The day had arrived, Richard had departed for Crystal Dive Resort on Koh Tao and we were to meet the other half of the Exchange program, Emma Van Burck……..
A whirlwind of diving passion had arrived, we had planned a liveaboard trip for her on board MV Scuba Adventure to Similan Islands as her first learning experience with us so she could gain an insite into this valuable Divemaster role. The only thing was she has 2 hours with us in Phuket before Adventure departed..
The general experience provided by the exchange program was one that increased my passion for diving, enjoyment of the DMT program and desire to complete PADI IDC ten fold. I would personally recommend all DMTs to complete the same if not similar program as part of their Dive Master training. It gave me more insight into how dive centers are run, how PADI Open water programs can be presented, the management of staff and the options available for fun diving. This new information has allowed me to make a more educated decision towards furthering my career in both diving and with PADI.
The support provided by both dive centers during this program was second to none. Sarah Kench made an exceptional effort in including me in all aspects of her business and provided the experience of a life time. The highlight of the trip was by far the liveaboard trip but the time spent working on land in the shop and assisting instructors was both rewarding and enjoyable. Sarah was hospitable, friendly, professional and supportive in a way that made me feel like I was a permanent part of her team not just a passing through guest. She allowed me to have an experience at Scuba Cat that showed the real side of her business not just a snapshot of the “good things”. By giving me this kind of experience I felt that the program provided all the right kind of information for a DMT who is looking for guidance in where to go with their diving career.
In comparison I found the two dive centers to be very different. The infamous thai phrase same same but different could not be more appropriately used than in describing Crystal and Scuba Cat. Both businesses are run to high standard, with well trained staff and exceptional facilities. However, the atmosphere and the general set up sets them apart. Having only ever trained and dived at Koh Tao I was naive as to the variety of centre set ups. By doing this exchange so early on in my career I feel like I have widened my perception on working in the dive industry before I become stuck in a single mindset towards one dive school and it’s systems.
Scuba Cat has the distinct advantage of providing the Similans diving experience. The variety of dive sites, dive conditions, and enormity of the sites is a massive draw card and provided me with the most enjoyable dives I have ever done in my short diving career. It allowed me to take the basic training I completed in Koh Tao and push new boundaries. The beauty of the sites and variety of things to see is unquestionably the best part of diving on the west coast. The opportunity to do night dives, drift dives, sunset dives and swim with manta rays was the highlight of my trip and for that reason alone I would return to the west coast to go diving. The boats and boat staff that Scuba Cat have are exceptional and are a big part of why the live aboard trip was so enjoyable. The staff are helpful, friendly and professional at all times and the boats used by the company are far more superior to Crystal’s.
While the variety of dive sites on Koh Tao is much smaller than in Phuket and the Similans I personally feel it provides the perfect diving experience for completing any course especially open water. As a zero to hero DMT the smaller dive sites provided me with the perfect introduction to diving and allowed me to gain my confidence.
I was very Impressed with the open water schedule provided by Scuba Cat in which the confined is run as an all day experience with a relaxed atmosphere. The three dive day one and one dive on day two schedule on the boats with the opportunity to complete half of your PADI advanced on the second day is an excellent way to improve customers chance of wanting to complete their advance course.
It is hard to draw a line and say that one dive centre is better than the other as they provided completely different experiences and opportunities for divers who are training or fun diving. The program was introduced to me by saying that the east coast and west coasts are very different but both have their strong points. This is exactly what I experienced. It has also broken down many misconceptions that I had about the differences between the two sides of Thailand.