So the pressure was on, we needed to find a Divemaster Trainee who would get the most from the exchange program.
Then we received an email from one, he had been let down at the last minute by another Dive Company and needed to find a Divemaster Program at short notice.
Scuba Cat’s Candidate was found. Meet Richard Catt…….
I arrived at Scuba Cat Diving in Phuket at the beginning of April for five weeks. The plan was to finish my PADI Dive Master training and to decide if i wished to persue a career in the dive industry. Also I aimed to log 100 dives and do my PADI Deep Diver Speciality.
First I had a day to relax, get over my jet lag and explore Patong which was to be my home for the next month. Had a chat with Sarah about my training, the PADI Dive Master Exchange Program and let her know i was keen to get back in the warm water after two weekends of dry suit diving in the UK (a chilling six degrees!)
I spent the next three days diving, learning how Scuba Cat runs and going out on the day boats assisting on PADI Open Water Courses.
I enjoyed working with the PADI Instructors of Scuba Cat as they made me feel welcome and part of the team. Finding out about the boats, MV Scuba Fun and MV Scuba Sport and how they are run was very interesting. Over the next few days i got to meet Instructor, Vince and the people I would be doing the Divemaster course with.
Following this we then had ten days of theory and pool sessions to get my training finished before I went on Exchange Program. The other trainees were doing their PADI IDC/IE after the DM course, so I also did the extra theory work they were given. In the UK I had practised the 24 scuba/skin diving skills, with Vince’s guidance I was able to perform them all at a higher standard. This helped me with my confidence when I next assisted on the courses. It was a hard, enjoyable and very rewarding ten days but i was glad to get it all completed before going to Koh Tao to start the next part of the adventure.
PADI Region 26 had arranged a Dive Master Exchange Program for DMTs to experience some of their training at another 5 star PADI CDC Centre. I was unsure about the expectation of this PADI Divemaster exchange but was looking forward to taking part. After all this was the first one anywhere in the world!
After a quick flight to Samui, I caught a ferry Crystal Dive Resort on Koh Tao. All staff were really friendly and helpfully & made me welcome. Spent most of the time with Divemaster team – Josh, Sasha, Amy, Keith, Neil and Jen. Each had their own way of doing things and teaching. Which helped me realise you need to approach each class/session differently depending on who you were teaching, so the the lesson flows and was fun. Students & Staff were impressed with my own equipment. (Role model behavior!) Having my own gear made getting it ready easier and quicker, as I was familar with it. It allowed me to help students with their set up and other boat preparation. A valuable part of this program/exchange was definitely helping students, along with getting to lead actual dives (under supervision) another one of the big highlights was seeing students faces after their first dive this is a feeling that money can’t buy, and of course them thanking me personally for my support. Had some great dives, the Discover TEC dive with Ivan, leading the PADI Advanced Open Water wreck dive. Swim throughs at Red Rock-Japanese gardens, whales shark spotting and the fun dives with the other DMTs. At Koh Tao I was able to do several dives on the same sites, which is a first for me. This enable me to learn the sites and point out parts of interest when leading the dives. Also helped with my confidence during the dive briefings.
Made friends with Emma’s (the other half of the exchange program) group, who made me feel welcome and took me out to eat most nights. Crystal was a big social community was nice to catch up with everyone at the end of the day, have a chat do log books and plan the next day.
Starting My PADI Divemaster Course in England and finishing it off in Thailand has been a great experience. It was good see to how two PADI 5 star CDC centres work and compare them to my dive shop at home and others places I have dived. Being part of the staff I was able to really see how they run. Thailand has really opened my eyes regarding the professional training supplied and received from both Scuba Cat and Crystal Resort. Both centres have passion and professionalism for scuba diving and PADI. Along with excellent facilities and accommodation. It really has been one of the best experiences of my life.
Being able to see both sides of this country and the diving/training these centres has had to offer is truly incredible. Anybody thinking of doing this program should sign up straight away. I think doing this exchange along with all the other places I have dived will make me a better PADI DM/Instructor.
After the exchange Sarah gave me a chance of a Liveaboard trip on board MV Scuba Adventure to Hin Dueng and Hin Mueng. Working on the liveaboard was another great learning experience, was able to see how the boat and crew work. Kath, the Tour Leader did a great job making sure everyone settled on board showed as to our cabins and where to set up our scuba gear. The crew did brilliant job of getting everyone safely in and out of the water and were always on hand to assist you with your equipment. The food was amazing, a mini feast was laid out for us after every dive.
Had to draw a few dive maps so I could do some of the dive briefings and then lead the dives. Lots of great dive sites, full of soft and hard corals. Especially enjoyed Hin Muang and Hin Daeng. Had to look at my fish slates after each dive to remember all the fish and learn the names of new ones. The West Coast has some great and varied dive sites. When I come back I’d love to dive the Similans. Really enjoyed the 3 days, Sarah was lovely and added another dive to the trip so I was able to my 100th dive before leaving Thailand, it was a great way to end an amazing 5 weeks.
All the staff at Scubacat were a pleasure to work with, I enjoyed my time in Patong. Everyone gave me advice and encouragement to continue my career in diving. I prefer the smaller size of the dive groups and boats at Scubacat. Vince was a great DM mentor and I learnt a lot from his various interests in diving including Tec and Chamber work. Even got to do my PADI Deep Diver Speciality with Sarah herself.
I look forward to returning to do my PADI IDC/IE with Sarah and Sean later this year. When I return to the UK I will assist on courses with my local dive shop, to gain as much experience as possible.
Best trip I have ever done, do not know how I will beat it. Still smiling when I think about all the things I was able to achieve.