwater with beautiful coral reef and potential encounters with turtles and whale sharks. The dive spots are accessible and safe with no current and usually good visibility between 20 and 30 meters in 28/32°C water.
Watch my scuba diving video “Fish tornado in Koh Tao, Thailand.”
What are the steps of the Divemaster training?
I decided to make a PADI certification, then the steps below only refer to this standard, but other agencies have quite similar requirements. Generally speaking, to start your divemaster training you need first to be a Rescue Diver with at least 40 dives, at the end of your training you will have completed at least 60 logged dives.
First by assisting several Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue courses you refresh all your knowledge and personally I got a lot of field experience by being the boat every day with student divers. You need at least to assist one complete Open water course and one complete Rescue course.
I’ve been lucky enough to support these courses in English, French, and Spanish, no need to say how interesting it was to learn in my three languages.
During the first half of my stay, I focused on the Theory part of the Divemaster manual.
Part A (chapter 1 to 7) deals with the overall logistics around supervising divers, assisting instructors and dealing with scuba diving business issues. After a knowledge review with my instructor, I took the exam #1, a multiple choice questionnaire with 60 questions.
Part B is about the theoretical knowledge such as environment, biology, physics, physiology and material operation related to scuba diving. I got 4 lectures with my instructor to study in deep all the related principles. It leads to final exam with another 60 questions. You need an average of 75% to pass the 2 exams.
With serious work, not only reading but taking notes and listening carefully during the sessions with the instructor, your everyday experience as a Divemaster trainee being related to everything you’re learning, it is not difficult to succeed.
A healthy mind in a healthy body: Yes it takes to be fit to pass the Divemaster certification. Knowing that I will have much more physical activities, lifting weight like tanks or boxes of regulators, and as well pass stamina exercises I made the wise decision couple of month before to be back at physical training. Cardio training at the gym and Swimming at the pool at a pace of 2/3 sessions a week had some incredible positive effects on me.
To pass your Divemaster you have to do those stamina exercises:
- 400m swimming (in less than 15 minutes)
- 800m snorkel, mask, fins (in less than 21 minutes)
- 100m towing a tired diver (in less than 5 minutes)
- 15 min float with hands above the water for the 2 last minutes
- 25 m apnea swim
The rest of the training consists of scuba diving skill demonstrations, deep dive and search & recovery scenarios, Mapping a dive site (I was lucky to do it on a wreck!) Rescue skills assessment and a stress test: the equipment exchange.
The last one is the last one I passed: I gave it a try at my arrival and couldn’t make it! Imagine 2 divers sharing the same regulator, who remove their equipment underwater, exchange it, adjust it and then exchange it back again. If having some sharp skills about how to deal with your gear is important, the point of this exercise is more about dealing with your stress and controlling while calming down your breath. Full of learning!
What was the cost of my Divemaster training?
Here is the list of things you need to take into account when budgeting your Divemaster training:
- PADI Divemaster crew pack (manuals, pro dive log, slates, official PADI application sticker) : from 160€ to 250€ depending on the selected language (crazy but true, if you want to save money and English is not your native language, it’s time to sharpen your skills, I really recommend for non-native English speakers to be sure to have advanced fluent level of English before buying the pack in English)
- PADI Divemaster Training with French Kiss Divers, Internship with unlimited dives: 25 000 BHT (620€)
- EFR refresh training with French Kiss Divers (need to be taken if you EFR is older than 2 years): 3500 BHT (90€)
- PADI registration fee: 154 AU$ (115 €)
You’ll probably need also to complete your equipment during your training, for example, I bought a compass, but if you decide to go for Divemaster a surface marker buoy and a computer are the minimum pieces of equipment you should get for yourself.
Conclusion of a 1-month challenge
To start a Divemaster you should have at least 40 logged dives, and you have to finish it with a minimum of 60 logged dives. Well, that wasn’t my case; I started the training with 120 logged dives and finished it with 155 dives. Besides the number of logged dives, the different conditions I had to chance to try warm/cold water, sea/very salted/fresh water, very shallow to quite deep, nitrox, dry suit, cavern, wreck brought me an invaluable experience that undoubtedly helped me with the theoretical and practical training.
But still, I had a lot to learn. The advantage with the Divemaster training in an internship mode is that you progress faster by repeating every day what you need to do until you do it well. At the end of my training, I had the wonderful feeling of that all my experiences came together like if all the pieces of a puzzles were in the right order and I finally got the big picture.
Most Divemaster candidates start their training with the minimum number of logged dives or close to it. It usually takes a good 2 to 3 months to pass the certification. Given my obligations in Europe, I had no other choice that making it in a month. Besides, I made the choice to study only once I arrived there because I figured out having all my time dedicated to scuba diving would make studying easier. Honestly, I should have made the effort to study before arriving. It would have made my month much more relaxing. So to do it in a month is possible with proper experience and training but it was quite intense. I would never recommend trying to do it in less… Some things need time to become a reflex and obvious to you, don’t try denying this.
Finally, if I had to summarize what I loved the best in my Divemaster training, I would say the interaction with the different instructors, in my 3 languages. In this international environment, with various teaching styles, and having my body physically challenged with long days and hot temperatures, I realized my cardio training not only helped me with my stamina but also prepared my mind to remain focused on my goal. It was a human adventure with personal development in people reading and careful listening thanks to all the amazing people I met at French Kiss Divers.
From now on, I think the excitement of guiding people to discover the wonders of the underwater world will never leave me.
Wanna live the same adventure? Contact www.frenchkissdivers.com !
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