After 3 years of travelling and 120 dives around the World, 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 exploring was stronger. We were sailing around Kekova Island in South Turkey when I looked at my friend and told her: “I’m ready, next spring I’m going back to Koh Tao to do my Divemaster!” After exchanging a couple of emails with my instructor met in 2009 and a Paris-Kuala Lumpur-Koh Samui flight ticket in hand, here I am, 5 months later, for one month on the beautiful island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, ready to do my Divemaster training.
Why doing a Divemaster?
Since my first bubbles at 14 years old for a discovery dive in Guadeloupe, a French Caribbean island, I knew scuba diving was something special to me. I had to wait to be 25 years old to have enough money and time to travel as I could take my first paid holidays to make my dream come true: becoming a certified Open Water diver.
Koh Tao wasn’t so famous in 2009, barely a few lines in some travel guides, but I quickly discovered it was the place in South East Asia to get scuba certified for a very affordable price. I thought I would be happy with just an Open water certification to keep travelling and scuba diving whenever possible: Wrong! It was even better than during my discovery dive. On top of this, I got to know instructors who inspired me so I knew it was the beginning of something bigger.
During my 100 first dives in Europe, Egypt, and Mexico, I focused on becoming a better diver: better organised, higher buoyancy skills and better judgment of situations while diving. Quickly, it became clear I wanted to share my passion and help others getting inspiring experiences underwater. When I started my diving blog, I was only a Rescue diver. Making it to the first professional level of scuba diving was a way to take my knowledge and know-how to a higher level and certify it.
Today as a Divemaster I can lead certified divers on an exploration dive. I can tell you the day I could officially lead my first diver, it was one of the moments I was the proudest of myself, I was literally jumping for joy on the deck of the boat! If you are thinking to become a divemaster, go through these tips to make sure you’ll have the best divemaster training experience. This is exactly what I did and I recommend you to do the same.
Why going to Koh Tao?
Koh Tao, or Turtle Island in Thai, is the smallest of the three islands of the Samui Archipelago, on the South East shore of Thailand. Koh Samui is a luxury resort island while Koh Phangan is world-famous for its Full Moon Party.
With only 21km² and one single road on the Westside, 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 a chillout bay throughout the day. From the height of the hills, you can easily hide if you feel like being on your own looking at a breath-taking view.
During my first stay on Koh Tao in 2009 for my Open Water training, I already fell in love with Koh Tao lifestyle! With the kindness of its 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 without the ability to travel around, there is no other place I wanted to be. Besides, if you pay attention to your bar bills and then you can easily live on the cheap on Koh Tao.
- My bungalow for a month was 7500 Bahts / 190 €
- My scooter rental was 3000 BHT / 75 €
- Petrol for the scooter for the month cost me 300 BHT / 7,5€
- I was eating for an average of 80 BHT/ 2 € per meal
Koh Tao is one of the best places in the world to learn, I call it the scuba diving school island. 90% of dive spots of the Samui Archipelago are around Koh Tao Island. While it’s not the best diving in Thailand, the reefs are beautiful enough and safe to have fun underwater and potential encounters with whale sharks.
There are more than 20 dive sites around the island that are accessible in less than 15 minutes with usually no current, a good visibility between 20 and 30 meters and a water temperature between 28 and 30°C.
My two favourite dive sites are a bit further away: Chumphon Pinnacle (45 min) and Sail Rock (1h30), both are famous for whale sharks sightings even if I was never lucky to see them there. Contrary to what I often hear, these sites make some of the best diving in Asia-Pacific I’ve seen.
What are the steps of the Divemaster training?
To start your divemaster training you need 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.
My training started by assisting several instructors for Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue courses. It was perfect to refresh my knowledge and I got a lot of field experience by being on the boat every day with different students. During the Divemaster training, you need at least to assist one complete Open water and one complete Rescue courses. I was lucky to follow these courses in English, French, and Spanish, needless to say, how interesting it was: I am now able to do a dive briefing in these three languages.
During the first half of my stay, I focused on the theory part of the Divemaster manual. I was studying early in the morning (6 am) and late at night (from 9 pm) to enjoy cooler temperatures, as it was way too hot during the day to concentrate. I couldn’t party so much at the beginning!
Part A (chapter 1 to 7) deals with the overall logistics of supervising divers, assisting instructors and dealing with scuba diving issues. After a knowledge review with my instructor, I took exam #1, a multiple choice questionnaire with 60 questions.
Part B is about 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 depth all the core concepts. It led to the final exam with another 60 questions. You need an average of 75% to pass the 2 exams.
With serious work, taking notes while reading, carefully listening to the instructor during the lectures, if you add your everyday experience as a Divemaster trainee, it should not be an issue to succeed.
Knowing I would have much more physical activity, like lifting tanks or boxes of regulators and pass stamina exercises, I made the wise decision 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 3 months before worked incredibly well.
To pass your Divemaster you have to do those stamina exercises:
- 400m swimming (in less than 15 minutes)
- 800m swimming with snorkel, mask, fins (in less than 21 minutes)
- 100m towing a tired diver (in less than 5 minutes)
- 15 min floating with hands above the water for the 2 last minutes
- 25 m apnea swim
The rest of the training consists in:
- scuba diving basic skill demonstrations (the one demonstrated by the instructor during the open water course)
- deep dives (I assisted a deep specialty course)
- search & recovery scenarios
- mapping a dive site (I was lucky to do it on a wreck!)
- a rescue skills assessment
- the stress test: Imagine 2 divers sharing the same regulator, they 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 your breath while calming down. Not easy but 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 an advanced level of English before buying the English version)
- PADI Divemaster Training with French Kiss Divers, Internship with unlimited dives: 25 000 BHT (620€)
- EFR refresher training (need to be taken if your EFR is older than 2 years): 3500 BHT (90€)
- PADI registration fee: 154 AU$ (115 €) (PADI Asia-Pacific)
You’ll probably need also to complete your equipment during your training, for example, I bought a compass (60€), 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.
If I add my flight ticket (550 €) and my accommodation (190 €), the total cost of my divemaster training was 1785 €.
The conclusion of a 1-month challenge
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 in the past (cold water, deep diving, nitrox, drysuit, 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 that all my experiences and knowledge came together like all the pieces of a puzzle: 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 than to make 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.
Learning in 3 different languages, with various teaching styles, and having my body physically challenged with long hot days, I realised my cardio training not only helped me with my stamina but also prepared my mind to remain focused on my goal.
It was an incredible human adventure with personal development as you need listening and analysis skills to make scuba diving safe and enjoyable. From now on, I think the excitement of guiding people to discover the wonders of the underwater world will never leave me.
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