I have always had a special relationship with the sea, and I believe life on Earth originated from the oceans, so it is no surprise that one of the most relevant items in my wish list was always to become a Dive Master (DM). Finally, today I can say: Mission Accomplished!!
At the beginning, it was just a passion for underwater life, coupled with the challenge of pushing human limits. I first became a Rescue Diver, with 80 diving in my LOG, some done in different countries but most achieved in Thailand.
Using modern equipment that allows you to breathe underwater like a fish is both exciting and scary at the same time, so my wanting to become a Dive Master had to do with being best trained underwater and ready to deal with any dangerous circumstance.
I took the Dive Master training course with PADI-certified dive shop Kon Tiki Krabi (www.kontikithailand.com), based in Ao Nang, Krabi province, Thailand. This coastal location has direct access to several islands and is 42 km north of Koh Phi Phi national park, which is a great advantage. I enjoyed every single trip we had from Ao Nang to Koh Phi Phi islands, all amazing!!!
The Dive Master training is divided into six main parts:
1- Knowledge development, sub divided in different section as physics, physiology, equipment, diving skills, environment, decompression theory and dive planner. The final test comprises 120 questions with 4 multiple answers for each, and a few calculations.
2- Stamina Assessment, consisting of a chronometer swimming and snorkelling test. The funny part was that I had to train quite a bit before getting the maximum score. The first time I gave a try to the snorkelling test it take me double the time allowed to achieve the minimum score!
3- Practical Skills, consisting on setting up a dive site like a boat, searching underwater lost material and recovering it, mapping a diving site assigned by the instructor, passing an underwater stress test and also setting up logistic for a deep dive.
4- Conducted workshops, which technically include every scenario you may have to face once you are a certified Dive Master, like guiding divers under water, taking people that have never been underwater diving (also called Discovering Scuba Diving, or DSD) and being a snorkelling guide and a free-dive guide.
5- Practical assessment, consisting of supervising and assisting diving instructors during their teaching different programs like Open-Water or Advance Divers Certification, Rescue Program, and different and interesting underwater skills.
6- First and Second Emergency response, as to be a certified Dive Master you must be able to rescue guests underwater and on surface by being able to provide oxygen or reanimate an injured person.
The knowledge gained during this course is great and extremely useful. It took me about 45 days between pool and open sea dives to accomplish every requirement, as well as days and days of self study.
A typical boat-day for a Dive Master Training Course starts by gathering and setting up equipment together with colleagues at the dive center, and bringing it to the boat by truck. After the boat is set and the equipment ready, customers join us on the boat’s upper floor, where one of us gives them the briefing for the day.
At this time the boat takes off towards the diving site, and while the customers enjoy fruit, fizzy drinks and coffee, the boat staff goes on a meeting in order to organise the day. Tasks are many, and we observe sea current weather and water tides in order to decide the best diving location for the day, taking into consideration customers’ level and requests. The day then goes by very fast, between water activities, social relations and guests briefings. Food served aboard consists of breakfast (this depends on the number of activities in a specific day) and a buffet lunch, both served on the upper deck between diving activities. There is also a well-stocked library at the lower deck.
The end of the day is always the most peaceful time: the guest are tired – some take a nap on the boat’s comfortable benches -, the staff takes care of the boat and the instructors work on documents. The way back to Ao Nang softly ends with a marvellous sunset, with the waves rocking the boat and inducing passengers to a semi-conscious sleep. On the horizon line, the amazing islands of the Krabi province dot the expanse of water. At some point, the captain slows down the pace of the engine and we are rewarded by a pod of dolphins swimming close to the boat.
So, what are the main memories I take home from this amazing experience? Well, for sure the priceless knowledge I have become acquainted with, the feeling of full days out at sea and underwater, and the amazing colleagues at Kon Tiki Krabi.
I earlier said there are six main sections to complete in order to qualify as a Dive Master. I actually forgot the seventh section… it is called a snorkel test. I did not quite understand well what my colleagues meant. They said it is a practical and required assessment as the end of my training, and it happens in a pub! Right tonight…. I better go now. I must complete my Dive Master. See you underwater!